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Social Media and Mental Health for Polers Part 1

By on May 17, 2017

In recent years a plethora of studies have investigated the impact of social media on mental health. Researchers have tested the mental health components of social media from several angles, but most studies have reached the conclusion that social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram, can depending on the situation, create a negative impact on mental health. These findings are a not a surprise to many of us who spend time on social media.

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However, social media adds many positives to daily life. It’s possible to see what friends and family are doing each day. Thus it also helps us to keep stronger connections and allow for better relationships. It’s important to keep in mind a few realities when looking at social media. In general, people only post the happiest, most accomplished and sometimes braggadocio photos and videos. On a regular day-to-day viewing the average Facebook user is bombarded with photos of flawless couples, charming babies, picture-perfect vacations and many displays of wealth. Not unexpectedly, this can cause feelings of inadequacy and envy. Research in this area has exposed that these perfect posts can cause issues with self-esteem, feelings of insufficiency or depression. If a person is struggling with depression or self-esteem issues, the toll can be even worse.

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As polers, Facebook and Instagram offer the chance to see what the rest of the world is doing with pole.  It’s fun to see new creative moves, the inside of well-known studios and watch how routines are created. The down side is that social media can become a game of comparisons. When witnessing super difficult moves, sexy and fit women dropping flawless routines and gymnastic polers accomplishing crazy tricks with six-pack abs, it’s human nature to wonder why we aren’t exactly like these other polers. It’s easy to feel depressed when working on a move that everyone else on the planet is apparently getting and posting. It’s not uncommon to wonder why the flat stomach you have been striving for with hours at the studio and gym just isn’t happening, but everyone on Instagram is so fit. It’s in your face every time you open up social media. So what can we do about the game of comparisons?

First off, remember that people are usually only posting the best photos and videos of themselves. Instagram is not showing the struggle and the months of training it took to get a difficult move. Facebook is not presenting the years of dance, gymnastics or thousands of hours of practice at the studio. Most social posts are the cherry-picked moves and the stellar choreography that a poler finally perfected.

As humans, giving the best impression is a standard desire because we want people to like us. So of course each of us is selecting the most flattering photos and most impressive videos. This is part of the underpinnings of humans as social animals. It’s human nature to want to belong to a group and to show that we belong. The problem isn’t necessarily always the posts, the problem is how each individual sees the posts and is affected by the barrage of posts each day. Social media is not typically reality. There is no back story in the presentation. It’s different to watch a poler on Instagram complete a move versus experiencing the students in a class struggle until accomplishing the move.

Second, if you are finding yourself stressed out with certain users, unfollow them. It’s perfectly fine to not like someone’s posts and to turn off that outlet. For every crazy hard trick, there is a good chance that poler faced many setbacks and hours training. Pole is a gymnastic sport and sometimes forgetting the difficulty of a sport is part of the issue. For newbies looking at Facebook and Instagram, it can be hard to understand that it can take years to get decent at pole. If one newbie is crushing it in class, chances are she has put her time into gymnastics, dance or related sports. This progression isn’t on an Instagram post. All the moves that were trained before a difficult move manifested are not usually shown. It’s healthy to set boundaries and if that boundary is unfollowing a few people and focusing on what you can do at the pole studio that’s acceptable. Your own mental health should be a priority.

Third, limit the time spent on social media and check in with yourself after viewing. Are you feeling less than? The first part of this is to figure out why feelings of inadequacy are occurring. Are you putting extra pressure on yourself that maybe doesn’t need to be there? Making comparisons is unhealthy business, but it’s also human nature and difficult to stop.  Consider looking at the facts of comparing oneself to a professional poler. Is it realistic to compare oneself to someone who has 10,000 hours of gymnastics training or professional hours performing? The second part of this idea it to look at the amount of time spent each day on social media and decide if there is a possibility of cutting back. Would it be practical to fill this time with something more fulfilling such as being in pole class, spending time with friends and family or doing something relaxing like a bubble bath? Social media can be healthy for inspiration and keeping up with the world of pole, look for the amount of time that motivates but doesn’t derail.

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It’s important to look within and acknowledge when something is creating a problem or negative feelings. Social media can easily push someone over the tipping point. A great part of pole is the development of a set of friends that want to talk about these issues. Pole friends can help one feel understood and not as alone. If you are finding yourself exhibiting strong reactionary behaviors to social media, besides limiting your intake and talking with friends, consider talking to a professional such as a licensed therapist. Create a support network for yourself and your health.

In general, social media has added much to the world of pole. It allows us to witness the happy moments in the life of other people. Everyday there are polers all over the world are testing out amazing new ideas and we get to share in the knowledge. Pole as a sport is growing rapidly due to social media and we have the choice to be inspired every day. Being connected to social media is an awesome way to experience and contribute in the world pole community.

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Rebecca Stokes
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Rebecca Stokes

Rebecca is a certified personal trainer, aerial studio owner and has developed training certification i the aerial arts industry.She is a journalist and is working on her Masters in clinical mental health counseling.
Rebecca Stokes
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