Social Media is increasingly a part of our everyday lives, we use it to talk to friends and family, to get information and to upload pictures of events in our lives. However, it may be the case that we are spending too much time on social media, with the average British person checking their phone 28 times per day. This is a problem as too much social media use has been found to have an effect on the way we feel and can even lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Social media is here to stay and does have many benefits, it is only when we become over-reliant on it that it may start affecting our wellbeing and mental health. Therefore, we need to use it cautiously, especially if you can feel yourself having problems due to your time online. This can be done by making small changes to not only how and when we use it, but also by controlling what content is on our social media feed. Here are some things you could do to make your time on social media a positive one.
Limit your use
The most important thing you can do is to limit the amount of time you spend on social media day to day. Most smartphones will have features on them or apps you can download that do this for you, they track your social media use and will notify you when you have reached your daily limit. These can be very helpful especially when you are just starting to cut down the time you spend online. The average person spends on average over 2 hours a day scrolling through social media sites and this average is increasing rapidly. Limiting your time online will free up much more time in your day for physical interaction, hobbies and activities which can be much more beneficial to improving our mood and for our overall mental health.
Turn off notifications
This again will help you massively with cutting down your social media use. Notifications distract you more than you think from your day-to-day activities. When we hear the notification tone or see the notification banner pop up on our phone, we more often than not instantly reach for our phone to check what it says, and before we know if we have then been scrolling social media for the next twenty minutes. Turning these notifications off will stop this distraction and allow us to give more attention to our daily tasks such as doing work, reading a book, cleaning or relaxing, and help us feel more in control of when we view our social media. This way we will look at our socials because we have free time or want to, not because we have been alerted to by a notification
Curate your feed
This is all about you controlling what content you see on social media, who you follow and how it affects you. The people you follow or are friends with have more of an effect on the way you feel when using it than you think. You may find yourself comparing yourself and your lifestyle to the people you follow in a negative manner, leaving you feeling dissatisfied, not good enough and with body image issues.
The main way to stop these posts and people from having this effect on you is to simply unfollow them, you will not see their content anymore and therefore you are less likely to feel these negative emotions after using social media. You can control what social media content you intake, how it affects you and your mental health. A way to approach this is to go through the people who follow your social media accounts and think to yourself, does their content make me feel happy? Do they entertain me? Do they provide me with information? And if your answer is no to these questions then unfollow them. Make your feed a positive and safe space for your mental health filled with inspiring people and content that makes you feel positive and content.
Similar to limiting your time on social media, it will also be a positive change to be conscious of what time of day you use it. Checking your phone before you go to sleep has a big effect on the amount and quality of your sleep, this is due to the blue light in your smartphone suppressing melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel tired.
Additionally, if social media provokes feelings of anxiety and stress, this will of course affect our ability to sleep as your mind is processing lots of information and feelings at once. You can’t sleep because you are too busy thinking and worrying. It is best to have at least 40 minutes of social media/phone free time before going to sleep and let your body start to feel tired naturally and have the quality of sleep you need. Instead of checking your phone at night you could read a book or meditate, both make you feel gradually relaxed and will make it much easier to get a good night’s sleep.
Social media is now a big part of our lives and it is only getting bigger, this is why we need to be aware of how it affects us. If we find it is affecting us and our mental health in a negative manner then we need to make some of these small changes in order to allow ourselves to feel more in control of our social media and also allow us to enjoy social media for all its positive aspects in a safe and informed way.