Social media is a BIG part of our world and it only continues to get bigger. Throughout the week, whether in my personal life or my professional life, I hear the effects of social media use on individuals. Many of us get sucked into all the videos, pictures and posts on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, etc., and we can't deny that our social media use needs to be reduced.
I most often discuss social media with my teenage clients or my clients struggling with eating disorders. Our conversations center around the fact that we, as a society, are constantly being fed information about what is "cool", "pretty", "healthy", "trendy" and it starts to seep into the things we do on a daily basis.
It can be very hard to fight that narrative and determine what is right for you and how you want to live your life. There is a lot of influence from what we view on social media and this is a post that gives tips on how to use social media a bit better in order to reduce it's impact and reduce our use.
1. Limit Usage and Set Boundaries
Limiting your social media use can definitely be a hard task but is necessary when trying to reduce the negative effects it can cause. Setting a specific limit for each day and trying to stick to it can be one idea that you implement. Most smartphones have "screen time" settings that can help by shutting down the app after a certain amount of time that you allot yourself.
Establishing a "no social media" time during the day can also be helpful. This can be first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. You can start small with your limit settings, for example, 30 minutes no social media, and build up the amount of time from there.
2. Identify Harmful Content
Learning to recognize content that may be harmful to your mental health, such as hate speech, cyberbullying, graphic images, or triggering content can be helpful in how you move about social media. You can be triggered by too many workout posts, pro-eating disorder posts, etc..
Anything that you are triggered by from social media can be a useful thing to talk about in therapy sessions as well. I've encouraged clients to unfollow accounts that are all about dieting and false information about nutrition and exercise because they are too triggering for them and were interfering in their recovery.
3. Learn to Block Certain Accounts
You are entirely in control of what accounts you follow and acknowledging that fact can be very empowering. Unfollowing or blocking accounts that post content that negatively impacts your mental health is 100% your right. You can unfollow certain accounts, block certain hashtags or words in order to curate your feed to be more positive.
You can also "mute" certain accounts that way you are seeing less of their posts that might be impacting you. Muting is a great option if you are bothered by what a family member or friend posts and you don't want to cause a conflict by "unfollowing" them. If you want to work toward fully blocking them, this is something you can talk about in therapy.
4. Avoid Comparisons
As hard as it can be, we have to remember that people often share the best parts of their life on social media and it's not always the full picture. People only show what they want the world to see and their profiles are perfectly curated to only show the best and most interesting things.
Limiting and avoiding comparing yourself to others is key in positive social media use. Try to remember that life is both good and bad and you are only seeing a snapshot into someone's life. A therapist can help you reframe some of these negative thoughts.
5. Follow Positive Accounts
Following accounts from mental health advocates, therapists or other organizations that will help challenge the negative narratives you are receiving or provide accurate information can be huge. Following accounts that promote positivity and post motivational content can build a better mindset growth. At the very least this will help balance out your feed and the best case scenario is that this is the only things you are seeing on your feed.
Social media can be a fun way to connect with friends, family and other community members, however, we can't always trust what we see online. Listening to your needs and feelings and adjusting how you use social media, can significantly reduce the impact that social media has on you and your mental health.
Talking about triggering social media posts and how to go about them is something you can bring up with your therapist and treatment team. If you need help in this area, please reach out. We are here for you!
Stephanie Polizzi is a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC) in Scarsdale, NY at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, serving clients living in NY, NJ and FL.