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How to Avoid Social Media’s Negative Impact on Your Mental Health

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, I’m deeply rooted in the industry and it’s provided me with incredible opportunities and life experiences. On the other hand, I value my peace, and I believe that if I wasn’t involved in the industry I wouldn’t have social media accounts. There is […]

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I have a love-hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, I’m deeply rooted in the industry and it’s provided me with incredible opportunities and life experiences. On the other hand, I value my peace, and I believe that if I wasn’t involved in the industry I wouldn’t have social media accounts.

There is no doubt that social media can have a negative impact on one’s mental health if they allow it to consume them. Take a look at these findings from a survey the American Psychiatric Association published:

  • 38% see social media usage as harmful to mental health
  • 45% see social media usage as having both positive and negative impact on mental health
  • 5% see it as having a positive impact
  • 67% agree social media usage is related to feelings of loneliness and social isolation

Social media also has benefits. It allows friends and family to keep in touch, without any distance barriers. It’s also a great source for breaking news and staying informed. The trick is to find the perfect balance, and throughout the years I’ve learned to stay connected to social media — it’s my livelihood — while also not allowing it to consume me nor harm my mental well-being.

Here are a few tips that can help you achieve that healthy balance also.

Continuously Ask Yourself ‘Why?’

A lot of people become addicted to social media based on developing a habit. When they wake up the first thing they do is grab their phone and check social media. It’s important to ask yourself why you are doing it.

Are you reading the news? Is it related to your work? Or are you simply scrolling your social media feeds because of boredom without any real significant reason? Many people will use it as an escape. They don’t want to face the day, so they look at social media to escape reality.

But this can have the opposite effect, especially when consuming content that is designed to project a perfect life. Social media is a highlight reel. Nobody is posting pictures without makeup or sharing stories of situations that aren’t going as planned.

It’s a place where people project to be happy 24/7, even if deep down that isn’t the truth. Many people see this “perfect life” on social media and it just contributes to feelings of depression.

Get into the habit of asking yourself why you are checking social media every time your grab your phone. If it’s a valid reason, by all means, continue. But, if it’s just to pass time or to escape your reality, put the phone back down.

Don’t Allow Social Media to Replace Real-Life Interaction

One of the biggest dangers of social media is allowing it to replace real-life interactions. Using social media to keep in touch with family members is great — it’s what it was designed for — but don’t let it completely replace get-togethers and spending physical time together.

Letting social media completely replace face-to-face interaction can lead to a very lonely life. Make sure you go out to lunch with co-workers rather than just sending instant messages across the office. Meet up with your friends often — dinner, drinks, random activities — that is very healthy for you, mentally.

Social media is a great tool for communicating and staying connected, but allowing it to completely overtake and replace real-life interaction is very unhealthy. I truly believe that social media has ruined the basic social interaction skills of the younger generation.

“Likes” and messages on social media can give someone a sense of love and connection, but it should never replace the interaction and connection you receive when you are physically sitting down and talking to someone.

Have Routine Periods of Unplugging

One of the simplest ways to limit social media’s negative effects is to simply unplug, and do so often. I routinely unplug from social media and during this time I won’t even reach for my phone.

Whether I’m spending time with friends or family, or just take some time for myself and meditate or read, doing so phone-free helps avoid the temptation of opening up a social media app. These unplugging detoxes don’t have to be extreme, either.

Something as simple as spending a Saturday disconnected from your phone can do wonders for your well-being. I’m not suggesting going cold-turkey altogether. Social media is intertwined into our daily lives so deeply that it’s almost impossible to quit.

If you find that you are highly dependant on social media start small. Establish a small two-hour window that you avoid social media and focus on other things. Over time it becomes much easier to turn it on/off without experiencing severe FOMO.


Audit Your ‘Friends’ Regularly

Sometimes it’s good to audit your social media accounts and delete, unfollow, or mute connections that provide little to no value to you, or have any negative impact on your mental well-being, whatsoever.

Does a Facebook friend constantly post toxic information and you remain connected to them because you don’t want to hurt their feelings by un-friending them? You can simply unfollow them if this is the case. They will never know and you won’t have to be subject to the toxic content they post.

Do you have friends that are constantly posting material objects or showing off a fancy lifestyle? Does this instill anger or jealousy? If so, remove them. Unfollow them. Mute them. Remove anything and everything that harms your thoughts — even slightly as many of these instances can contribute to a feeling of low self-worth.

In the past, un-friending someone was viewed as an insult, and many people didn’t do it because they didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Now there are ways to do it without them knowing. Take advantage of this and perform regular audits to keep your social media feeds toxic-free.

Establish Social Media Boundaries

Set boundaries for your social media use and hold yourself accountable. Personally, I shut-off from social media in the evenings and don’t check it before bed, nor do I rush to my phone first thing in the morning. I don’t even bring my phone into my bedroom — this alone helps you to develop good habits.

It’s also important to establish boundaries when it comes to spending time with friends and family. I won’t break my phone out during dinner or when I am out with friends. Too often you see groups of people sitting together but they are all disconnected from one another with their heads buried in their mobile devices.

Commit to not checking social media during times dedicated to friend or family, or when you work. One trick that can help greatly is disabling notifications on all social media apps. You will be much less likely to want to check your phone without the nonstop notification alarms tempting you.

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