Six Ways to Protect Your Mental Health From the Dangers of Social Media

woman of color smiling, holding a cell phoneMore than a third of American adults believe social media is harmful to their mental health, according to a new survey by the American Psychiatric Association. The survey found that only 5% of respondents believed social media to be good for their mental health. Moreover, 45% of those surveyed felt it had positive as well as negative effects.

 

In the survey, two thirds of respondents said that social media usage is linked to loneliness and social isolation. Research has also associated social media usage with depression. Studies have linked it to low self-esteem, envy, and social anxiety, among other things.

 

I have observed how social media misuse negatively impacts my clients’ lives and studied how online interactions can impact their mental health. Here are six suggestions to protect your mental health while using social media.

 

Social media should only be used when necessary

 Social media can disrupt and interfere with in-person communication. By turning off your social media notifications at certain times and putting your phone in airplane mode, you will find that you will be able to connect better with those around you. You should refrain from checking social media during family meals and when playing with children or talking with a partner. Do not let social media distract you from work, or from conversations with coworkers. In the bedroom, keeping your phone or computer is particularly detrimental to your sleep.

 

Consider ‘detoxing’

Take regular breaks from social media. A five-day or a weeklong break from Facebook has been shown in several studies to reduce stress and increase life satisfaction. In addition, even a small amount of time spent on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat can result in a lower loneliness and depression score for three weeks. You can seek help from family and friends by publicly declaring that you are taking a break. If you normally use social network applications, make sure to remove them.

 

 Be aware of your actions and feelings

 Consider using your favorite online platforms at various times of the day and for various durations to discover how you feel during and after using them. Spending 45 minutes scrolling through a site’s feed may not be as beneficial as browsing a few short bursts. After 10 p.m., stop checking Facebook if you find yourself exhausted and feeling bad about yourself. A person who passively consumes social media content, just browsing it, tends to feel worse than a person who actively participates and posts. Utilize your online interactions to establish connections with people you know in person. 

 

Consider your use of social media; ask ‘why?’

Try to figure out why you check Twitter first thing in the morning – do you do it to stay informed about news that affects your day or just for the sake of avoiding the day? When you face a challenging work task, do you find yourself browsing Instagram? Don’t be afraid to hold yourself accountable. Every time you check social media, ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Think about whether that is what you want to do.

 

Pruning

Over time, your online contacts, friends, and organizations to follow are likely to grow. In spite of the fact that you like some content, you might be bored, irritated, or infuriated by others. It can’t hurt to unfollow, mute, or hide contacts now; most people won’t notice. Besides, you’ll feel better. Studies have found that people are most affected by information about Facebook friends’ lives than by other Facebook content. Thanks to inspirational stories shared on social media, users felt gratitude, vitality, and awe. The negative effects of social media may be mitigated by pruning some “friends” and adding some motivational or funny websites. 

 

 Real life shouldn’t be replaced by social media

You should also visit your cousin as often as possible if you use Facebook to keep up with her motherhood journey. Using Twitter with a colleague can be engaging and fun, but it shouldn’t replace face-to-face communication. Using social media thoughtfully and deliberately can enhance your social life, but nothing can satisfy the basic human need for connection and belonging like being with another human being in person.