5 Simple Ways to Practice Healthy Social Media Use
By Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
For most of us, social media is a must-have. Invites for a majority of events are handled on social media; your newsfeed showcases the milestones of all your friends, acquaintances, and everyone you met a party one time four years ago. Social media can be great in the way that it allows us to stay connected with people we probably would have lost contact with otherwise. It’s also nice to be able to keep up with our loved one’s lives, even when we don’t have the time to personally reach out to them.
But what about when scrolling through your feed doesn’t make you feel connected, or even happy? What about when looking at social media makes you feel bad about yourself and where you’re at in life? You’re not alone in feeling this way. Having a revolving slideshow of the best moments of everyone’s lives can certainly be demoralizing for anyone at times. It’s hard not to feel insecure when you’re constantly cycling through specifically chosen, generally happy moments in everyone’s lives.
This is the struggle we face when we spend too much time focusing on people’s lives through the lens of their social media accounts. We worry when our peers are buying homes and we’re still renting apartments. We feel lonely when everyone we follow seems to be in a happy relationship while we’re still single. However, you don’t have to allow your feeds this much power over your happiness. I’ve implemented some of the tips below into my own life to make sure that I am remembering to cultivate my own sources of happiness and find a healthier balance between how social media affects my day to day life. Consider using some of these practices in your own life if you find yourself constantly worrying about how you compare to everyone online, and how you can best practice healthy social media use.
1. Stop living for likes.
Social media is the first place many of us announce something good that has happened, whether it’s a large success or small one. But don’t let the amount of likes that you get determine how happy you continue to feel about your successes in life. If you obsessively check your phone to see how many people have liked your post, but feel bad when you’re not receiving enough engagement, then you’re letting strangers determine how happy you get to feel about your own life. You get to be excited even if only three people hit that like button. Next time something exciting happens, try reaching out to friends and family directly. Their genuine excitement for you will make you feel better than clicks from people you barely know.
2. Remember that social media is a very narrow view into people’s lives.
We all put our best foot forward on social media. Rarely do we see the messy parts of people’s lives. You see their vacations, nights out with friends, and exciting purchases, but you have to remember how much more there is to their life that’s not social media post-worthy. You also go on vacations, socialize, and make exciting purchases, but that’s not your entire life.
Most people don’t post about their bad days, their fights with loved ones, or their looming debt, but they’re dealing with all those struggles just like you are. The next time you are feeling envious of someone’s life, consider that everyone has issues and concerns that aren’t part of their online presence. Also consider that there are most likely people who look at your profile and feel envious of you as well. That is often a sobering thought for me when I catch myself falling down the Instagram rabbit hole.
3. Make time for people in person.
We all lead busy lives, and it’s often hard to find time to see the people who are important to us. How many times have we made plans with friends only to cancel because we’re tired after a long day at work or because something more pressing comes up? Social media is a convenient tool to keep up with people’s lives from afar but try not to let liking and commenting replace the real connections that made you close with people to begin with.
Make time to see your friends and family in person, even if it’s just to grab a quick lunch. There aren’t a lot of things that can compare to the simple joy of laughing with a loved one. Plus, you never know what’s going on in people’s lives outside of the highlight reel they post online, and they might be in need of support for something you would never have known about had you not made time to see them in person.
4. Log off for a while.
How often do you find yourself scrolling through your apps like a zombie? It’s almost robotic to pick up your phone, open an app, and scroll through a feed. You think you’re done, but then you pick it up a few minutes later to do it all over again. This can be a hard habit to break, especially since everyone has their phone handy at all times.
Something you can try to combat this behavior is to delete all the social media apps off of your phone for a period of time. You can still access them from a computer, but not having them on your phone makes you less likely to constantly refresh and scroll. Do this for a week to start and see how much easier it gets to figure out productive things to do in your free time, rather than the constant refresh and scroll. You’ll probably spend more time doing things that benefit your mental health, and less time worrying about how you compare to everyone else.
5. Set boundaries for online interactions.
Think of the boundaries you keep in real life conversations. How often do you talk about politics with your family and coworkers? What about religion? Or even just idle gossip? Think about all the topics you avoid in person because you see them as impolite, and then consider how much of it you allow into your life online. Maybe you have a family member who constantly shares political articles you don’t agree with, or a friend who frequently posts vague, passive-aggressive statuses that make you anxious. Both of these are situations that cause you stress in real life but are avoidable if you set the same boundaries for yourself online that you do in person.
A couple of years ago, I went through my friends online and changed my settings so that I wasn’t seeing posts from people who frequently published things that upset me. I still loved them and wanted to have a relationship with them, but I didn’t want our relationship affected by being constantly bombarded with their commentary on things I wouldn’t normally talk to them about. This idea can also apply to people you feel extremely envious of. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to specific people in particular, then it’s probably a good idea to remove their posts from your feed. Doing this will cause you less stress and give you less chances to unfairly compare your life to others.
What changes for the better have you made in the way you interact with social media lately? If you need help navigating the way social media affects your life, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com. Stenzel Clinical therapists are here and ready to help you navigate.