It’s no question that social media has become an integral part of our lives, which has especially been exacerbated by the pandemic which left even more time for connecting online. In fact, statistics show that there was a significant increase of average time spent on social media daily in 2020, from 54 minutes in 2019 to 65. While the growth has somewhat plateaued since then, it is important to acknowledge the ever-increasing role social media plays in our daily routine, our relationships, and even our income. That being said, the potential negative drawbacks of increased social media usage are being heavily explored, especially as a new generation is born as social media natives. Whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, there are important factors to consider when spending time on these sites. In this blog post, we will explore ways in which you can use social media to mindfully prevent negative effects on your mental health.
Can social media have positive effects?
While you may see an influx of articles and studies about the negative outcomes of social media usage, it is important to acknowledge the positives as well! Social media has become an essential tool for building and maintaining relationships irrespective of location. During the pandemic especially, social media became key in keeping contact with friends and family all over the world when travel was not possible. Social media is also a powerful tool in forming communities with individuals that share similar interests which is integral for feeling seen and accepted. Along with access to other people, social media gives us access to an infinite influx of information at our fingertips. Having access to news from all over the world as well as real-time first-person accounts has allowed us to expand our knowledge and world perspective in a way that was difficult to access in the past. Finally, social media is entertaining! So much joy is to be found from an endless stream of pictures, videos, and other forms of media that is easily accessed on our phones and computers.
The potential drawbacks
With increased social media usage, knowing the potential negative outcomes of these sites is important to ensure you don’t fall into negative behaviours and mindsets.
- Firstly, social media can have a negative impact on self-esteem due to the nature of social media being a “highlight reel”. This means that most people only post their best moments and their best self, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and comparing your life to others. Remember that most people put their best selves forward on social media and that their experiences are just as rich and complex as yours, rather than 100% perfect as it may seem!
- Alternately, social media can also be a big distraction – we’ve all accidentally spent a little too much time scrolling and neglecting other tasks! However, it can become a problem when using social media causes a detriment to other parts of our life, such as our well-being and relationships. Managing the amount of time spent on it is important to maintaining balance.
- Finally, while it can be extremely useful to have all the information you could want at your fingertips, accessing too much of that information can lead to feeling discouraged, especially when exposed to negative news stories that come in constantly from all over the world.
The common thread to be noted amongst the negative outcomes of social media is its effects on our mood – it can be difficult for our brains to discern between immediate stress and perceived stress, and practicing mindful behaviours when using social media is essential for our well-being.
So, how can I use social media mindfully?
As mentioned above, social media can have many positive benefits, and using social media in a healthy way can allow you to gain more than you lose. Below are some tips on using social media in a mindful way that you can start using at any time!
Curate your feed – You have the power to choose who you follow, so don’t be afraid to be picky about what kind of things or people show up on your feed! Try to only follow people and pages that align with your values and goals, and make use of “blocking” and “muting” features to avoid content or people that are discouraging or triggering. Even “inspiration” pages can be detrimental, as they can make you feel like you’ll never live up to someone else’s standard.
Examine why you’re using social media – Social media can be a powerful tool to use for learning, exploring, and growing, rather than simply as a distraction. Try to engage in more content that makes you think, rather than aimlessly scrolling to kill time.
Set boundaries – If you’re someone that uses social media for work, it can be easy for the line between work and personal life to blur. Try to keep your business and personal pages separate to encourage “logging off” from work and reducing burnout. It is also important to set boundaries in terms of when and where you use social media – it can be beneficial to log out when spending time with loved ones or doing important tasks so that you’re fully checked in.
If you’re having trouble keeping yourself accountable to positive social media habits, you can –
- Use your phone settings such as the screen time function to control your usage on specific apps. Third-party apps such as Forest are also great for promoting focus and avoiding distractions from your phone.
- Turn off push notifications for non-essential apps to curb temptations to open your phone and scroll.
- Be extra careful with apps that contain an “infinite scroll” function, such as TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Youtube Shorts- it can be easy to get stuck scrolling for hours when it is impossible to run out of content to watch. Perspective view of 3D render of SOCIAL MEDIA business concept with symbols on colorful cubes[/caption]
In conclusion, social media can have both positive and negative effects on your mental health, and using social media mindfully can allow you to gain more than you lose. Adjusting your social media habits may seem overwhelming and nearly impossible when everything is online, but remember to be kind to yourself. Social media apps are designed using extremely sophisticated algorithms that are meant to keep you engaged for as long as possible. Implement one or two strategies at a time and take it at your own pace!
This blog post was developed from a presentation made from one of Nourishing Balance’s Registered Psychotherapists, Sonam. If you’re finding that you’re struggling with social media and self-esteem and would like to explore it further, you can book a session with Sonam or our other mental health professionals here [link to booking], and make sure to keep an eye on our website for other presentations and workshops by our team members!