Social media can definitely be a force for good: think using it to get a dreamy job, or stay in touch with actual friends that you miss talking to. But sometimes being constantly plugged into social feeds can have a detrimental effect on our mental health.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health so we need to make sure that we treat it that way. That’s why regularly reviewing the content we’re absorbing online can be good for us.
There have been loads of studies which have linked excessive consumption of social media with poor mental health, and for many of us, our timeline of posts and lists of people we follow has piled up since we first signed up for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. A little spring clean could therefore be great for your mind.
Here’s how you can use social media to boost your mental health, instead of negatively impacting upon it.
- Assess and unfollow
Every now again it’s a good idea to purge your feeds and replace the images that are making you feel bad about yourself with something altogether more useful and rewarding to consume. Sick of comparing yourself to influencers? Or hearing updates from those you no longer care about? Or taking pleasure in other people’s timeline drama? Take a look at how much value these accounts add to your life, whether you really enjoy taking in their content each day, and then hit that unfollow button if you’re not happy with what’s popping up on your feed.When you’re worried about unfollowing someone (because er…drama) use the mute button on Instagram or Twitter to hide them from your feed, or you can “unfollow” someone on Facebook while still staying friends with them.
- Stop posting pointlessly
It’s easy to get lost in a cycle of posting, reposting and constantly updating others about your habits. But of course, it’s not normal to let thousands of people know what you’re doing all the time, and trying to post about your immediate thoughts and whereabouts all the time can really take it out of you. If you’ve been feeling anxious or depressed when logging into your feeds, or immediately after having a long binge, think about taking a social media detox for a few weeks. Delete your apps off your phone or laptop, and try not to consume any content online for a set period of time. You’ll probably feel a lot better afterwards.
- Mute trigger words
If you’re sick of seeing depressing or upsetting content on Twitter, you can prevent it from popping up on your timeline with the Mute feature. Mute keywords on Twitter and hide phrases, usernames, emojis, or hashtags. You can choose how long to mute things for, or erase them from your online world forever. Hurrah!
- Stop scrolling and comparing
As one University of Michigan study found, those who just read Facebook posts for just 10 minutes each day reported a worse overall mood than those who used Facebook to write posts or talk to their friends. This means that even if you’re not using social media to post constantly, simply reading everyone else’s life updates and comparing their lives to your own, can negatively impact your mood and mental health. If you’re a late-night scroller, try putting your phone downstairs to charge overnight, and time you social media consumption too. The less time you spend comparing yourself to others, the more time you can think about following accounts that add value to your life. How about motivational speakers, charity workers, news organisations you support or body positive activists? There’s a whole world out there beyond Instagram models and hot men with puppies, you know.
- Clear up your own feeds
We’ve all posted stuff to our timelines that we later regret, but of course you can go back and delete things. Hopefully (if you’re not famous) the internet will forget. Use Clear, which is an app that connects to your social media accounts and scans them for any NSFW (not safe for work) content, and you’ll never have to worry about being caught short with old posts again. Yay.
Social media has so many benefits and helps us stay connected in an increasingly fragmented world. But it’s also something that each of us need to monitor when it comes to personal consumption. Try seeing if you can spend your time on Instagram and Twitter doing something productive like job-hunting, or check our round-up of the best apps for boosting your mental health for more ways to use social media for good.