Social media has firmly inserted itself into our lives and it isn’t going anywhere. It's a powerful tool, used by most in our modern world. Since founding Arias Design Co, I've noticed I'm spending a lot more time on social media, and not entirely by choice.
When I was a pre-teen, social media pretty much meant one of two things: Myspace or MSN messenger. We’d finish up at school for the day, run straight to the ‘computer room’ (if you know, you know) and chat away to our friends, updating our personal messages with Fall Out Boy song lyrics and the initials of our most recently declared BFF.
Today’s internet landscape is much more complicated. We rely on the internet and social media as part of the fabric of our day to day lives. It has a hold on us, in ways it never did before. It feels almost as if you need to be a member of the internet in order to be a functioning member of society. It comes with its own cultural norms, it’s own social rules. It’s the wild west, that we can all access through our own personal portals in the form of the latest iPhone.
We can't really deny that social media has enriched our lives in ways we didn’t think possible. As an example, I moved some 18,000 kilometres away from my hometown in 2019 and thanks to COVID, have not been able to travel back to see my family since. Without social media keeping me in contact with my friends and family back home, I don’t know if I would still be in New Zealand.
But on a day where my self esteem isn’t the best, where I’m feeling a bit frumpy and down, scrolling through a seemingly endless feed of beautiful bronzed beach-goers isn’t exactly the best remedy. On a day where I’m recovering from a panic attack, or wracked with grief, it isn’t helpful to read stories of how people recovered after buying a six month supply of diet shakes from the newest multi-level marketing company.
Prolonged social media use can and does have a very real impact on our mental health. Marketing techniques used by social media giants and corporations alike, play on a lot of social and psychological aspects of humanity that help us navigate the real world. Only, social media isn’t the real world.
So, how can you use social media in a healthy way? How can you be sure that you aren’t negatively impacting your own mental health when you log on to Instagram or Facebook?
1. Curate your feeds.
A lot of our social media accounts are filled with relics from the past, that may not be helpful or useful to see anymore. Treat your ‘following’ lists like an old store room that needs a big spring clean - unfollow people you have no interest in connecting with anymore. Be relentless with it! Unfollow anyone or anything that makes you feel inferior. If you find yourself comparing yourself to the account, click unfollow. There is no point in forcing yourself to consume content that knocks your self esteem.
2. Wake up intentionally.
Far too many of us wake up and immediately open our Facebook app. When we do this, we’re not giving our brain a chance to adjust to the reality of the morning. Instead, we’re flooding our brain with other peoples thoughts, feelings and opinions – all of which we have no control over. This can put you in a passive mindset for the rest of the day and make you feel as if you have no power over what happens to you.
3. Take a break.
If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by social media and everything it entails, take a break. Taking a break from social media is one of the best things we can do to ground ourselves in the present moment. It will allow you to reconnect with the world around you, to find meaning and joy in your relationships with the surrounding environment.
4. Limit consumption.
You might find that you have accidentally formed a habit with social media. Twitter and Instagram are what you turn to when you have a spare minute. It’s a time filler. Something to check while you’re waiting for something else to happen. We've trained our brains to seek gratification from the internet when we're bored! Instead of checking your apps whenever and wherever you get a spare moment, set aside some dedicated time each day or week to use social media.
5. Protect your peace.
This one is so simple, but so effective. Don’t bother arguing. There is usually no point in arguing with Barbara in the Facebook comments. She won’t change her mind, and you won’t change yours. Instead, both of you will leave the interaction feeling angry and bitter, with nowhere healthy to discharge these emotions. Just don't.