Your best friend Claire is dating Ivan. They’ve been together for the past three years and, at first, Ivan was so much fun. He made Claire laugh all the time and gave her lots of motivation and inspiration to get through her long work days. Ivan was everything Claire wanted but then things started to change.
Claire started complaining about Ivan. Every time they hung out, Ivan managed to make Claire feel bad about herself, comparing her to other women and constantly reminding her of her #fitnessgoals.
Claire got lost in the relationship and started looking to Ivan for how she should dress, what she should like and not “like.” She cared more about what Ivan thought about her than she cared about herself.
This is an example of a co-dependent relationship. The catch is Claire and Ivan aren’t real people, and while Claire is modeled after a real person, Ivan is actually Instagram (you probably already figured that out).
Now ask yourself a question, “Is there a part of you that kinda, sorta relates to Claire?”
Before we get much further, I want to define “co-dependent” because the term gets thrown around a lot and it isn’t just about relationships, it’s about the relationship you have with yourself.
Melody Beattie, one of the leading experts on the topic and defines co-dependency as, “Allowing another person’s behavior to affect him or her and obsessing about controlling that person’s behavior.” I’ve also heard it defined as when a person restricts his or her behavior in order to control the behavior of another person.
The biggest fear someone who struggles with co-dependency has is the fear of not attaining the love and approval from the people or person around them. They falsely belief if they don’t have that person’s love then they’ll be lost. Some describe co-dependency as “the disease of the lost self.”
I’ve been noticing a trend with my clients in the past five (5) years. They come into my office, feeling unworthy of love, struggling with imposter syndrome and comparison-itis. They ask me, “Why am I not happier? Why is everyone around me doing so much better than me? What have it done wrong?”
After I tell them, “You’ve done nothing wrong” and we start to get down to the real issue, I’ll start to see a strong correlation between how much time they spend on social media and how much they need others love and approval.
I’m not alone in my experiences. A recent study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania showed social media use increases depression and loneliness. The researchers found the less someone is on social media, the less depressed and lonely they felt. It’s no secret that social media isn’t “connecting” us as a society but creating more disconnection and dissatisfaction in our lives.
Many young adults are planning vacations, not based on locations or wanting to explore a new city or country, but by how well the location will photograph for their Instagram followers. So many young people are making critical life decisions based on “likes” and not based on what they truly like.
If you saw a little bit of yourself in Claire, let’s take a step back and look at your relationship with Ivan aka Instagram and/or other forms of social media.
Being co-dependent with Instagram is more than seeing someone you went to high school with on a beach in Fiji and then feeling sorry for yourself. It’s about feeling like your self-worth is dependent on the number of likes and comments you get on every post. It’s about obsessing over the perfect selfie and showing your “perfect” life when everything else is falling apart around you.
If you think you may be in an unhealthy relationship with Instagram (or any other kind of social media) here are the 4 “B’s” to stop being so co-dependent:
All change starts with awareness. If you’re not aware, you can’t change it. Start being more aware of how much time you spend on Instagram and social media in general. Delete all social media apps off your phone. You can still log in on your computer but it’s the never-ending mindless scrolling we do in the Starbucks line or waiting for the train that creates this feeling of unhappiness.
You need to learn how to be present in the present moment and start making decisions based on what feels good to you vs. what would look good to others.
Being co-dependent isn’t just about the other person and their issues and problems. Co-dependents thrive when they have someone or something to focus on and care about because as long as that person is in pain, they don’t have to look at their own pain.
While looking at ourselves is never pretty and it’s never fun…it’s necessary. You want to have a rich and full life and you want to know who you are and what makes you tick. Start asking yourself, “Why am I going to this event?” or “Why am I posting this photo?” so you can start to gain awareness around your decision-making and life choices.
Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries.
Create boundaries for yourself and social media. Deleting the app is the first step but the next is to mute, delete, unfollow anyone in your feed that doesn’t make you smile and feel good about yourself. Mute your friend who is getting married this year. You love her, but watching her be so “in love” all the time is making you feel bad about yourself. That’s fine. She doesn’t need to know and you can unmute her when the wedding is over.
Your co-dependent relationship has knocked you down and you need to figure out how to pick yourself back up and start again. An easy way to build your confidence is each time you want to get on Instagram, I want you to remind yourself of a time when you really kicked-ass. You nailed the presentation. You gave the most amazing talk. You signed a new client. It doesn’t matter as long as you allow yourself to enjoy the memory for at least 3-5 minutes. Don’t just think, “Yeah, that’s right. I got into an Ivy League school. So do so many other people.” Nope. You don’t get to do that. Learn to “like” your own successes.
No one prepared us for the impact social media was going to make on our lives and on our psyches but you have the ability to decide how you spend your free time. Stop DMing friends on Instagram and start making plans to spend time with people IRL. When you sit down with your friend, be present. Enjoy the moment because you need to “like” your own life.