Recently, I’ve noticed social media having much more of an impact on my mental health.
Whilst social media can be extremely positive (it connects us after all!), it can also be inherently negative when overused or abused.
So, today I wanted to talk about some of the strategies I’m putting in place to protect my mental health on social media.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, here are just a few reasons why we should try to protect ourselves when it comes to social media.
As of 2015, almost 93% of teens own a smartphone and use social media. But as smartphone usage has increased, so too have symptoms of depression and anxiety.
And this continues into adulthood, with 38% of adults seeing social media as harmful.
Studies show that social media can drastically lower self-esteem- this makes perfect sense! If we are constantly comparing our full and messy lives to a series of highlight reels of someone else’s it’s no wonder it can get us down.
Why you should limit social media
If those statistics aren’t enough to convince you, here are a few more reasons:
- Social media is a breeding pot for comparison. By checking it every moment, we open ourselves up to that, even if 90% of the images aren’t actually real (or are incredibly posed).
- Do you ever find yourself surprised when your screen time report comes through at the end of the week? I do. Hours and hours wasted scrolling, liking, watching videos. How many more things could we tick off our to-do list if we limited the screen time just a little bit?
- A chance to connect genuinely! Of course, a lot of social media connections are valid, and extremely important. But spending a little less time messaging means we can spend more time chatting to friends and family, going on walks with them or going out.
Can social media be a good thing?
Despite the rising fears when it comes to social media, it can be extremely positive.
Social media allows us to connect with our friends and family, and meet online friends (especially useful during the current times). Over the last few years, it has also become a major news source, with many people hearing stories first on apps such as Twitter and Instagram.
It’s an incredibly important platform for businesses to connect genuinely with their audiences and promote products and services.
And of course, it’s an extremely useful creative outlet, as I have experienced myself through Bookstagram.
But we can only get the true benefits of social media if we don’t overuse it.
General screen-time boundaries
It is so essential to not only place boundaries on social media, but to limit screen time in general. This not only aids our mental health- we also end up with a lot more time in the day when we’re not scrolling endlessly!
Turn off notifications
Even when I’m trying really hard to limit my screen time, my eyes often slip to my phone when I see the screen light up.
Notifications are purposely designed to grab our attention (and take it away from whatever else we should be focusing on).
Realistically, it’s extremely difficult not to check your phone when you know someone has messaged you, or there’s a new post waiting from one of your favourite Instagram accounts.
The easiest way to combat this is to turn off notifications all together. If there are certain ones you need (e.g. messages from certain people), you can configure your notifications in settings. Alternatively, you could switch your phone to airplane mode whilst working to temporarily switch off any notifications.
Set time limits
If you’re looking to generally limit screen time, setting time limits on certain apps (e.g. Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter) can be really helpful.
Just relying on yourself to stop using these apps is really difficult, so having a tangible thing to stop you (like a lock on certain apps) will be really useful.
Change the location of your apps
A lot of how we use our phones comes down to habit and convenience. If the first app your gaze falls on when you open up your phone is the weather, you are much less likely to click on it than if it’s Instagram, for example.
Put the apps that you know tempt you the most on the second page (or as far away from your gaze as possible!). That tiny extra effort may just be enough to snap you out of habit, and help you put down the phone.
If changing the location of apps isn’t helping, deleting a few might just be what you need.
And I don’t just mean the ones you don’t use much.
I recently asked my followers what practices they put in place to limit screen time. One said she deletes all social media apps for one week every month. This is a great way to reevaluate which apps are helpful and which are harmful.
Who knows? After a few weeks with the apps, you might not even miss them anymore.
Don’t use your phone before bed
60% of teens and young adults look at their phone before sleeping. It’s really no wonder, when the world of social media is so incredibly wired and constant.
But screens can have a serious effect on our sleep. The blue light present in our smartphones tends to make us more alert, and signals to our brains that it’s time to wake up. Studies have found that exposure to blue light in the two hours before bed can have negatively affect our quality of sleep and leave us feeling tired in the morning.
Instead of scrolling Instagram, why not read for 30 minutes (ideally an engaging book, but not too active), or even meditate?
If you absolutely have to use your phone before bed, make sure to turn it onto night mode; this will limit the blue light that the screen emits.
Don’t pick up your phone first thing in the morning
It’s relatively well known that looking at a screen before bed can affect sleep.
But it’s so important to also acknowledge the detriment of looking at your phone first thing in the morning.
Research shows that the majority of smartphone users look at their phones within the first 15 minutes of waking.
Scrolling through the news or social media first thing can very easily set your day off on a negative note (so much chance for comparison before you’ve even gotten out of bed!).
Instead, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and understand how you’re feeling at the start of the day without any distractions- this could be through journaling, reading or meditation.
Strategies to protect your mental health on social media
Now that we’ve covered limiting screen time in general, how can you protect your mental health in the time that you do spend on social media?
Only follow accounts that make you feel good
Have you ever scrolled through someone’s account, wishing you looked like them/ had a life like them/ as much money/ could travel as much? I’m pretty sure we all have at some point.
Social medias, especially those based on visuals and aesthetics, (such as Instagram) thrive off comparison. Specifically, comparing a finely tuned, edited feed (1% of a person’s life!) to your entire, messy existence.
But you don’t have to allow that into your space. Take a minute now to purge any accounts that don’t make you feel good. Be brutally honest with yourself- you’ll be thankful for it next time you log on.
Create a community on social media
I have met so many lovely friends on Bookstagram. Despite its issues, social media really is a great tool for staying in touch and creating new connections.
Even if you don’t have a public account or share photos, you can keep in touch with friends and family through messaging or even video calling.
Don’t scroll the comments!
On your own posts, or other accounts, it is all too easy to get lost in a thread of comments- arguing, belittling the creator, or just being altogether rude.
Reading your own comments can be a really special thing, especially when they are kind and supportive.
But falling down a hole of replying to every rude comment is a waste of time and a waste of mental energy.
Recognize how much of social media is fake
From expert editing to face-changing story filters, Instagram is the prime example of how easily you can change how people perceive you.
Whenever you use these kinds of social media apps, keep in mind that you have no idea how much an image has been posed or changed to make it look perfect.
If you are finding that social media is having a negative impact on your mental health, take some time to examine your relationship with it (and with yourself). Setting clear boundaries will help to protect your mind and mental wellbeing.
Do you struggle to set boundaries with social media? Are you going to be trying out any of these tips? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or you can connect with me directly on any of my social medias.