Like it or hate it, social media is a large part of our society today. You’d be hard pressed to find someone without some form of social media, if not multiple. It’s also no mystery that social media isn’t very healthy for us. It can cause issues with self-esteem, especially for kids and teens. It can also be a major time waster, and contain news from unreliable sources. The different platforms can be grounds for bullying and bigotry. Needless to say, there are a lot of cons to it.
On the other hand, social media can be a form of self-expression. It can be a way for old friends and relatives to connect and stay in touch. This was especially important during the pandemic when the stay-at-home order was issued. It can be a space for positivity just as easily as it can be one for negativity. I’ve had my own positive and negative experiences with social media. I’ve gone through periods of deleting it just to redownload it a couple days later. I’ve felt its effects on my mental health, especially when I had an Instagram account where I posted my artwork. Anytime someone would like one of my paintings, I’d feel a high. However, that high would quickly come crashing down when someone would leave a negative comment, berating my work. There’s no stopping the internet trolls out there. However, here are some tips to have a healthier relationship with social media.
Set a Specific Time When You Will Go On
Social media is, undoubtedly, addictive. If you don’t want to go cold turkey and quit, though, try setting a specific time of day you’ll go on. Start out small, such as only going on in the morning or afternoon. Then try setting an actual time of day, like going on for 30 minutes at 8 am. The more specific you get, the less addictive social media will feel, and the less time you will waste.
Try Finding Other Forms of Distraction
Many people go on social media when they are bored and want a distraction. Finding healthier distractions can help you resist going down a social media rabbit hole. Try playing a game on your phone, or reading a book. Watch a TV show, or do some form of exercise. Bake something new, or learn a new hobby. There are many other forms of distraction out there that will leave you feeling better than if you spend an entire hour scrolling through the latest newsfeed.
Connect with Friends and Family Over the Phone, Text, or Better Yet, In Person
Instead of getting life updates about your friend from their Instagram story or Snapchat, get them directly from over the phone, text, or in person. You might think you’re connecting by hitting the “love” button on your friend’s latest pic of her dog, or commenting on your cousin’s engagement post, but it is so much more meaningful to give your cousin a call to congratulate him on his engagement, or to text your friend and ask how her dog is and, maybe, set up a dog playdate at the park soon. It is easy to hit a “like” button, but takes time and effort to reach out in other ways. Your relationships will be stronger the more you reach out, rather than depend on social media as your means of staying connected. When you send a check in text, or surprise someone with a phone call to make plans to get together, this shows you value the relationship, and want to continue to strengthen it.
Be Aware of How Social Media is Designed
Social media is designed to be addictive. It benefits from the more people that use it, and use it for extended periods of time throughout the day. Scrolling through the news feed is similar to playing the slots. Like the slot machines, social media encourages us to play (refresh) just one more time. But that one more time can easily turn into 5 or 10 more times. We can develop FOMO (fear of missing out) when using social media. The fear that we will miss an important update compels us to hit refresh again and again. If we are aware of how social media is designed, that it is meant to suck us in, this can help us be mindful about how we are spending our time on it.
Post Real Things
Social media often depicts us at our best. This is because we decide what we post. We’re not going to post that picture where we have a major zit above our lip, or where we were sitting by ourselves, relaxing in our room, doing nothing. That stuff, though, is reality. Most people aren’t constantly out doing things. They aren’t flawlessly made up. Now, of course, no one wants to see a picture of you in a big fight with your family, but if we could just keep our posts a little closer to reality, that could help combat the self-esteem issues that have arisen from social media. Don’t photoshop that selfie. Post the nice and polished pictures, but also post the ones where people are goofing off and living life.
Ultimately, social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. If we can foster a healthier relationship with it, though, that will be better for us mentally, and possibly also for the platforms. If we aren’t constantly engaging with social media, perhaps the different platform creators will address some of the major issues behind social media, such as its addictive element. The design of social media is what needs to change. That change, though, starts with us, and how we use social media. We don’t have to forgo social media altogether to make it healthier for us. Just by taking a few steps can make a drastic difference to our mental well being.