By now, we all know social media can have a really negative affect on our mental health. The constant connection to people we know and don’t know and only seeing a very small glimpse of their life, can leave people feeling sad, lonely, depressed, angry and judging themselves and others. Despite its setbacks, social media continues to be a prominent place for people to keep in touch, run businesses and stay updated and informed. So if we are going to continue to use these platforms to engage with others, is there a healthy way do it?
Is There A Healthy Way to Use Social Media?
Studies continue to show the impact social media has on our society. Since the introduction of social media apps like Facebook and Instagram depression and anxiety have sky-rocketed, and it’s particularly bad for teens. The Surgeon General recently warned that social media is driving the teen mental health crisis. Meanwhile, the average person spends over 2 hours a day on social media. So what is it about social media that is making people depressed and anxious?
Social media makes everything more accessible. This can be both beneficial and detrimental. Accessibility to people and things we wouldn’t necessarily have access to can be dangerous. People often only post the best of their life on social media. When you are struggling in your own life, or even if your life is going just fine, seeing snippets of everyone’s best moments can be incredibly triggering. It naturally causes us to compare and judge both ourselves and others.
Social media is great at making us feel a yearning and sense for needing and wanting more. More makeup, clothes, toys, gadgets and things to make us happy in our lives. Social media algorithms are incredibly sophisticated, and designed to be addictive to the human brain. While some might feel shame about this addiction they were created to make it really hard to stop using.
Here’s some things to consider about using social media.
Observe Your Current Social Media Use
Observation can be a great way to key into our habits and addictions. Begin to notice when you click on the app, how long you go on for, what you do while on the app and how you feel before and after going on social media. Maybe even write down some notes to refer to later. You may notice patterns. Do you click on social media apps when you are feeling bored, sad, lonely, angry? Does social media give you temporary relief from these feelings? A temporary hit of dopamine, perhaps? Now consider how you feel after going on social media. Do you lack motivation or feel down on yourself? These are all important feelings and sensations to pay attention to. If you want to create a healthier relationship with social media it will be important to identify which parts of it are triggering you and eliminate those.
Your relationship with social media will not be healthy if you are opening the apps mindlessly or whenever you feel like it. You will find yourself clicking the app every time you’re bored or have a free second or even when you don’t! It becomes a habit and can honestly be such a waste of time. You will find you are much less productive in your work and everyday life when your phone is accessible and you are scrolling periodically throughout the day.
First look at your current screen time and how much time are spending on social media apps. You can find this under settings in screen time. It breaks it down so you can easily see your overall screen time and then how much screen time you are spending on certain apps. Sometimes it is embarrassing and appalling, know you are not alone. The average person spends over 2 hours a day on social media apps.
How much time do you WANT to actually be spending on social media? This can be a little trickier for those of us whose work relies on our use of social media. Maybe set some guidelines around a specific time to check, post, respond to comments, etc. each day or each week. A friend of mine only goes on social media apps on the weekends. She noticed she was spending too much time on them and wanted to create some boundaries. She still enjoys using social media, but she feels more in control now and has gotten so much time back in her week. Nights are spent reading or connecting with her family instead of mindlessly scrolling.
I was recently listening to an interview and they were discussing the idea of intentional social media use. We so often find ourselves mindlessly scrolling and then we can’t even remember why we came on the app to begin with. Oftentimes, we didn’t actually go on for anything in particular, it was just a mindless click and then suddenly there we are 30 minutes later. Think of all the wonderful things you could do for 30 minutes instead of being on social media.
Decide what your intentions are for social media use. Are you using it for business or personal reasons? Who are the people you want to connect with? What content fills your cup instead of leaving you with negative feelings? If you are clear about these intentions, maybe even writing them down or talking about them with your partner, it will help you to follow through with them.
Be Mindful of Who and What You Follow
One of the things we often forget about social media is that we are in full control of who we follow. Unfortunately the algorithms, ads, and explore page can still show us things we don’t want to see. The best thing you can do to create a healthier relationship with your social media use is to go through and clean up who you follow. Choose content that makes you feel good. Get rid of anyone that brings up negative feelings like jealousy, disgust or anger.
In the end, we can’t control the addictive nature of social media, we can only control how we choose to use it. For some, finding a healthy balance is manageable. For others, getting rid of it completely is the best path forward. Consider your own relationship with social media apps and make a decision that works for you.
We’d love to know how you feel about social media. Do you use it and how does it make you feel?
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