Social media has allowed society to become more connected than ever. Over three billion people around the world use social media to engage with others, access the news and share information. In the U.S. alone, seven out of ten people are active social media users.
Some would argue that social media is inherently bad for our health. Recent research explores the negative implications of social media, including sleep issues, an overall increase in stress and a rise in mental health conditions and addiction to technology. There are also concerns about cyberbullying and youth and teen safety online. Fortunately, tech companies are proactively addressing these types of concerns. For example, the recently released Parent’s Guide to Instagram helps parents who are “raising the first generation of digital natives, for whom the online world is just as important as the offline world.”
On the other hand, there are many benefits to social media. Young people today consider social media as platforms for sharing their voice and finding a community of like-minded peers. And users of all generations understand that with social media, you can celebrate milestones or reconnect with old friends and relatives.
Regardless of what type of impact we believe these digital platforms can have on us, we must be intentional in how we use social media. For example, as NAMI’s social media manager, I use social media as a tool to spread mental health awareness. Through my experience, I’ve learned several tips and tricks for having a healthy relationship with social media. Here are some you might find helpful.
Unfollow Unhealthy Accounts
It’s important to remember that, often, the images and stories on social media aren’t reflective of real life. Whether you follow friends, influencers, businesses or organizations, social media feeds are filled with carefully crafted, curated posts. Consider the following: Does your feed leave you feeling overwhelmed or less-than? Do you constantly compare your experiences with others? If yes—and you notice an overall decrease in your happiness, self-esteem and life satisfaction, it’s time to make a change. Put an end to the negativity by reviewing the accounts you follow—unfollow, block or delete accounts that don’t bring positivity, motivation or inspiration into your life.
Support And Connect With Others
There are many people you can connect with through social media, even if they’re on the other side of the planet. And that’s a good thing. However, if the interactions you’re having leave you feeling isolated or upset, you should reevaluate why you use social media. Do you want to engage with others who share your interests? If so, search for digital communities of people who you have something in common with. From there, you can be more selective with who you connect and engage with.
Take Note Of What You Share
These days, it can be challenging to determine reputable sources of news and information. That’s why it’s important to play a conscious role before sharing something you see online with your friends or followers. Think about whether the content—be it an article or video—is helpful or harmful to others. Also consider if it truly provides knowledge worth sharing. If it doesn’t contribute something positive to the digital world, it may not be worth sharing on your social media account.
Reduce Your Screen Time
Smartphones are quite everywhere these days. In any public setting, you’ve likely noticed others with their eyes glued to their phones. In fact, recent studies reveal that people spend an average of over two hours a day on social media. If you’re concerned you may be spending too much time social media, try adopting healthier habits. Start by tracking the time you spend on social media; if you’re on Facebook or Instagram, look out for the new tool that helps users manage time spent on their accounts. When you limit your screen time, you’re creating more time for enriching, real-world experiences.
Take A Break
Completely stepping back from social media can be hard, but it’s a good way to help you reconnect to reality. Log out from your accounts for a full day, a week or even a month. Have a friend change your password so you don’t feel tempted to log back in to your account. Then, take notice of how you spend your time. Perhaps you rediscover an old hobby or sport. Or maybe you’re able to schedule more quality time for your family or friends. Either way, it’s more exciting to live life as it’s happening, as opposed to “living” through a screen.
Rather than thinking of social media as something that only hurts our health, we should reevaluate when and how we use our accounts. Social media platforms can be used for good—it all depends on whether you choose to use it for good.
Ryann Tanap is manager of social media and digital assets at NAMI.