Distorted Reality

Written by Jo Langford, M.A.

Screen time is often accompanied by a reflective sheen and aura of altered beauty and false messaging; from trash talk to hyper-edited photos to fake news, these distortions can leave us feeling alienated, less-than, and victimized. Read below to learn some important tips and tools to protect yourself against the negative mental & emotional effects distorted reality can cause.

Social Media
  • Online communication is totally different from real, in-person conversations. Interactions through screens lack a large amount of what makes up human communication: including elements of tone, body language, eye contact, facial expressions, and more aspects which are difficult to recreate online. For some people, this makes interacting easier, but we can also miss important social cues.
  • View posts with a critical eye. What you are seeing may not be true reality. When other people’s feeds are full of curated, edited, filtered versions of themselves, it can set standards that are difficult to keep up with. Getting caught up with the need to hide your human imperfections and maintain an idealized version of yourself will create pressure and frustration that can lead to self-esteem issues.
  • One aspect of our health and well-being that can be impacted by social media is our body image, which is “how you see yourself” when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind. Recognize negative feelings and actions that may be prompted and exacerbated by media use.
  • Fake news stories intended to mislead, exploit, and manipulate social media users with rumors, spam, malware, misinformation, slander, and distracting “noise” are constantly circulating. These are passed through our feeds via false accounts, automated bots, and malicious, misguided, and/or misinformed people. We are all susceptible to this phenomenon and we all have a responsibility to resist these manipulative techniques.
Screen Time
  • True connections and bonds are made when you look someone in the eyes. Losing out on opportunities to connect with people face-to-face decreases opportunities to practice social skills necessary for success in life.
  • Influencers and advertising intentionally push unrealistic ideals on their audiences with the intention of manipulating them to think that being thinner, sexier, or more popular (or other forms of social capital) will make them happier. This kind of media-fueled pressure around perfection can lead to unrealistic standards, warped body images, eating and exercise disorders, and other forms of self-harm.
  • Negative body image is a perception of our self — whether true or distorted — that causes shame, anxiety, or self-consciousness, or that interferes with our relationship with ourselves and/or other people. Some people believe that this impacts only female-identified people, but all people are susceptible to these negative thoughts and feelings too.
  • “Trash talk” includes exaggerated, humorously-spirited insults, used during competitive events to intimidate or “roast” one’s competition, lower their confidence, and theoretically make winning easier. It is important to make sure that when/if you ”trash talk” while gaming, that it is good-natured and stays in the spirit of the site; insults involving sexuality, gender, race, women’s private body parts, threats of life or safety, and any mention of sexual assault in any form are never ok.
  • It is easy to lose time while playing games: to blow off responsibilities, let someone down, miss opportunities, or disrupt a sleep schedule if you don’t pay attention. Avoid doing “one-more-level,” and use timers and/or alarms to help.
  • Many people play video games “to relax,” though many games actually increase your stress: fighting for your life, saving the world, or winning a game can leave you sweaty, shaky, heart racing, irritated, and way more stressed out than you were when you picked up the controller.