Exploring Toxic Positivity On Social Media
With today’s current events and our day-to-day struggles, it’s common to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, and discouraged. However, there is a growing trend that promotes “good vibes only.” On social media, endless accounts are promoting positive mantras and encouraging messages meant to be uplifting. In theory, this may seem beneficial; in reality, it can be incredibly toxic.
Toxic positivity is a concept that promotes a positive, happy mindset no matter how difficult a person’s experience is. The power of positive thinking is an idea that books and other media outlets have focused on for decades, but with the growth of social media, the idea has exploded. The idea of positive thinking does have its benefits. For example, a 2018 study of college students found that positive thinking and high self-esteem are interconnected.
The problem is that by practicing or promoting positive thinking as the only solution can invalidate people’s emotions. Toxic positivity can make people feel that it is not okay to sometimes have feelings that aren’t positive, especially if they are going through a difficult experience. This puts pressure on individuals to pretend that they are happy even if they are not. In addition, toxic positivity allows people to ignore the real-world issues that contribute to mental health concerns and invalidates mental illnesses in general.
How Does Toxic Positivity Affect Your Mental Health?
Having a positive mindset isn’t the issue when it comes to what is toxic. The issue is minimizing and demeaning any negative emotion in general. If an individual is going through a difficult time in their life, telling them to be positive isn’t going to change what they are going through, and it certainly isn’t going to miraculously make them happy. Instead, it may make the individual feel as though it is wrong to feel sad, anxious, or angry. This stigma can discourage an individual from seeking the support or treatment that they need.
As humans, we naturally experience a wide range of emotions, both good and what some would consider bad. It’s all part of the human experience and denying any of these emotions takes away from that, sometimes creating more issues down the line. Toxic positivity becomes an unhealthy coping mechanism that masks our emotions but doesn’t relieve them. In fact, a recent study that tested the link between accepting our emotions and our mental health found that those individuals who consistently avoided their negative emotions ultimately felt worse.
How To Overcome Toxic Positivity On Social Media
Toxic positivity has become a trend on social media and may seem like it’s everywhere. Social media often has a reputation for being bad for your mental health, but it’s about how you choose to use it. Studies have found that social media can have both positive and negative impacts on mental health. On the plus side, social media can be used to provide emotional support, build community, and provide an outlet for self-expression. But social media use has also been linked to depression, anxiety, poor sleep quality, cyber bullying, poor body image, and overall decreased life satisfaction, among other things.
If you or a loved one are experiencing a particularly difficult time that has taken a toll on your mental health, social media is most likely not the place to turn to. Or, if you are left feeling bad more often than not after spending time on social media, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship with it. While many of these accounts promoting positive mantras and messages appear like they should help, it often only puts a band-aid on what a person is experiencing. Repressing our real feelings will not make them go away.
Unfollow, Mute, Detox
Understand you have every right to be upset or sad. Unfollow any account that doesn’t leave you feeling good. If it’s a friend whose toxic positivity is bringing you down and you feel uncomfortable unfollowing them, you can choose to restrict or mute them and they will never know. You and your mental health should be a priority above anything else. Choose to follow accounts you find more relatable or that inspire you. If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling social media and you’re not getting anything good out of it, it may also be beneficial to limit the amount of time you spend on these platforms each day. Try changing up your routine, spending more time in person with loved ones or nature.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with toxic positivity, it’s also important to do work from both sides. Recognize your own negative emotions as healthy and normal. Be self-reflective and aware of how you engage with others. Ask yourself if there are times you may also spread toxic positivity. Encourage others to talk openly about their feelings and listen. Validate their experiences and feelings. Start your trend on social media of being your true authentic self by normalizing mental health and negative feelings. Others may follow suit. Remember, most individuals don’t have the courage or strength to post what they feel on social media. It doesn’t mean deep down they aren’t experiencing negative emotions too.
If toxic positivity on social media makes you feel isolated, as if there is no one to talk to about things you’re going through, journaling can be a great way to express your emotions. We often have a pattern of obsessive thoughts around whatever we are going through. Journaling can help you identify the emotions you’re feeling and help you overcome them so you can ultimately heal.
Toxic positivity can leave many people feeling unsure about whom they can talk to about the difficult times they are going through. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp are an affordable mental health resource that can provide you strategies and guidance to overcome issues and feelings of anxiety or depression you may have. Connecting with a licensed therapist is often one of the most powerful ways to combat the negative effects of toxic positivity. A therapist is an unbiased professional who validates your emotions and experiences. Through therapy, you will learn that it’s okay to not be okay, and how to heal and move forward.
Just having someone you trust actively listen to you – whether you’re telling the good or the bad – can positively impact both your mental and physical health. Studies have found that telling our negative emotions with someone we trust can reduce stress, reduce physical and emotional distress, and even strengthen our immune systems. One study even found that having someone to listen to you may make your brain more resilient and have greater cognizant function as you age.
Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp can be a powerful solution. You may get BetterHelp from wherever you have an internet connection, and you can talk with one of our thousands of licensed therapists by phone, video call, or online chat at a time that’s convenient for you. For many, BetterHelp is also less expensive than in-person therapy, and online therapy has been found to be just as effective as in-person therapy in many situations.
Take a look below at some reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from people experiencing similar issues.
“Michelle was the first therapist that had an actual human reaction to my troubles. I wasn't met with ‘I'm so sorry to hear that’ or some gratefulness exercise or toxic positivity. I felt I was heard and validated in my feelings. Like it was okay to be sad. People say that but it's rarely practiced. I'm very thankful to have her in my life.”
Learn More About Michelle Owens
While a positive mindset has many benefits, it becomes toxic when you accept it as the only way to suppress negative feelings. At times it may seem difficult to escape toxic positivity on social media. Remember, it’s perfectly normal not to feel happy all the time. If you are experiencing high levels of stress or symptoms of depression and anxiety, you are not alone. Talking to someone may help. BetterHelp is an online platform that can give you the support you need.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
What Is Toxic Positivity On Social Media?
Toxic positivity has become a trend on social media. It is when individuals or accounts only focus on the positive side of things while dismissing anything negative. The idea behind these accounts is good. However, the encouragement from these positive messages is short-lived as they only mask and suppress any negative emotions.
What Is Toxic Positivity?
Toxic positivity is the idea that we should only focus on having positive emotions and repress negative feelings. This puts pressure on an individual from expressing their true feelings. Toxic positivity doesn’t allow an individual to justify their emotions and feel heard and understood.
Is Toxic Positivity A Form Of Gaslighting?
While toxic positivity is usually unintentional, it can be considered a form of gaslighting. If you’re unfamiliar with gaslighting, it is a manipulation tactic that makes individuals question their thoughts and reality. This can make someone feel shame for having the thoughts or feelings that they do. When someone is experiencing a difficult time in their life and is reassured with toxic positivity, their feelings become invalidated. It is perfectly okay not to be happy or feel positive all the time.
What Are Examples Of Toxic Positivity?
When someone is going through a difficult time, we may try to console them with positive words of encouragement. However, sometimes it can be toxic, making the individual feel as though their feelings aren’t valid and shouldn’t be feeling the way they do. There are many things you can say to someone that could be considered toxic positivity. Some common examples of phrases that exude toxic positivity include:
- Happiness is a choice
- Good vibes only
- Think positive
- It could be worse
- Don’t worry, be happy!
- Everything happens for a reason
- Some people have it so much worse
How Can We Avoid Toxic Social Media?
Avoiding toxic social media is ultimately up to the user. It may seem difficult at times, as there is so much content out there, but there are ways to avoid toxic social media that leave you feeling bad. Consider what accounts you follow. Choose to follow those that inspire you and bring you joy. Unfollow those that don’t. If an account or “friend” leaves you feeling insecure or makes you feel any other negative emotion, it is okay to unfollow. If for some reason, you feel it may cause issues with this person, you can choose to restrict, mute, or hide their content without them knowing. You can also flag things you don’t want to see. It’s also important to refrain from creating an image of perfection with your own social media presence.
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