In a time when we can find out what's going on in the world, who ate what for dinner, who’s dating who and see the latest pictures of someone's exciting vacation all with the click of a button, it’s hard to imagine any down side to social media. Social media keeps us connected not only to people we see on a regular basis but those who we don’t. Social media also allows us to be engaged with online communities. However, despite the lightning-fast speed that we can receive information there can be some downsides to our mental health.
When life is a constant status update, you can feel pressure to post your latest and greatest. As viewers, we forget this as we are scrolling through our newsfeed or social media stories looking at other people's updates. Maybe you are sitting at home struggling with your mental health, and scrolling through Facebook or Instagram fills you with unease. Seeing other people living their best life might cause you to feel like you aren't good enough, like you don’t have enough or that your life isn't how you want it to be. This is a common feeling among social media users as we only are seeing a snippet of someone's life that might look a lot better than our own if we are already struggling. Viewing social media on a constant basis can compound self-esteem issues, depression and anxiety.
Truly, comparison is a thief of joy.
The truth is, no one's life is perfect, and none of us truly has life figured out. You might see one thing on social media, but the reality of someone's life can be very different. This is important to remember if you find yourself comparing yourself to other people based on a limited amount of information.
If we are using social media but not connecting in person with people, this can lead to feelings of isolation. When we don’t connect with others we miss out on the best parts of life.
Of course, maybe you have heard these things about social media. Maybe you are hoping to hear the upside?
There are a lot of upsides to social media. Again, it helps connect us with our loved ones. Maybe you lead a very busy life, and social media allows you to stay up to date with friends and family. This a great thing! Social media also allows us to organize and create communities. Social media is rich with groups with a mental health focus such as awareness groups, mental health support groups and pretty much any other group you can think of. These groups can help individuals who are not able to connect with other people in person who may be facing similar life circumstances or struggles.
So, maybe you haven't thought about how you can use social media to benefit your mental health, but I have some suggestions to share!
Limit social media time.
Limiting social media time to 30 minutes a day can be a healthy way to make sure we have time for our other goals. Social media can be a lot of fun, but it can be a major time waster if we don’t stay conscious of the time we spend on it. Before you find yourself in the depths of your newsfeed or Instagram posts, step back and put a limit on the amount of time you want to dedicate to looking at other people's lives instead of living your own.
Find what makes you happy and do more of it even if it means disconnecting for a little while from social media!
Use social media to connect in person.
We spend a lot of time liking and commenting on things, but maybe our Messenger is quiet. Use the Messenger tool!
Send your friends a message and invite them for coffee. Look at local events in your area and invite someone to come along! Are you struggling to connect with others in your area? Look up some local volunteer opportunities and get connected! Social media gives us so many opportunities to connect with others, but we must sometimes take that first step. You never know the other person might be craving connection just like you are!
Check in with yourself. Be mindful.
Some helpful things to ask yourself about your social media use to gauge its impact on your mental health might include:
Am I spending too much time on social media?
Is social media keeping me from connecting with my family and friends who might be sitting right in front of me?
How to do I feel after scrolling through my newsfeed?
This last question allows us to understand how all the information coming in impacts us. Mindfulness is a skill that is highly beneficial for mental health. Practicing it daily is important to building our skill tool box for better mental health.
So where does this leave us? Again, social media can be a great tool to stay connected and to build community, but when overused it can impact our mental health if we aren't mindful of our thoughts surrounding it. Spending time in personal growth can be a wonderful way to use that extra time you would spend on social media.
Ask yourself what's most important to you and follow that goal, see that person, make that phone call and stay connected!