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Positive Engagement With Social Media

It’s always with us, and we often miss the impact it has on our mentality, mental performance, and wellness.  Think back to the beginning of the day when you first wake up, what’s the first thing you do?  How many times do you think you’ve checked your phone today? Consciously and purposefully? Out of habit? What about social media? Consciously and purposefully? Out of habit?

I get it. It’s the day and age we currently live in. Our phones are with us 24/7 and we turn to them constantly, whether it’s for communicating, checking the weather, or discovering the next FIRE meme that the internet has produced. Throughout this blog, we are going to start thinking about how this is impacting our communication and relationship with others, how this is impacting ourselves, and even the way we communicate with ourselves.

If you’ve ever seen celebrity mean tweets hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (in particular the NBA, NFL editions), we get a taste of how social media can be implemented in an unproductive, detrimental way. Comments and posts attack peoples and athletes character, actions, level of play, behaviors, and decisions. The explicit impact is harmful, and not intended to lift the recipient up in praise or in a positive light.

Think back to a time prior to a game or practice and you checked social media. You saw a post or comment that didn’t sit quite right with you. You either looked deeper into it, or it stuck with you after you put your phone down. How did that impact your presence at practice or the game? How did that affect your focus, and what changes did you notice in your performance? Or your overall enjoyment of playing in that moment?

As much of an impact that you have on social media, social media has an impact on you. We say to treat others as we wanted to be treated, and while these posts or comments are just going through your phone and you’re engaging with posts as well, social media follows you and creates a direction for yourself and those around you. These apps that we are a part of can be a source of happiness and joy, a source of stress, anxiety, and unproductive thoughts towards our mentality and performance. While there are sources of connection, motivation, awareness, laughter, and joy, there are also impacts of social media when used unproductively that can turn into a distractibility tool, a measurement of our worth, a method of comparing ourselves to others, and search for validation.

Imagine you got the SICKEST play, or move, of all time and post it to social media (which can be a fun way to share your accomplishment!). What are you hoping for in that post? What would change if you got the most views or likes you’ve ever had? What about if you got half the views, likes, or comments you expected? How would that impact you, or your performance as an athlete?

We do not have control over the outcome of social media or how others choose to use it. Only we can control what we post, who we follow, and how we create our relationship with social media. Ultimately, it is your decision how to decide to utilize the tools of social media.

Kevin Love, for example, utilizes social media in productive direction. While it is bringing awareness around what it’s like to be a human being and an athlete, he’s connecting with others, supporting others, and spreading awareness. His identity extends beyond being an athlete, extends beyond a flawless social media star, and beyond mental health. It’s not wrapped up in his performance on social media, rather he is using social media, podcasts, and channels as a form of spreading awareness and normalizing the conversations of being human, an athlete, and all that comes with it.

So, with our profiles that we check numerous times a day (some days more than others), what can we do to impact others in a positive way, and what can we do to positively impact ourselves and our performances as athletes while recognizing that social media is not definitive of our identity.

There is also an implicit impact that social media has on our overall wellbeing, mentality, and in turn, our performance as athletes, students, friends, and people. It’s the highlight reel. What’s posted on social media is often the highlights of others performances, their lives, relationships, nutrition and meal standards, and activities. It comes across that they have PERFECT balance in their lives, and it can be easy to be sucked into the portrayal and compare ourselves, our performances, or our lives to what others are showing. But in reality, nobody’s life is a highlight reel. Nobody performs perfectly all the time. Nobody has perfect relationships or experiences all the time. That’s not possible or real. The accounts we see are often snippets of lives and fail to represent the entirety of the picture.

Ask yourself, what accounts are your favorite? Why? What is your expectation, or hope, when you open your phone to check Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat? Start asking yourself and becoming aware of does this make me feel better or worse? Am I learning from this person or feeling like crap? Is this person or account motivating me to feel better? Be better? Is this a person someone I view as having a healthy balance in their life? Remind yourself of realities, and question how your followings, or how you spend your time on social media is serving you or not.

How do you want to feel when you open your social media?

- Jennifer Simmons

University of Denver MA Sport and Performance Psychology '19

References

Bahrami, S. (2018). Stop bingeing, start living: proven therapeutic strategies for breaking the

binge eating cycle. Emeryville, California: Althea Press.

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