We’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through your Instagram feed or TikTok’s “For You” page until suddenly two hours have gone by and you feel like the laziest, most unproductive version of yourself.

What if I told you this negative response to spending too much time being “unproductive” isn’t normal? That feeling guilty for having downtime is something that’s irregular and unhealthy? On top of that, what if I told you this response to excessive screen time was actually triggered by the very thing you were spending time viewing on your screen? Yeah, you guessed it: your beloved social media accounts. 

When a portion of your day is spent scrolling through other people’s accomplishments, adventures, and life highlights, it becomes incredibly easy to feel down on yourself. I mean, how are you not supposed to feel lazy for laying in bed on your phone when your friends on Facebook are getting married and starting their own Etsy shops?

Despite the fact we all know that social media is meant to show off the good and kick the bad under the rug, we still let it affect how we feel about ourselves and our worth. In fact, your social media usage is probably affecting your mental health, self-image, and everyday habits far more than you realize. The proof? Keep reading.

Here are 3 ways social media subliminally tells us “Hey! If you’re not doing something society deems productive every second of the day, you’re ultimately wasting your life”. Oh, and if it isn’t already obvious enough, that little message couldn’t be further from the truth.

1) Your Jealousy Becomes Self-Dissatisfaction

Jealous entrepreneur scrolling through social media
Jealous entrepreneur scrolling through social media

Social media often leads to self-comparison. Self-comparison leads to jealousy (even if we don’t want to admit it). Jealousy leads to becoming dissatisfied with your life. This is debatably the most heartbreaking chain of events that exists today and yet, nearly everyone who spends time on social media has experienced it. 

Though, let’s dig a bit deeper. What happens when we become dissatisfied with our lives? When our dreams or goals don’t feel accomplishable, or we feel stuck in a cycle we’re not satisfied with? This is where feeling dissatisfied with your life can become dangerous.

According to a 2020 study featured in The Qualitative Report, asking 14 social media users about the relationship between social media and their wellbeing/work productivity, many participants report feeling dissatisfied both personally and professionally due to feeling their lives are inferior to those on social media.

Though this feeling may seem like something you can shake off, the study shows it’s proven to be connected with an overall deterioration of health and a sharp decrease in job performance. So, if you’re letting thoughts of self-comparison creep into your mind, squash them as soon as you can.

2) You Constantly Need Validation 

Entrepreneurs texting back to back
Entrepreneurs texting back to back

It’s been compared to a high. The feeling of posting something and watching people like, follow, and comment is both addicting and invigorating. All of a sudden you pair being productive, accomplished, and polished as the secret tools to getting people to keep feeding you those sweet, precious tokens of validation. 

Obviously, we never want to let that go. So what do we do? We put a massive amount of pressure on ourselves to do more, improve, and keep up the impressive posts as quickly and as frequently as we can to keep that captivating stream of validation coming our way.

So, when you do have a day that isn’t filled top to bottom with productive activities you can post on your socials, you don’t receive those hits of validation that you’re now relying on to feel good about yourself. Automatically, and oftentimes subconsciously, leading you to conclude that anything that isn’t post-worthy isn’t something worth doing. Yeah, my mind was blown too.

To see if this is a problem in your life, try taking a social media break or turning off your Instagram comments to see if you feel hungry for the validation you’re no longer receiving or if you’re perfectly content loving yourself. (If you are left feeling empty without others validating you, taking a step away from social media for good may be a necessary move).

3) You’re Pressured to Embody the Social Media Version of Yourself

Entrepreneurs taking selfie while visiting ice caves
Entrepreneurs taking selfie while visiting ice caves

Remember the person I was talking about just two seconds ago? The one who rarely makes mistakes, is always up to something fun, and never has off days? There’s a good chance the person you present to your followers or friends on social media is pretty similar to the person I’m describing. 

Now look, I’m not blaming anyone. We all do it. We want to share our successes and feel adequate in our friend groups. However, this can so easily be taken too far. Before we know it, we’ve created an image of ourselves on social media that isn’t the same person as the one we see in the mirror every day. 

This results in us being ashamed of that person—the person you are in real life. You wish you were the person in the Instagram photo you posted on vacation last summer: sun-kissed and smiling. Cut to reality, looking in the mirror with a disheveled bedhead and sadness in your eyes, you feel x10 worse about yourself now than you would if you weren’t thinking about the social media “you”. On the other hand, you can feel like a phony. Everyone looking at your feed thinks you’re thriving, when really you may be feeling the loneliest or unhappiest you’ve ever been (which only leads to you feeling guilty, fake, or both).

If you’re familiar with these feelings and want them to stop, you have to say goodbye to the social media version of yourself. Being authentic online may seem scary, but it may make you love yourself more than you ever have before.

Do you ever take social media breaks? How do they make you feel? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.