Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, BeReal, and even LinkedIn are all social media sites that have taken over much of our everyday lives. Whether you are mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, watching a stream of TikToks that have been perfectly curated on your for-you page, or scratching the itch to check the latest notifications from your Facebook or Twitter accounts, it is almost guaranteed that some form of social media has taken up a portion of your day.
While social media offers so many positive benefits, like connections to friends and family, you may not be able to see every day or even down to new business opportunities and networking; unfortunately, it can also become a slippery slope regarding your overall mental health. Constantly having access to posts about friends, celebrities, or even the latest food or fashion trends that seem to be more attractive, successful, or just overall outshine what we feel our everyday lives are like can leave us feeling dejected, envious, obsessive, and in some cases can lead to depression.
That is not even covering the side of social media where the online trolls, or bullies, who feed off your insecurities come in. A study by the American Psychiatric Association found that over a third of Americans view social media as harmful to their mental health. Another study at the University of Pennsylvania found that excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
While these studies have highlighted the harms that social media has on us as a whole, it can be unrealistic for us to assume everyone is willing or even able to cut social media out of their lives, but we do know steps you can take to help protect your mental health while navigating the online world.
Quit the Comparison Game
Comparison is the thief of joy. It can be hard to think highly of ourselves when we are constantly reminded of things we are not doing or things that we don't have. However, we have to remind ourselves that social media is curated. Nothing that we see online is ever real. People will always go online to show us the best version of themselves or a seemingly perfect moment that doesn't reflect the whole story. While it can be interesting to see the highlights of someone else's life, you have to remember that no one life is perfect and that you are not less than anyone simply because your life does not mirror a small moment in theirs.
Keep Your Friends Lists Small
Distractions will keep us scrolling for days, causing us to lose time and disrupt our day, which can then disrupt our overall mental health. When you’re on social media, a great way to help keep yourself feeling better and less distracted by ads and empty posts is to keep your online friends small. Go ahead and take a good look at your following list, then start by narrowing down which people or companies you actively have an interest in knowing more about. Who do you check in on? Who do you have a real active relationship with? What accounts actually make you happy? Keep those. The rest you can mute, hide, or better yet, unfollow.
Like we set boundaries in our everyday lives to protect ourselves from things or even people that may cause us harm, why not take that same concept into social media? If you find using social media has been taking a toll on your mental health, try setting the following boundaries in place.
Use social media blocking apps:
Sometimes we need something outside of ourselves to keep us off social media apps. Try using apps like AppBlock, Flipid, Opal, or Focus to lock the apps on your phone for certain periods of the day. This way, you can reduce your screen time and make the use of your phone feel less distracting and more productive.
Set “no phone” times:
During meal times, workouts, dog walks, or whenever you feel like you have your phone when you shouldn’t, block it as phone-free time. Creating little bursts of time away from your phone can help you stay connected with what is going on around you now and not what is online.
Leave your phone in the other room:
Take space away from your phone by leaving it to charge in another room, putting it away in a drawer, or giving your phone a designated spot in the home where it lives while it is not in use. Then walk away. Having your phone on your 24/7 can give you a sense that your phone takes priority over your time. Notifications ringing or buzzing in your pocket can leave you feeling like you always need to respond. With this physical boundary, you have time to be with yourself and prioritize your needs.
Remember Social Media Is Not Real Life
Stop living your life on or for social media. When was the last time you had a meal that you didn’t share or thought that you didn’t need to “post this.” While in the beginning, social media was used as a break from the real world, somewhere down the pixelated line, we started living our lives online, not realizing how it was draining our batteries. Try to keep off social media during everyday moments. Detoxing the idea that you need to share every moment can help you start to feel more grounded in what is happening around you for you rather than for your followers.
Ask for Help
Often when we are stuck in our seemingly endless cycle of post, check, share, repeat, we lose sight of what we can do for ourselves. When we can’t see a way out, the next best thing we can do is to simply ask for help. Connecting with our friends or family can help take us out of the box we have placed ourselves in and allow new perspectives to remind us that we are not alone.
While support from your friends or family can be verbal confirmations, you can also ask for help keeping you accountable online. Try asking those you fully trust to remind you of your time limits; in some cases, you can even ask them to change the passwords to your social media sites. However, we highly recommend you take precautions when sharing private information with others.