Unless you have incredible self-control, chances are you've found yourself looking at screens a lot more during the pandemic. Much of that time has probably been spent scrolling Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Usage of these apps has skyrocketed up 40% during the pandemic. Social media is our window to the world, right now more than ever before. Being able to connect with friends and family when we aren’t able to see them in person is a huge blessing. But that blessing can come with some severe side effects that aren’t listed anywhere on the warning label. It's not news that social media can be extremely detrimental to your mental health. Seeing people’s perfectly curated feed gets us caught in a comparison trap, which can lead to a negative spiral of self-judgement. Seeing loved ones share different political views can be hurtful. Scrolling by posts of people ignoring the pandemic makes our brains think we’ve been gaslit. It’s almost too much to take. So how can we protect ourselves while still participating in the good that social media has to offer?
Unfollow and Mute
You hold much more power than you think on social media. You decide whose content comes across your screen. If someone you follow consistently shares things that make you fall into the comparison trap and question if your life is as good as theirs, hit👏 that👏unfollow👏button👏. And if it’s a close friend or family member that you don’t want to fully unfollow or unfriend, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all have a mute feature. By using the mute feature, you can keep following someone, but their posts will never pop up when you’re scrolling. You can still choose to check in on their profiles when you feel you’re in a good headspace to see their content. Unfollowing and muting is not mean; it’s healthy.
Set Screen Time Limits
You may think 'I don't really need to do that', but believe us, limiting your social media exposure is going to lift a weight off of your shoulders. Apple’s iOS has some great features to help you bring your social media scrolling down to a healthier amount. You can set app time limits for specific apps. You can even change the amount of the limit for specific days. Maybe you only want to scroll Instagram for 30 minutes on week days, but cut yourself some slack and scroll for an hour on weekends. The app limit feature allows you to do that. Social media apps are designed to suck you in and make you forget about time. Setting a reminder on your phone through App Limits or even just a simple timer can help you break the cycle.
Pick Your Social Media Intentions
Do your very best to ask yourself “why” before clicking on a social media app. We all find ourselves closing Twitter only to mindlessly reopen it minutes (if not seconds) later. Instead of falling down that rabbit hole, ask yourself these questions:
Do I want to see what my friends are up to?
Am I trying to find some funny memes?
Am I checking in on family?
Should I be working on something else?
Am I looking to see the latest news? If yes, should I be looking to a better news source than social media? (spoiler alert: the answer to that is YES)
Do I have something I want to post?
Have I moved my body, eaten enough food, and drank enough water today?
If you have a clear reason for getting on social media, you’re far less likely to get caught in its web.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Social media can make us feel isolated and alone. Reach out to trusted friends and family, and tell them how you've been feeling. You might be surprised to find out how many are feeling the same way you are. If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone you know, there are tons of free resources available online. A great online option for counseling is betterhelp.com, which allows you to engage in counseling the way you're most comfortable - via text, video chat, or phone call. You're not alone. You can navigate social media in a way that makes you happy and keeps your heart and mind safe.
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