We’ve all heard it—social media can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. And it’s true that anxiety and depression levels, especially in teens, have increased since the introduction of platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok.
If you’re looking to reevaluate your social media presence, without having to delete your accounts, follow this guide to start developing a healthier relationship with your favorite social platforms.
First and foremost, you should be cautious about how often you log on, who you follow, and who you allow to follow you.
Following and followers
Just as you do with your real-world social life, use your instincts. Avoid following people who you don’t know or don’t care to involve in your social sphere. Treat social media just like your real-life social circle, and it will slowly evolve into something that’s a lot of fun. Ask yourself, “If this person introduced themselves to me in person, what would I say to them, and how would the interaction go?” It’s OK to say no to people’s requests.
Don’t burn yourself out by spending too much time on social media. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, limiting your social media use to around thirty minutes a day can lead to improved health outcomes because of several factors, such as having less exposure to harmful blue light from your phone or laptop and avoiding information overload. Using social media can be beneficial and fun, but getting off your phone and going outside is always the best option to improve your well-being.
Check in with yourself
At the end of each day, reflect for a few minutes on how your social media experience was.
Being honest can go a long way in helping you develop the healthiest relationship possible with social media. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I comparing my life to others’ lives online?
- Do I feel like arguing with others in comment sections?
- Are there types of content I avoid consistently?
Not everything has to be negative when you reflect, so consider the positives of that day too. Here are a few points to consider:
- Did I laugh or smile at any content today?
- Who did I enjoy interacting with?
- Was there a topic I learned or gained knowledge about?
- Did I like what I posted (if you’ve posted that day), and do I find value in it?
Edit your profile
Humans are social beings. There is no avoiding interaction with others, but as the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, the internet is evolving into a supplement when in-person interactions aren’t possible. Tailor your social media experience to what you want out of it. By doing so, you can take hold of the “algorithm” of advertisers to see the content you want, and only interact with people you want to interact with. Below are the types of social media experiences you might consider trying for the most benefit.
This is the main type of social media presence. Personal profiles are typically private and used to interact with friends, family, and the coworkers you let into your in-person social circles. For people with more personal profiles, social media is merely a tool to see updates from others and post content about their lives.
As the social media world has evolved, professional profiles have gained popularity. Professional profiles use social media platforms as networking tools, and your profile is typically public for this reason. Your feed will have career-building content and updates from professionals you interact with or look up to. If you own a small business, consider having a professional profile for free marketing!
Posting content is already an inherently creative activity. But if you have a knack for a hobby, such as art, woodworking, or music, you can use social media to spread your love for your craft. Profiles can vary between public or private, and your feed is typically a mix of loved ones and other people interested in the same creative outlet as you. Think of it as a coffee shop open mic night of artists supporting one another—there are people you do and do not know in the audience appreciating your work, but you know that those you don’t know are potential friends.
Educational content and news are abundant on social media platforms. You can learn about almost any topic and stay updated on local, national, and global news by remaining social and asking questions to learn from other people. Inquisitive people tend to bond easily, so you can use your social media account to make friends near and far that you may not normally have encountered in person.
Limiting time, as mentioned above, is a key ingredient in the recipe for social media success. If you find that the temptation to go on social media is a hard habit to break, you can implement one of the strategies below.
Most smartphones have a function that allows you to use a particular app for a set amount of time per day. Once you use that time up, the app locks, and you cannot access it until the following day. However, you can go into your settings and manually unlock it if you need to access something.
Here’s a reality check: you’re probably spending more time on your phone than you realize. Go into your screen time under settings, and look at the breakdown of how much time you typically spend on social media. A lot of people cringe at the wasted hours spent on Instagram and other platforms.
Ask your loved ones to hold you accountable. If a friend or family member notices you are online, have them ask if you’ve taken a break from social media today. Additionally, you can ask a member of your household to point out when they see you scrolling for a while.
Social media has its positives and negatives—but you’ll have a much better experience if you use it wisely. By implementing and practicing these tips, you can find where social media fits into your life in a healthy way instead of fitting your life around it. Your mental health will thank you!