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The start of a new year is an opportunity to take a look at our current lifestyle, and decide on how we’d like to improve our health in the new year. In order to ensure we achieve our health goals, we need to get specific about what we want to change.
Better mental health often ranks high on most people’s lists – and one way that you can improve your mental health in 2024 is by learning how to better manage your use of social media. In this article, we delve into the impact of social media on your mental health; and share tips on how you can establish a healthier relationship with social media in this new year.
How does Social Media affect your Mental Health?
Open any news site from the past few years and you’re bound to find an article or two about the ills of social media, and how it negatively impacts our mental health. Since the inception of social media – and its dominance in our lives – there has been plenty of research on the relationship between social media usage and our mental wellbeing.
Findings, of course, vary across studies; and there is no straightforward conclusion on the relationship between social media and our mental health. That being said, studies have found an association between heavy social media use and depression or depressive symptoms, as well as an increased feeling of envy and loneliness.
Feelings of Social Comparison
Social media gives us easy access into the lives of others, whether it’s our friends and families or celebrities that we’ve never met. This is a double-edged sword; while it gives us an opportunity to learn more about the world, it increases the chances of social envy.
On social media, we tend to curate only the best parts of our lives. Our feeds are full of people travelling to far flung places, having delicious foods, or leading interesting lives – and this can be difficult to see, especially if we’re already unsatisfied with our current position. If left unchecked, these feelings of social comparison can fester and have a significant negative impact on our mental wellness.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Ever felt upset that you weren’t invited to a social gathering? These feelings can be intensified because of social media, as it’s become common for everyone to post about what they’re up to. It can be upsetting to see an Instagram Story of a dinner that you weren’t aware of, if all your friends are there as well.
With social media, we’re more exposed to these demonstrative friendship practices – and this can lead to feelings of exclusion and isolation, if we don’t feel like we’re part of a friend group. FOMO may trigger anxious thoughts about why we weren’t invited to certain things, or feeling inadequate about our own relationships.
Crutch for Social Interaction
Particularly in this age where we’re adopting more Work-from-Home practices, social media and online communication may be used as a crutch for actual physical conversations. Although a lot can be accomplished through texting online, physical meetings and interactions still play a huge role in fostering deep and close relationships.
An over-reliance of social media may decrease our ability or willingness to interact in ‘real life’, and this can have a detrimental impact on our relationships with others – both with new acquaintances and our existing friends.
Healthy Social Media Habits
Given its ubiquity, it’s impossible to cut social media entirely out of your life – nor are we saying that one needs to. As with everything, the key is in moderation and being mindful about how our actions can affect our health. Adopt these healthy habits for a good relationship with social media.
Identify Your ‘Why’
More often than not, we’re mindlessly scrolling through our phones without even realising it. The next time you whip out your phone, pause for a moment, and try to identify the reason for why you’ve taken it out. Were you intending on reaching out to someone? Or were you just bored?
Boredom is a common reason for why we flock to social media; and that usually leads to the endless scrolling, looking for something exciting. This can take to unhealthy extremes; and by knowing our ‘why’, we can start to take steps to move our relationship towards a healthier one.
Switch Off Your Notifications
A good way to limit unwanted time on your phone is by switching everything off, apart from the essentials.
Because app makers and companies want us to spend more time on their platforms, they tend to send a ton of push notifications to prompt us to come back into their apps. Taking away these notifications means that we’re not tempted to on our phones, especially when we weren’t planning to in the first place.
Curate Your Content
If you’re struggling with social envy or FOMO, you may want to start curating the types of content you consume. For example, look at all the accounts you’re following on Instagram, and reflect on how these accounts make you feel.
Unfollow the ones that elicit negative emotions within you; or if you can’t unfollow these accounts, mute them instead. This limits your ability to encounter such types of content, which can make your feed feel like a safer place to be on.
Schedule in a Digital Detox
Quiet time is always a good thing to have. Consider doing a digital detox every quarter or even every month. Find a day where you hide your phone away, and go without the constant pinging notifications for the whole while. It may be a bit disorienting at the start, but a digital detox is also a good opportunity to check in with yourself.
Try a bit of journaling during this digital detox. You can take the time to reflect on the year that’s passed by, and what you’d like to try out or do better in the next few months. This offline time is entirely up to you – so use it as you see fit!
Finding it difficult to manage your social media usage? Speaking to a mental health professional may help you uncover the reasons for this, and help you figure out an effective plan to ensure you have a healthy relationship with your phone. Reach out to us anytime and schedule a session.
An experienced health & wellness writer, I am a story-teller at heart. For me, writing is a way of weaving together the little details that make our existence meaningful and significant into a beautiful, larger story.