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How Social Media Can Put a Damper on Your Holiday Spirit

The holiday season is upon us, bringing with it a seemingly unending stream of photos, videos and festive events posted on social media by family, friends and acquaintances.

Get ready for the picture-perfect images of families in matching pajamas, snippets from luxury vacations and gift-wrapping tutorials from crafty friends who love to show off their skills. For people on the receiving end, scrolling through all these moments can elicit lots of emotions, and not all of them are good. It is no surprise that social media can put a damper on the holiday spirit.

While there is plenty to look forward to between the bookend holidays of Thanksgiving and New Year’s celebrations, comparing your holidays to those of others on social media can negatively impact how one views their own experience. Nearly a decade ago, the National Alliance for Mental Illness shared 64% of people surveyed said they felt the “holiday blues” when the celebratory season arrived on their doorsteps. These days, having other people’s happiness at your fingertips can sometimes do the opposite of making your own spirit brighter.

Fear of missing out  

Social media can spark a fear of missing out, or FOMO, especially during the holidays. Sometimes, it can lead to unplanned spending like buying tickets for holiday events, doing activities or paying for popular gifts they had no intention of getting before seeing them online.

Strategies to reduce social media use

As hard as it sounds, keeping phones, tablets and laptops in the background during the holidays is the best way to cut back on social media use and all the un-festive feelings it can bring.

Some strategies include:

  • Turn off push notifications. Minute-by-minute reminders that a friend has posted a new photo or a store has a new holiday sale can cause stress and overuse of our phones. Turn off push alerts to allow for a mental break.
  • Set a limit/timer on social media apps. Take back some control by setting up a specific time or a few different times to check social media platforms during the day. Dedicating time just for social media allows us to enjoy the connections without letting it control the entire day. 
  • Create phone-free times or drop zones for phones during holiday events. Putting phones away during holiday events means everyone can focus on the people and things in front of them instead of disconnecting from the present. Hosts can offer a basket or box for guests to drop their phones. Ask guests to put their phones there until dinner is over so they can enjoy talking to family and friends instead. After dinner, invite them to reclaim their phones.

It’s important to note that every seemingly perfect holiday photo or video is just someone else’s moment in time, and people often only share pictures that depict themselves at their best. A snapshot of a smiling family sitting around a holiday table may look like a Norman Rockwell image, but it doesn’t show the sibling squabbles or the burnt side dish that never made it to the table. And a holiday sunset photo on a tropical beach vacation sure looks pretty, but doesn’t tell the story of the missing luggage and the virus everyone caught on the way home.

Many of us have lives that are rich in various ways. Holidays are a great time to reflect and be thankful. Pull back and focus on the good things all around – whether it’s at home, work, with family or friends – to truly enjoy the magic of the season.

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family. For more recipes and health information, visit

A Healthier Michigan
Author: A Healthier Michigan

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