Social media has been a pretty controversial topic since the outset, and even more so recently as we begin to discover the long-term effects it has on us. Stress, low self-esteem and poor sleep are just a few of the negative effects associated with social media. Whilst some people boycott it completely, the majority of us like to keep connected with friends and family. So here’s the question, is it possible to use social media and not have worse mental health as a result?
I don’t know about you but I’m hearing negative things about social media. So much so that I’d say that I automatically think of it as unhealthy. I tell myself off when I’ve spent too much time on my phone, I get annoyed when I keep opening apps without thinking. It’s an interesting dynamic, to say the least! Over the years my relationship with social media has fluctuated and I’ve learnt ways to keep it inspiring, interesting and intuitive.
Be intentional - no mindless scrolling!
This is a classic mistake of mine. It’s so tempting to avoid what you really should be doing by having a quick scroll through Instagram. How often does a quick scroll turn into a 30 minute rabbit hole without you even realising it? Be mindful, not mindless. Ask yourself why you use social media - what is its main purpose for you? They might be to keep in touch with friends, to grow your business audience, or to connect with people that you wouldn’t necessarily meet offline. Be more aware of the time you spend on social media - if it’s not for one of your listed intentions, you probably don’t need to be doing it. I know, I know. This is hard. Sometimes you just want to switch off and look at things. But next time you’re doing this, notice how you feel. Do you come away feeling better or worse?
Find inspiration not comparison
A lot of people on social media are honest and authentic. A lot are also hyped up, trying too hard and portraying unrealistic expectations. Sometimes these influencer accounts can give you some great inspiration for your real life, they look perfect but you feel you are able to relate to them. If, on the other hand, you find yourself feeling inadequate, ugly or distressed after looking at their content, you know it’s time to switch them off. That’s the greatest thing about social media - you are completely in charge of who you follow! This is harder when it comes to people you know in real life. They might see that you no longer follow them and feel hurt. In this situation, try to understand what you don’t like about their posts. If they’ve reached a goal that you’re working towards, for example, you might be feeling jealousy. It’s important to know when an issue is yours, not theirs. It’s something you can then work on.
Be completely YOU
This one is good for two reasons. Firstly, social media is the perfect place to say what you think and believe. I guess it’s important to note here that these thoughts and beliefs should be positive, kind and truthful. You will be able to connect with people who think the same way and have the same interests, you could also help a stranger without even knowing it. Secondly, every single person who doesn’t filter, perfect and edit themselves on social media, is one step closer to an authentic environment where everyone is just being real. Imagine that!
Engage with the accounts you follow
Younger users love to like, comment and engage with each other on social. But a lot of us now just end up lurking - it’s like a creepy obsession. Social media was created as a way to, you guessed it, socialise. Research has found that people who comment and connect are happier than people who scroll without commenting. Be positive and supportive, and try to create a good environment for yourself and others.
It’s a balancing act
There is definitely such a thing as too much social media, but you can also get too little. There’s nothing wrong with liking social media, there are so many great platforms out there to create connections, relationships and support networks. But we do have to make sure we get some time away from it too. There are lots of methods to reduce time spent away from social media. You might give yourself a daily time limit, schedule it in (and out), or simply practice mindfulness around it.
Social media. You might love it, or hate it. Nevertheless it’s here to stay. Three billion of us use social media globally. Understanding its positive and negative effects, and adapting how we use it, is the way forward in building a healthy relationship with social media. Go and check up on your feeds, decide if they are helping to create your happiest YOU.