Men are not emotionally impervious to social media. We talk about how certain comments don’t bother us, when in reality, we wouldn’t say such things if they didn’t.
Social media isn’t going away any time soon, and while deleting all of your accounts and retreating into technology from the 1990s might seem like a good idea, it’s an impractical one that most of us aren’t likely to adopt.
So instead of that, let’s talk about how you can create a healthy relationship with social media; how you can use it so that it creates an overall net positive impact on your life, and minimize its negative effects on your mental and emotional well-being.
I’m going to talk about my personal experience with social media – of which i have quite a bit – including:
- Why I deleted social media from my phone
- What happened in the weeks that followed after I deleted social media
- What I learned from the experience
- How I re-introduced social media into my life, this time with more boundaries
From there, I want to give you realistic advice on how you can manage your stress with social media, by:
- Creating boundaries for social media to manage your stress
- How to relieve stress caused by social media
The lessons I’m about to share with you have come at significant cost to my own mental well-being, and I hope you take away some practical information from this that you can apply to how you use social media in your own life.
My social media use: before deleting the apps, what happened when I deleted the apps, and how I consciously reintroduced social media into my life (currently in progress)
During Spring of 2021, I decided to delete all social media from my phone.
Why? Because I realized I had a terrible relationship with social media. Every time I opened my phone and looked at the comments I felt my body tense up like I was getting ready for a fight. I viewed comments that disagreed with me as threats to my credibility that had to be dealt with by making that person look stupid, and I barely acknoweged the comments that I actually DID want to see – the ones that probably would have made me feel good if I had allowed them to.
I remember how I would spend hours thinking about negative comments or unwanted messages and how I could craft the perfect comeback that would make me look like a genius, and make them look stupid. This simmering anger would carry over into my evenings with my wife, and she was easily able to tell. I was on edge and irritable, only half listening to what she was saying, and I would eventually lose my cool with her because I wasn’t letting go of the anger I had to a person I hadn’t even met in real life.
I spent a lot of time creating content for social media.
I put a lot of my heart and soul into my posts. I revealed personal frustrations. I initially thought this was born out of a desire to be authentic. Upon reflection, I also realized that it was an effort to make up for a lack of emotional vulnerability in my own life. But opening myself up on social media wasn’t the same as opening myself up in real life. It wasn’t the type of connection that I was craving.
(I could easily talk about how this need for more connection was partly born out of a subconscious adherence to our culture’s standard of masculinity; how popular culture encourages men to avoid being vulnerable, to keep their emotions to themselves. and soldier on without expressing their feelings – but I’ll have to do that another time.)
The question then became – should I even be on social media?
I had heard about plenty of people who had given up social media, but when I questioned whether or not I could personally do that, my response to myself was always something along the lines of, “there’s no way I can give up social media. It’s too important to my business.”
Eventually I got to the point where I didn’t care anymore. Social media was taking up too much headspace. It was having a negative impact on my interactions with my wife, and I was willing to change.
So I decided to temporarily delete social media from my phone. The plan was that I would assess whether or not it had the impact on my business that I feared it might, and decide whether or not I needed to get back on in a couple of weeks.
During the first week, I went through some minor withdrawal.
I would get bored, scroll to where the app should have been on my phone, and not open it. But after a couple of weeks, I found myself not really missing it. The only time i really noticed myself missing it was when I thought of something that I thought might be funny or cool and wanted to share it with somebody, and then instead of posting it I ended up sending a text message to friend or family instead. I actually viewed this as a positive, because sharing a thought or a photo with just one person was much more connecting than sharing it with an audience.
One thing that was interesting was I still spent a ton of time on my phone. Even though I didn’t have the apps, I still found myself grabbing my phone when I was bored, only now I would go through different apps – mail, amazon, the weather, or photos – but I wouldn’t get sucked into mindless scrolling or put my phone down with feelings of negativity or questioning my self-worth. In other words, how I felt much better after scrolling through my inbox when compared to scrolling through a social media feed.
After a few weeks…
After a few weeks of not having the apps, when I realized that it didn’t have the catastrophic effect I had assumed it would, I kept the apps off my phone. I continued to use my computer to interact with people through the Man Flow Yoga Community on Facebook, which is our community of Man Flow Yoga website and app users, where I have 90% of conversations with our customers anyways, but I was no longer viewing any social media on my phone.
A few months later we did start to see a significant dip in the amount of people joining our Members’ Area / App, which is really important because that’s the only training program that we sell, but the value I placed on my mental wellbeing was too high to convince me to reinstall the apps and start recording daily videos again.
Truth be told, I don’t even know if social media had that significant of an impact – it could have any number of other things, including changes to Facebook, the fact that pandemic restrictions were being eased, or some other unknown factor.
My return to social media
As of right now, I still haven’t reinstalled social media apps on my main phone. I have, however, installed them onto an older iphone that I keep in my home office, and I [mostly] restrict my social media use my home office on that old phone. That means it doesn’t come into my living room, the bedroom, or onto my patio (which I have designated as my little mental well-being space of the house).
Without getting into the specifics – I’m going to do that in just a minute for you when I outline some boundaries and guidelines that I recommend you consider adopting in how you personally use social media – the bottom line is that I am much more conscious about my social media use.
I know that it’s important because of my profession, that it’s helpful for keeping up with friends, family and colleagues, but I also remember how social media has made me feel badly in the past, and I am careful to avoid falling into old patterns that made social media a negative experience for me.
Creating social media boundaries
Let’s talk social media and boundaries – and this is the part where you can hopefully take these suggestions and try them out in your own life, so pay close attention and consider taking notes.
There are several boundaries that I have been using with social media for a very long time, and others that I have only recently adopted.
But before getting into the boundaries…
JUST TRY IT: What if you took off social media for 2 weeks?
I invite you to consider getting off social media entirely. Plan on doing it for a defined period of time, maybe just 1 week, or maybe a full month. (I would recommend a minimum period of 2 weeks, from personal experience, if you want to really be able to tell the difference between life with social media vs. without.) The point is to do so with the expectation that you’re going to get back on at some point.
At the end of your self-imposed social media ban, reassess how you feel. What did you end up missing? What do you do with your time instead? Is there another another activity that you can replace with social media that would be more fulfilling or rewarding? Ask yourself questions, be curious about your experience, and ultimately, try to figure out if social media is a boon in your life or not.
Now let’s talk about conscious social media use: questions to ask yourself, strategies to implement, and boundaries to enact.
Apply habit science to social media (it’s a habit, like any other)
Unless you have a clinical addiction to your phone (which many of us might), we can think of our social media use like any other habit, which means we can use our understanding of habit science to help disrupt that habit.
One of the best ways to stop a habit is by making that habit harder to do. The more difficult it is, the less likely we are to do it. I would bet that if you made social media hard to access, then you wouldn’t go through the effort of actually going on. (I know this was the case for me. When I didn’t have easy access to social media on my phone, I didn’t respond by getting up, going to my computer and opening up social media on a browser – I just did something else on my phone instead.)
Social media is so easy and such an ingrained habit that we don’t even think about doing it – we just automatically do it. But if we can disrupt that process by making it harder, then we are much less likely to do it.
By making social media harder to access – for example, if you have to get up and go to another room to retrieve your phone – then you might find that you’re going to do something else instead.
Question what you’re willing to put into it
You can put your heart and soul into your social media if you want, but recognize that you are seriously opening yourself up to a world of reactions that you cannot control.
The more effort you put into something, the more vulnerable you’re making yourself to something that you can’t control. So you might want to ask yourself whether or not social media is worth it, or if that energy might be better spent somewhere else. Unless you have millions of followers and this is your main source of income, I’d argue that you can better put that energy somewhere else.
Be conscious of your emotions and your overall mood when using social media.
Pay attention to your mood as you open your social media platform of choice. What do you feel when you open social media? Do you notice tension in your body?
Are you doing it because you’re bored? Frustrated? Looking for some sense of fulfillment? And then ask yourself if social media is the best way to get that. If it’s not, reassess what you’re doing. Maybe you should go on a walk or do some yoga instead.
If you do realize that you’re bored and you intend to use social media anyways, then I want you to say something to yourself like, “I’m bored and I’m using social media because I’m bored. It probably won’t make me feel any better when I’m finished, but I’m going to do it anyways.” Having that awareness is an important first step in making changes.
Recognize patterns that lead to negative experiences (and avoid them!)
If you’ve had an unpleasant experience on social media before, you can, with reasonable accuracy, recognize when that is happening again, and stop it from happening by just letting it go. Disengage. Close the app. Go do something else. Don’t open the message, don’t reply to the comment.
This one is really helpful to me and it’s something that I really struggled with. I battled the need to process my emotions and make sure I felt like I was being heard, but then realized that I could avoid doing that in the first place if I just avoided certain behaviors.
Designate social media-free times and locations
Creating a blanket social media ban isn’t sustainable, but it’s very helpful to enact some basic restrictions for yourself that limit social media during certain situations.
I would recommend you avoid using social media in the morning. Make it through your morning routine, eat your breakfast, do your morning movement, figure out what you’ve got going on for the day. Only after you’ve got some “wins” under your belt and have figured out your priorities for your day should you open yourself up to the possibility of social media potentially wrecking your entire day.
Avoiding social media in the hours leading up to bed and using social media (or more broadly, your phone) in bed is also an incredibly important boundary that I encourage for everybody.
Personally, I’ve avoided using social media in my bedroom for close to 5 years now. And it’s stayed in place because it WORKS. Using social media causes my brain to race and prevents me from going to sleep, so I have a very conscious realization of the relationship between using my phone and bed and not being able to sleep, and this prevents me from wanting to use my phone in bed.
Another thing you can try is only doing social media in a certain room, which is how I currently practice social media use. I mentioned earlier that I only use social media apps on an old phone that I keep in my home office, so this makes it relatively simple to hold myself accountable and make sure I’m not spending too much time on social media.
Summary: Avoid social media first thing in the morning, in the hours leading up to bed, and when you’re in bed.
If you have an old phone, keep your social media apps on this phone, don’t put them on your main phone, and relegate that old phone with the social media apps to a particular part of the house.
And now that we’ve talked about ways you can avoid getting stressed out by social media, let’s talk about ways to help you get over stress caused by social media – because it’s probably going to happen!
How do you get over stress caused by social media?
Even if you set up boundaries for yourself and are consciously using social media, you’re probably going to get upset sometimes. Maybe it’s because you were frustrated with something else, and then you brought that frustration into a quick social media session. Or you see that something that triggered you, and against better judgment, you started angrily typing out a comment. So what do you now?
My first recommendation is to immediately disengage. Take a walk, try to read a book, do some yoga. Take a few deep breaths. Get to the point where the intensity of your anger or frustration fades. After that, you can try the following:
Talk about it
It might be embarrassing to talk about something that upsets you on social media. I know that I’m embarrassed and I feel weak admitting that a social media comment got under my skin and put me in a bad mood. But bottling it up and not saying anything just means it’s going to come out later, and it’s going to come out with a disproportionate amount of anger at something else that’s completed unrelated. So… tell your partner or a friend. Talk about it. You can start this off by saying, “I know it’s really stupid, but I got upset by something I saw on social media and I would just like to talk about it with you for a second.” From there, hopefully a non-judgmental conversation that explores why you’re so upset and helps you move past the incident can help you feel better and not let it wreck the rest of your day.
Consider their point of view; empathize
I’ve also found that the best way to “get over” something that made you upset is to try and consider it from the perspective of the other person. If a comment really made you mad, imagine that you were the person who wrote that comment, and think about what may have led them to write it. Be curious, and not judgmental. The more you can create a sense of connectedness, the less unpleasant thinking about it becomes.
REMEMBER: Social media isn’t an accurate representation of real life
Lastly, recognize that everybody on social media is cultivating an image that they want you to see; even if they’re “authentic”, they’re only showing you the parts of themselves that they want you to see. They might claim to show you the bad, but they’re doing so in a way that’s positive.
Summary: Managing Stress from Social Media for Men
Social media is here to stay, but you can be conscious about how you use it to make sure that it’s an overall positive in your life, and not a constant source of stress. By creating some simple rules for yourself and following along to strategies that have your mental wellbeing in mind, you can make social media a tool you use, rather than a medium that controls you.
I hope you found this piece useful! Thank you for reading.
Want to help improve the future of men’s health? All this month we are raising money for the Movember Organization. We’re matching 50% of donations up to $5000, and donating 5% of our monthly sales.
Miss Week 2? In Week 2 of our Movember Series, I talk about the stress of the pandemic, how to create a more positive mindset, and how I personally use a journal to manage my stress and mental wellbeing. Click here to read that blog, or watch the video below.
Miss Week 1? In Week 1 of our Movember Series, I covered the importance of stress relief, and how you can do that with a very simple practice – body awareness-focused meditation. Learn how my personal experience with meditation and how you can start by clicking here! You can also watch the quick 10-minute video below.
Did you miss the Men’s Health Awareness Month introduction from earlier this week? Here it is.
It’s the start of November, Men’s Health Awareness Month, and this month I want to focus on health practices that I typically don’t talk about. You’ve seen me in yoga videos and tutorials, but once per week for the month of November I’m going to be talking about something else – your emotional and mental well-being, and what better way to do that than by sharing through my own personal experience, and introducing you to simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your existing routine for dramatic changes in your own emotional and mental well-being.
More and more, research is teaching us that it is our stress, more than anything else, that is contributing to our poor overall health. Things like cancer and heart disease are happening disproportionately to people who have poor emotional health, stemming from poor emotional practices like repressing certain emotions, not mindfully dealing with the day to day difficulties of modern life, and other manifestations of anxiety and depression.
I want to help reverse this trend by teaching men simple strategies to not just managing, but also improving, their overall mental and emotional well-being.
I’ll be covering essential topics that you probably didn’t learn about in school, aren’t covered in mainstream popular culture, and at least for me, aren’t things I talked about with my peers or family – and I can only assume that for many of you, this is also the case.
These are mental and emotional well-being topics and practices that I had to learn about on my own, mainly through books, and then through trial and error, figure out how to implement into my own regular routine. I’m not pretending to be an expert, but I am much more familiar than most people with these topics, and I know how to explain them in a way that’s down to earth and practical.
I can also tell you that after a few years of doing this, I’ve uncovered a lot about myself that don’t know – self-limiting beliefs that held me back from being happy, triggers from past experiences that made me get unreasonably angry, and patterns from past relationships that made my present relationships more difficult – and as a result of being able to process these things, I’ve been able to move forward with a better understanding of myself, have more energy, and be happier.
I want to talk about some of these things with you, so that we can learn how to take better care of ourselves mentally and emotionally – not just physically – for the future and beyond.
Every week, I’ll release one short lesson, including a specific topic on emotional and mental well-being, details on the practice itself, and an easy action plan for you to start doing it yourself.
We’ll cover topics to help you manage your stress, get to the source of your day to day stress, and help make you healthier and happier – because that’s what we all want, right?
I’ll also be collecting donations for men’s health, 100% of which will be donated to men’s health organizations at the end of the month.
Last time we did a fundraiser it was to help Central Austin recover from the infamous freeze of 2020, and we raised over $20000 in less than 1 week! I’m hoping that the Man Flow Yoga Community can come together once more and do something incredible to help improve the future of men’s health by supporting research and initiatives to make men healthier.
You can make your donations directly on the Movember website by visiting ManFlowYoga.com/movember, or by donating through the movember facebook fundraiser.
About the author, Dean Pohlman, Founder & CEO of Man Flow Yoga, Author of Yoga Fitness for Men, Expert on Yoga Fitness for Men.
Dean Pohlman is an E-RYT 200 certified yoga instructor and the founder of Man Flow Yoga. Dean is widely considered to be an authority on Yoga for Men. He has worked with physical therapists to create yoga programs for back health and spinal recovery. His workouts and programs have been used by professional and collegiate athletes, athletic trainers, and personal trainers; and have been recommended by physical therapists, doctors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals.
Dean is a successfully published author through DK Publishing (Yoga Fitness for Men), selling 35,000 copies worldwide in English, French, and German; in addition to being a co-producer of the Body by Yoga DVD Series, which has sold over 40,000 copies on Amazon since its release in 2016.
Man Flow Yoga has been featured in Muscle & Fitness Magazine, Mens’ Health, The Chicago Sun, New York Magazine, and many more major news media outlets.