11 ways to protect your mental health from social media
Recently, a Wall Street Journal report detailed how Facebook, a.k.a. the social media giant with way too much power, knew that Instagram was particularly toxic for teen girls. Oh, and that the company knew about the hate and bigotry on the platform. But they decided not to really do much about it because that sort of content led to engagement. In other words, people love a good pile on.
And, unless you’ve been living under a rock with no WiFi connection, has this really been a surprise? Study after study has shown that social media can have an effect on our mental health.
Social media has probably affected your mental health.
Let’s face it though. You probably don’t need to read some scholarly article to understand the science of how social media can increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. You’ve probably experienced it yourself.
I know I have.
I’ve had those days where one Facebook or Instagram post would completely derail my energy. Where I’d feel like my life wasn’t moving forward as quickly as I’d like. Or maybe I’d feel not as successful as someone else or as beautiful as someone else. The envy I’d feel would turn to bitterness and I’d beat myself up for feeling bitter. But then, I’d beat myself up for remembering why I felt bitter in the first place. Thus, the vicious cycle would continue.
Thankfully, those days are much fewer and farther between.
Protect your mental health from social media
Listen, I am on social media a lot. And I mean, A LOOOOTTT. Partly because I get sucked into it but mostly because it’s kind of my job as an Instagram strategist and business owner…
So, when I hear the number of people hooraying that Facebook or Instagram are down, I get it but my heart sinks a little.
Because so many of us business owners rely on social media to grow our business’s reach. For some of us, it is directly tied to our ability to pay rent. And not just business owners but creatives too such as writers, artists, musicians, etc. rely on it to gather an audience.
For many of us, social media has helped to even the playing field a bit.
A voice that would have easily gone unnoticed pre-Tumblr, now is able to get discovered and shared with thousands of people.
And as someone who spends hours on social media each day, I’ve had to learn a thing or two about protecting my mental well-being.
Now I want to pass on a lot of what I’ve learned over to you now.
Remember: the algorithm can be taught. It learns from your interactions with the platform. So, by using social media intentionally you can protect your mental health from it.
Here are 11 ways you can protect your mental health from social media.
1. You do not have to be connected to every single person you’ve ever known. Be it school, work, someone you connected with at an art show, whatever… if you don’t like ’em, if you’ve outgrown them… unfollow/block/mute. This unspoken rule that you need to be connected to everyone was just a way to pump up our own vanity metrics (i.e. look how many friends I have) and frankly, it’s BS.
2. Protect your mental health from social media by taking frequent breaks. Give yourself boundaries by establishing a 15-minute rule in which you only allow yourself to be on any one social media platform for 15 minutes a day or by refusing to hop on social media over the weekend. When you give yourself boundaries (and stick to them!), you will find that your time is more enjoyable.
See ya, doomscrolling! 👋
3. Do your best not to engage with content that enrages you. I know this is hard. I know it’s important to call out racism or bigotry when we see it. And honestly, I am more than happy too. But there is a double-edged sword here, in that, the algorithm doesn’t care about good content vs. bad. All it cares about is engagement, it doesn’t necessarily care why. To it, good content equals engagement and bad content equals little-to-no engagement.
If you see a tweet that is so ridiculously wrong that you have got to share your opinion of it, take a screenshot. Take a screenshot and upload it as an image. Do not quote tweet it or respond to the tweeter. Better yet, report it.
Same with Instagram or Facebook: take a screenshot and upload as an image or as a sticker onto your Stories. Do not re-share the original post when dunking on it. And again: report, report, report.
There might even be an option to “hide” or “don’t show” similar posts. Like we see here with Pinterest…
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
4. I repeat: Don’t believe everything you read. I can’t believe this needs to be said but this needs to be said: do not believe everything you read on the Internet. Even the people closest to you will embellish a few details to make their lives grander.
Ultimately though, this is the problem we are seeing with misinformation and conspiracy theories. People are really lacking the skill to question what it is they are reading, to do simple research into seeing what reputable outlets are reporting versus some random “AmericaPatriot123.net” is saying, and we’re seeing the real-world implications of when people prefer to believe some rando versus legitimate science. See: Ivermectin and really, anything to do with Covid and the vaccines.
5. Engage with the content you *do* like. All the algorithm wants is for you to stick around longer. Like, comment, save, reshare the content that you love — it’ll train the algorithm to show you more of that.
6. Only allow comments from followers. Both Twitter and Instagram has a feature to only allow comments from people who follow you. This is a great deterrent to the trolls who might happen upon your profile.
11 ways to protect your mental health from social media continued…
7. Skip the lifestyle, go for the niche. Rather than following a bunch of influencer accounts, feel free to niche your follows down. More importantly, make sure they make you feel good about yourself as you currently are NOT on what you lack.
Now, don’t get me wrong… there is nothing inherently negative about following that super-fit influencer but if it makes you feel bad about yourself when you look in the mirror rather than inspired, you probably should not follow them.
8. Diversify your follow list. There is a richness of human experience to be discovered.
9. Follow hobby-specific accounts like plant mamas, illustration, interior design, surfing, and board games. If you have a hobby you love, chances are someone’s got a dedicated account to it. Follow them and you’ll learn more and be able to connect with people who are into the same things you are. My fiancé has been getting into kiteboarding and it’s been a huge help to him picking it up faster.
10. Protect your mental health from social media by following cute animal accounts. Because who doesn’t want an instant pick-me-up? From foxes to a dog and cat besties duo, there’s no way you won’t be able to smile.
11. Put a limit on news. Being informed is important but the news tends to be a HUGE energy drain so either limit the amount of time you spend reading bleed-leads or do it at a time where you have more than enough energy to give.
Again though: your experience on social media is up to you.
All in all… remember: social media is what you make of it! More of us need to be intentional in shaping the algorithm and shaping what’s being shared.
On that note, feel free to share this with your friends who might have a difficult time navigating the world of social media without becoming consumed and lost by it.
Together, we can shape it to be better. 🧡
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