How to Keep Social Media From Affecting Your Mental Health

Posted By: on May 30, 2019
students on social media

As much as we don’t want to admit it, some of us have an unhealthy relationship with social media.


Are you addicted to the rush of a new notification? Do you sometimes feel inadequate as you scroll through the happy faces of your friends and family? Are you overwhelmed by “experts” in social media ads telling you what you should be doing, how you should look, or what you should feel?


You’re not alone.


Even though there’s been more and more research linking social media with mental health concerns like depression and anxiety, social media platforms are designed to be addictive, so it’s not as easy as going “cold turkey.”


But don’t worry, that’s not what I’m suggesting!


Instead, let’s talk about a few ways you can be more mindful about how you use social media and steps you can take to mitigate its negative effects on your mood and self-esteem.


  1. Limit Your Use (Slowly)


I know, easier said than done. But stay with me. People experience varying levels of anxiety when they can’t check their smartphone. If your anxiety is high, that’s okay. It’s a normal response. Don’t minimize it.


Here are some suggestions in order of how “extreme” they might feel to someone who checks social media frequently. Start at the point where you feel most comfortable.


  • Change your smartphone icons to grayscale – Our brains are attracted to color. This simple trick can make it less appealing to click on your social media icons. Give it a try and see if you notice a difference. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters.
  • Remove social media icons from your home screen – This is another simple idea to remove your tendency to mindlessly open social media accounts.
  • Turn off social media notifications – How often do you click on a notification and it’s really nothing important? Instead of logging in when you see that tempting notification, check social media when you choose.
  • Uninstall social media from your phone – If you’re still struggling to control your use of social media because it’s so easy to access, make it harder. You can still get on social media at home, on a tablet or laptop.
  • Schedule social media time – Instead of checking social media whenever you’re bored, choose a time each day.
  • Limit social media time – If you’re still spending too much time, try to set time limits for each day. Need some extra reinforcement? There are apps that can block certain sites. Check out Freedom.


  1. Block or Limit Emotional Triggers


We all have those family members who post angry political rants or news stories about how the world is falling apart. On the flip side, you might have that friend from high school who posts pictures of her beautiful family, expensive vacations, and slim figure.


Whatever it is, if it’s causing you to feel depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, you can take control.


I’m not suggesting you should put your head in the sand. We have to stay connected and be aware of the world around us. Instead, take a break. Most platforms allow you to block someone temporarily without them knowing. For example:


  • Facebook – You can “snooze” someone from your newsfeed for 30 days or block them
  • Instagram – You can easily block and unblock from the settings at any time.
  • Twitter – You have the option to mute someone, which means you won’t see their tweets in your timeline, but you’re still following each other.


When you’re not in a great place mentally, these micro moments of negativity can really add up. Think about when you need a break and make these easy changes to your accounts.


  1. Take an Inventory of What You’re Following


Many of us have accounts that are over ten years old. Do you remember why or when you began following certain accounts or people?


I’d bet you’ve changed quite a bit during that time.


Even though social media algorithms are pretty smart, they might be showing you content that’s not really relevant to who you are now because of your likes and follows.


In addition to making your newsfeed longer and more distracting, that content might relate to an old version of you that you’re grieving. For example, you might be a new empty nester and you’re getting ads for moms on the go, making you long for that time in your life. You might also be following accounts that are inadvertently making you sad or anxious, like news outlets or an animal rescue with stories of abuse.


I recommend taking an hour and sifting through the pages and accounts you follow. Ask yourself:


  • Does this reflect who I am now?
  • Am I getting value from this?
  • Do I feel like I “should” follow this, even though it’s depressing? (Consider muting or snoozing)


  1. Add Life-Affirming Accounts to Your Social Media


Now that you’ve removed or paused negativity and emotional triggers from your feeds, I recommend adding some purposeful positivity.

If you’re not the inspirational-quote-type-person, that’s okay! Look for accounts that give you hope and confidence. Seek out stories that reaffirm that there is goodness in world. Here are a few ideas:

  • Good News Network – This website and app says it’s the “antidote to the barrage of negativity experienced in the mainstream media.”
  • Yes! Magazine – This is another news organization that focuses on positive reporting. “YES! Media inspires people to build a more just, sustainable, and compassionate world.”
  • Humans of New York – A prolific photographer takes portraits and captures stories of everyday New Yorkers. It’s uplifting and helps us feel less alone in our struggles.


But don’t forget to add some humor! There’s plenty of that on social media. Love to see babies giggling? Cats falling off counters? As long as you’re not watching them all day, it’s a great mental health boost. Make sure you have some funny stuff on your news feed every day.


Social media has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, but we often don’t pause to think about how it affects our mental health — especially because its impact is made in hundreds of tiny impressions. I hope this article has given you some food for thought and will encourage you to take control of your social media experience.

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