What does it mean to be healthy in a world that runs on social media?

Times are changing — the way we take care of ourselves should too

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In today’s day and age, we’ve gotten relatively better at understanding that health is more nuanced than we realize.

The way I see it, there are 3 major areas of our health we need to tend to, with 2 of them already sharing the spotlight. Given that our world is largely driven by social media now, I figure it’s time to give the third area some serious thought.

Social media is a game of perception. Our impressions of others, and their lives, are formed based on what they choose to let us see. Conveniently, humans are creatures of perception. We are physiologically designed to react to what we detect — and what we think we detect. For our brains, sometimes seeing really is believing.

We are also social creatures. Part of the reason our species was able to come this far along down the evolutionary path is because of our ability to socialize. It’s no secret that the media we consume takes advantage of this trait. We like to see what our peers are doing, and adapt our own lifestyles to be on par with them. At its core, this practice is just an ingrained method of survival.

With this in mind, we need to be extremely mindful of how we interpret the masses of information thrown at us everyday.

First, and perhaps most obvious, is physical health. We generally think of this as eating healthy, staying active, and taking care of our bodies. The number of people who use social media to access and share health information is considerable, and continues to rise everyday.

Most of us have health apps on our phone (MyFitnessPal, anyone?), and there are thousands of Instagram user accounts devoted to sharing diet plans, fitness routines, and skincare regimens. The remarkable thing is that some of these users are known as “Influencers” , which speaks volumes about the real impact they can have on the choices we make regarding our health.

Unfortunately, we can’t always trust the things we see on social media. In a world where diet-suppressing lollipops are promoted and glamorized, taking care of our health entails being wary of the information we consume.

It goes without saying that we need to exercise caution and make informed decisions. We cannot let ourselves be fooled by the illusion of wellness.

Next, and equally as important, is mental health. Navigating the role social media plays in this respect is complicated. The general consensus is that social media = bad, but many experts agree that the relationship between social media use and mental health is not so straightforward.

Social media creates connections among us, providing a support system in the process. It is reassuring to know that our friends and loved ones are a short text message away, and this type of social support is undoubtedly good for us. The shared experiences social media provides a platform for can be invaluable.

That said, there is still an unavoidable risk of falling prey to the “illusion of wellness”. The idea has been addressed by many people before: what we see is not necessarily the truth. Everybody shares their positive experiences (getting a new job!) and habits (going for a run every morning!). Nobody posts about the unpleasant reality behind those things (like a migraine-inducing commute and joint pain!).

Social media is designed to make us accept our peers’ posts as their reality, a reality which we feel the need to impose on ourselves as well. People are presented as everlastingly happy, shiny, and successful, and that’s way we believe they really are. That’s the way we believe we need to be.

In this sort of environment, staying healthy involves nurturing a third, often underrated area of health.

It may not be an official area of health to itself, but in my opinion, there’s an intrapersonal element to healthy living that has the most significant influence: our relationship with ourselves.

Social media forces us to create unique relationships with ourselves. The content we engage with is consumed as endless conversation within minds. The things we choose to see become a part of us.

So naturally, they become a part of our well-being. Every choice we make has an influence on our overall health, and social media choices are no exception. The choices we make regarding our social media consumption can be traced back to the choices we make for ourselves. We need to start interacting with ourselves in a healthy way.

This means taking the time to examine the relationship we develop with ourselves as we navigate the world of social media. It means recognizing the impact certain content can have on this relationship, and doing whatever is necessary to protect it. If this means setting parameters and limits on ourselves, so be it. Strength at an intrapersonal level forms the foundation for health, success, and true wellness.

In a world where everything is publicized, our most valuable and influential asset is the relationship we have with ourselves.

Holistically speaking, being healthy has always required a positive intrapersonal experience. However, now more than ever, we need to recognize the power of this relationship in helping us not only survive, but thrive in a social media-driven world.

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