In an age when we are consumed by our smartphones and social media, it is no secret that we as a society spend far too much time scrolling and dread to see our weekly screen time notification. The impact that this excessive social media consumption can have on our mental health can be extremely damaging, as it can cause depression, anxiety, and isolation.
We all have more control over the information we consume than we think, and now with additional settings being added to social media platforms, we can even restrict the information that reaches us. Have a look at our top tips on how to take control of your mind and use social media in a healthy way!
Clean up your feeds
Filter through each of your social media platforms and unfollow or block any accounts that do not serve you in a positive way. We can be told continuously not to compare ourselves to certain people because Instagram is not real life, but this is easier said than done as it has likely become a subconscious habit. Therefore, the most effective way is to remove these accounts from the equation altogether. With any accounts that are directly affecting you, for example cyberbullies messaging you or leaving abusive comments on your posts, go a step further and block or report them.
Follow people that add value to your life
You have now erased the negativity and it’s now time to fill up your feeds with positive accounts. Follow people who inspire you and things that you are interested in like art, travel or poetry – the creativity on these apps is endless and can be a source of inspiration for your own creative work. There are also many people who you can learn from, like entrepreneurs, people who have succeeded in your field of work and even those who can teach you how to be more positive. Nowadays there are a variety of mental health pages that can really transform the way you use social media on a daily basis.
Take social media breaks
Always make sure to take regular breaks from social media day-to-day and break out of the habit of watching everyone else’s lives happen – focus on living your own life and do not feel pressured to document it just because others are. If you check your phone before bed, try giving yourself an hour or two to yourself away from your phone screen before you sleep. Get a traditional alarm clock instead and put your phone in a different room, to give yourself privacy and time alone, allowing your mind and body to wind down to a peaceful sleep.
Alternatively, if you feel extremely overwhelmed and that these regular breaks are not effective enough or if you find yourself obsessively checking your apps, try taking a longer break. Try a week or two to start with, and you will feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders, giving you more time to focus on your own life.
Use it as a business tool
Social media has become an exceptional tool for businesses, both large and small. Use it for your career to promote your business, website or use LinkedIn to connect with potential employers – share your work! You can treat this as part of your job and it can therefore be limited to working hours, so it doesn’t invade your personal life.
Respect your own boundaries
We all use a variety of apps to stay in contact with friends and family, but it can be overwhelming and draining replying to endless messages. Over the past year this issue has been more commonly discussed that the expectation for people to respond straight away should not exist, as people are realising how draining this can actually be. Therefore, the expectation for us to respond straight away is diminishing and you can take as much time as you need to respond to people – those who matter will understand.
Pick and choose the apps that serve you
Although you can unfollow and block accounts on social media apps, you may find that one or two of the apps still affect you mentally. The important thing to remember is that there is no expectancy that you should be on social media, so you can come off them all if you want to or pick and choose the ones you want to be active on.
For example, millions of people enjoy being an active Twitter user, however, many find this app overwhelming due to the different streams of information and unpredictability of what you will be faced with each day. Therefore, if this is the case for you, don’t feel pressured to stay on it because other people are. It is often used as a source of news, but the reality is that any major news if you don’t use one app you will hear it through another source.
Customise your settings
Some apps give you the option to restrict certain things which may help protect you from negativity. For example, you can restrict people from commenting on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, or you can even block words and phrases that you find triggering on your Twitter feed. If you don’t want to unfollow certain people you know but whose content affects you, you can mute their posts and stories on most apps. This can make you feel more in control of the information you’re consuming and who can reach you, making your experience on social media more manageable and positive.
Seek medical advice or help if required
If you have been a victim of online bullying or trolling, or if social media as a whole has mentally affected you, speak to someone or reach out to helpline services:
YoungMinds offers a 24/7 text support service for young people (Text: YM to 85258)
Childline for under 19-year-olds (Call: 0800 1111)
The Mix for under 25s (Call: 0808 808 4994)
The Samaritans for all ages (Call: 116 123)
Shout Crisis for all ages (Text: Shout to 85258)
Mental health services are free through the NHS if you choose to seek medical help. Book an appointment with your GP and have a look at the options available to you at https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/nhs-voluntary-charity-services/nhs-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/