It’s well known that spending extended amounts of time scrolling through your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feeds can leave you feeling drained. In fact, research shows that an increased use of social media correlates with increased mental health issues, especially among youth.
Social media is a big part of my career. In my day job, I’m a digital media and social media marketing coordinator at a nature conservation non-profit. In my photography career, I rely heavily on Instagram and Facebook for sharing photography and connecting with the community. Many people recommend taking breaks from social media, whether it be a 3 week break or a 3 month break, or even completely stay off for good! But when your livelihood depends on being logged in and active on various social channels, it’s not realistic to be able to take such an extended break.
I’ve discovered a few methods that not only help me minimize the negative effects that social media has on my mental health, but also transforms the experience into one that is positive, inspiring and thought-provoking. Social media has become a positive tool for me. I follow people who’s content I genuinely want to see because it uplifts me, educates me, inspires me, etc. I’ve learned so much on social media, met some really cool people and gotten some great opportunities.
But here’s the thing, social media is a tool. You should use it as a tool. Don’t let it run you.
It can be so easy to get caught up in everything you see on a daily basis in your feeds, comparing yourself with other people’s “lives” and subjecting yourself to inner criticism. It’s so important to remember that this is a tool. A platform for you to use in a way that serves you best.
If social media is negatively effecting you and you’re not able to take an extended break, here are some things that might help:
- Be conscious of who you are following and what you are consuming. Follow people who you want to learn from or connect with. Just by being conscious of who you are following and who’s content you are allowing to enter your mind, you can transform your entire social media experience. It can take what was once draining, boring and/or negative, and transform it into something that is educational, inspiring, interesting and/or fun.
- Unfollow people that effect you negatively, even if they’re close friends or family members. If what people are posting does not do you any good, or brings you negative feelings of any kind just unfollow them! It doesn’t mean you don’t like the person. It just means that person’s content isn’t something that you’re interested in. If you’re worried about making your friends or family members upset by unfollowing them, try letting them know ahead of time. Try explaining to them that you are working on your mental health and that you still love them and care for them, but need a break from their content.
- Be yourself. Post what makes you happy. The more you try to please people with your posts and create curated feed that looks perfect, the more stressful your experience on social media may end up being. I used to try to make my personal Instagram feed look pretty and curated. It took a lot of effort. But one day, I decided I don’t care anymore. This is my personal account so I will post whatever I want. If you have a business account, or you’re trying to present yourself in a professional way or develop your personal brand, definitely keep your account curated and have a strategy behind your posts. But keep this account separate from your personal account. Have your own personal space where you can just truly be yourself.
- Remember that social media is not real. None of this is real. People only post what they want you to see. (And this goes back to point number one — if someone’s posts are making you feel bad in any way, whether it be insecurity, jealousy, angry, etc., unfollow them!)
Right now, with everything going on in the world, it can be so easy to let yourself become drained by social media. Protect your energy.