The Journal of Mental Health examined 70 studies conducted during the last decade to assess how social media affects mental health, and arrived at a variety of conclusions. Some research warned against the potential connection between social media and anxiety or depression, while others determined that social media has a positive effect on people’s lives.
The take-away is that mental health is definitely affected by social media. But how someone uses social networks depends on whether that effect is positive or negative. Developing healthy habits while engaging these platforms will help you find balance and ensure that social media won’t adversely impact your life..
1. Schedule time to use social media and times to step away. Balance is the key to engaging with social media in a healthy manner. Set aside time when you can surf the web, make sure there are intervals when you ignore notifications and log off. Stay offline when you’re spending time with family or friends and before you go to sleep. An old-fashioned alarm clock by your bedside to wake you the next morning will allow you to leave your phone in the other room when it’s time to sleep.
2. Be clear about what your purpose is when logging onto a social media site and stick to it. Everyone, at one point or another, has gone on social media for a specific purpose and gotten lost down the online rabbit hole reading posts and looking at videos for hours. Know why exactly you’re on social media when you log on, and log off when you are done with that task. You’ll be using social media the way you want – to connect with family or receive information regarding your favorite artist – without letting what other people are posting take control.
3. Find inspiration rather than comparison in other peoples’ posts. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and insecure seeing others’ picture-perfect moments dominating your feed, making your daily life seem underwhelming in comparison. However, these online moments don’t really represent someone’s real life, and the poster may very well be struggling with some of the issues that you are. Try and view these posts as inspiration to achieve your own goals, instead of directly comparing your life to someone’s carefully cultivated social media page. You don’t have to follow everyone, and you should probably unfollow anyone whose posts consistently make you feel bad about yourself.
4. Think before posting. Put considerable thought into what you’re sending out to the world. Ask yourself whether a post is spreading positivity before you send it. Avoid online arguments and trolls. Work hard to foster a community of support and positivity among your followers or friends on your page.
5. Put your mental health first. If social media has you feeling down, it’s time to log off for a little. Perhaps you can get coffee with a friend or go outside for a walk instead. A barrage of notifications throughout the day can make you anxious and overwhelmed, so you might disable push notifications or occasionally delete social media applications from your phone. This allows you to see alerts only when you sign in manually and when you want to.
Spending time connecting on social media can be a positive in your life, but it can also quickly become an unnecessary source of stress, and possibly exacerbate depression or anxiety. Incorporating some of these tips into your social media routine can help you protect your mental health, form healthy social media habits that lead to balance in your life, and ensure your social networking acts as a positive force rather than a negative one.
If you believe that social media is adversely affecting your mood, and just taking a break isn’t helping your mental health, then consider reaching out to a professional. Take a free, anonymous online screening today to connect you with local resources and have access to more information about how you’re feeling.