How to keep social media from sabotaging your mental health
As of January 2021, Australia had 22.82 million internet users, a huge 89% of total population. Of those internet users, Australia had 20.50 million social media users with social media penetration in Australia currently at 80%. You know what’s also on the rise? Mental health struggles. Studies on the effect of social media on mental health are inconclusive as to whether social media can cause mental health problems but confirms social media does have the ‘capacity’ to exacerbate them.
Reading those stats, I’d say they have been ‘massaged’ in the same way doctors massaged stats on smoking and disease back in the 50’s but anyhoo. Let’s just all agree social media can be addictive and spending too much time on the myriad of platforms does affect your mental health.
With all of that in mind, social media isn’t going anywhere. It’s become a cornerstone of both connection and communication in our modern world. So, if you’ve ever considered changing your habits and worried about social media vs your mental health, here are a few tips to developing a healthier relationship with Instagram (or Facebook/Snapchat/TikTok etc).
#1 Stay Present While Scrolling
Did you know social media feeds have been designed to keep you scrolling? Yeah it’s basically the same methodology as the pokies. Keep spinning, maybe you win, maybe you lose but either way, there’s something new waiting for you.
Think back to all those times you’ve opened Instagram only to lose a few hours mindlessly scrolling…yeah that’s not a mistake. It’s an intentional design feature. It’s up to us to manage our time spent on the platform but also, to monitor the way it makes us feel.
It’s important to remind yourself that Instagram is a highlight reel, the absolute best (and sometimes fictional) moments of someone’s life. The tiny square shots are meant to be celebratory. So instead of seeing posts about toxic bosses, troubled marriages and business failures which are on the other end of the spectrum, you ONLY see the good stuff.
When you compare all ‘o that goodness to your current life? It can be easy to feel like you don’t measure up/aren’t where you need to be etc.
To combat, stay present while scrolling. Enjoy the posts, send a few double-taps and well wishes to your friends, family, and favourite small businesses, close the app and let that be that.
#2 Stop Comparing
It’s human nature to compare. It’s literally a survival mechanism. But imagine leaving your boss’s office after receiving a less-than-stellar work review only to find out your bestie (who lives on the other side of the country) just received a huge promotion. Without Instagram, we wouldn’t be confronted with such stark comparisons at the worst possible times.
Be considerate of your emotional state and know your triggers. If you’re struggling to conceive, understand that baby announcements are the third most common Instagram post. You DO NOT have to put yourself through that. News that you're meant to hear will find you through other means. I
f you find that you’re comparing yourself to the posts on your feed, it may be best to take a long break from IG or get rid of it altogether. Mental health comes first, always.
#3 Create Boundaries with Social Media
Boundaries with Instagram and other social media platforms mean choosing wisely who you follow, which topics you subscribe to, and how long you spend on each app.
Set a TIME limit on your scrolling, you’d hate to look back and realise you spent 5 hours a day every single day on social media rather than forming strong connections with loved ones wouldn’t you?
#4 Replace Phone Habits
Finding yourself grabbing your phone at every opportunity? It’s an easy habit to form, with the constant dopamine hits it can be hard to resist. The problem with always having your phone on you is the temptation to scroll socials and once you’re on, so begins the cycle.
Instead of grabbing your phone try:
- Grabbing a book
- Spinning your anxiety ring
- Visiting a friend
- Taking up a hobby
You don’t have to give it up completely of course, but balance is key. Life is rich and full of possibilities, take them by the horns and LIVE.
#5 Take Breaks From Social Media
There’s nothing quite like a social media detox to take notice of its impact on your mental health.
Choose a set time to go off the grid (so to say) completely. One day, one week, one month…whatever it is really lean into the experience and you might just realise social media isn’t for you.
#6 (Bonus step) Be Mindful of What You Post
Obviously, we don’t want to be a part of the problem. So whether it’s the caption, quote, or visual, always double and triple check your post for mental health clearance. Instagram should be and could be a safe place for everyone.