How to Stay Mentally Healthy on Social Media
There are certainly many benefits social media gives us: it helps us stay in touch with our loved ones—and social connectivity does contribute to positive health outcomes! Social media also puts news creation and distribution in our hands and, in doing that, has contributed to significant social movements by providing voice to topics and populations not typically well-represented in mainstream media.
But social media also has its downsides—there are some significant negative mental health effects associated with spending time on social media. Now, that doesn’t mean that “healthy living” requires you to get off all social platforms. There are some ways we can continue to receive the benefits of social media—while limiting its negative side effects.
Here are some tips for staying mentally healthy while continuing to enjoy the benefits of social media:
Know Your Purpose
Knowing why you’re using social media helps you to stay in tune with that purpose—as well as recognize when your usage is no longer serving that purpose.
For example, if you’re using Facebook to stay connected with loves ones who don’t live near you, then use and enjoy it for that—but if you find yourself scrolling your feed, getting lost in hours of cat videos or Facebook-stalking your high school classmates, then knowing your purpose helps to give yourself a gentle reminder: this is not why I’m here.
Being aware of your purpose (and when you’ve strayed from it) allows you to re-focus on what you actually want to get out of time on social platforms.
Curate Your Social Media Feeds
When you know your intention, you can also better choose how you’d like to curate your social media feeds to fulfill that purpose.
For example, if you’re using Twitter simply to stay in touch with far-away friends and family, then you don’t really need a feed with 1,000 acquaintances. Likewise, if you came to Instagram to be inspired by artistic content, you’re not obligated to re-follow anyone and everyone who follows you—just pick the accounts that publish inspiring content you’d like to see.
Knowing your purpose on each platform and curating your feeds accordingly can help to fulfill your purpose of being there—and avoid the potentially toxic “noise” you don’t want or need, and didn’t sign up for.
Which brings us to the next tip:
Do you find yourself scrolling through your feed, becoming constantly angry by the deeply personal ramblings of an acquaintance you haven’t spoken to in 10 years? Unfollow. In some cases, totally un-friending a person you don’t desire to remain in contact with makes sense. (Don’t worry, down-sizing your social network is not mean, and they’ll likely never know!)
But, if you’d like to remain “friends” (whatever that means to you in the social media context), simply unfollowing someone who posts offensive or triggering content can help reduce the negative experience of engaging with it regularly.
Now, this isn’t a suggestion to rashly unfollow anyone and everyone who disagrees with you on something. Diversity of thought is healthy! It’s important to be exposed to a range of views and backgrounds, and do our best to learn from them. The recommendation to unfollow if you’re truly dealing with someone who has some unhealthy social media practices you’d be best off distancing yourself from.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Social media is a highlight reel. People use it to share their “best” times—happy moments, fun memories, a great hair day, etc. Even if we’re vaguely aware of this, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking someone else has it all, their life is magnificent compared to ours, we are lacking.
This one is tough to manage, but awareness is power.
When you notice yourself playing the comparison game, pause. Remind yourself that whomever’s post is stirring up feelings of jealousy or insecurity is also human, just like you, and they have their own challenges and insecurities.
Monitor your Screen Time
One of the biggest ways to make a difference in how social media impacts your mental health is to monitor your screen time—and set limits if needed! If you’re prone to whiling away the day scrolling your social feeds, or it’s just second nature to pop open your Instagram app when you have a moment of downtime, this is especially important.
Both Facebook and Instagram allow you to set time limits for your screen time—and they’ll remind you when you’ve reached it.
Another common trick is to delete social apps from your phone, so in order to access your social media accounts you’ll need to log in each time. This slight delay in accessing your account is incredibly effective in giving your brain the pause needed to assess if you actually want to be doing that, or if you’re just popping on out of habit.
Take a Social Media Break
Sometimes, a social media break is needed. That doesn’t have to mean completely deleting your account and never using social media again. But taking a break (or, as some say, a “social media detox”) can help to re-set your mind so you can pick up again with healthier, more intentional habits.