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How to be Social Media Healthy

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Social media can connect people and foster conversations with old friends. But it can also be an overwhelming and never-ending feed of news and views. Scrolling, liking, and re-sharing have changed how we keep up-to-date, interact with one another and how we see ourselves.

Social media is exciting and enticing and personal, and yet keeping up can feel like pressure. It’s interesting to note that many Silicon Valley tech executives don’t allow their children to use social media – they know it’s been engineered to pull you into spending time on the platform.

With social media, a lot of negative feelings come alongside the positive ones. You may feel like you always need to be on display, showing off an interesting life. For some people, it’s also massively time-consuming, in a way that doesn’t contribute to their sense of self-worth.

The news: skip the fear of missing out

Some social media networks like Twitter are great for keeping up with the news. And the blasting firehose of information never ends. This can lead to a “fear of missing out”, what’s sometimes shortened to “FOMO”; the worry that you aren’t keeping up with current events.  

Just like with traditional news on TV and radio, most news topics are about worrisome events, and many reports are speculation by so-called experts rather than facts. This can sometimes over-sensationalize the news and contribute to feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and hopelessness as well as a feeling that you need to know even more. 

It’s possible to feel down or overwhelmed by negative reports. Something you can do is stop and ask yourself: Do I really need to know more about this topic? Reading different angles on the same worrisome story can make a bad mood worse.

Allow yourself to stop paying attention, and to stop scrolling. On some platforms, such as Twitter, you can use the settings to mute specific topics.

How to be social media healthy - Tip #1

Try saying to yourself, "I know enough about that story.

Do I know everything? No. I know enough. Good enough." 

Your friends: the comparison trap

In our clinical experience, feelings related to anxiety or depression can arise when people look at friends’ updates on social media. It seems like everyone else is doing exciting things, while you’re stuck in the everyday life of chores, challenges and routine. It’s a problem when we compare ourselves to what we see friends sharing online.

It’s important to remember that your friends’ Instagram and Facebook are highlight reels. Those “perfect lives” are carefully chosen photos that leave out the typical, everyday moments we all experience.

How to be social media healthy - Tip #2

Avoid feeling overwhelmed with friends’ posts by limiting
where you see their updates to only one social media platform,

like Facebook or Instagram.

Set some limits – and some goals

Placing some limits on your social media use is a good idea if you’re aware it’s causing you stress.

You can try limiting your social media use by making some times-of-day or places off-limits. Set up a charging station outside your bedroom and leave your smartphone there overnight. Make dinnertime device-free, or don’t allow yourself to check social media from when you arrive home until your kids are in bed. Check if your phone has settings that tell you how much time you’re spending on each app. You may be surprised.

It may not be easy to cut back, but it can be worth it. People who cut down on their social media use often find they have a newly abundant amount of free time. This can be a positive to look forward to. 

How to be social media healthy - Tip #3

Consider using time formerly spent on social media
for something you know is healthy. Take a course, start running, or volunteer. Healthy activities can help offset the feeling that you aren’t in control, while making a difference in your own well-being.

Developing healthy ways to engage with social media while maintaining your mental health is a challenge. Giving yourself permission to stop following certain topics, trying not to compare yourself with others, and limiting when and where you use it are all effective ways to develop healthier social media habits.

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.