Life is a series of balancing acts – including how much time and attention you give to social media.
In our new reality of social distancing and COVID-19 anxiety, millions are turning to social media – for connection, for entertainment, for news. It’s easy to get lost in this virtual world, but it’s important to find and maintain the right balance.
Social media can have both positive and negative effects on your health and well-being, which Harvard University has aptly coined the social media see-saw effect. The key is paying attention to how social media makes you feel, the impact it has on your life and why you are using it.
The PROs of social media
Social media can help you stay connected to family and friends, especially now, when it’s safer to be at home rather than gather in large groups. It can preserve a sense of normalcy and provide a form of reassurance when you feel connected, even virtually, to your loved ones.
Social media can also be a great outlet for creativity or self-expression. You can find like-minded communities with mutual interests. You can raise awareness of worthwhile causes or learn about new hobbies and interests.
The CONs of social media
Ironically, as much as social media can make you feel connected to others, it can also increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. The fear of missing out, better known as FOMO, is real. And excessive use of social media can lead to depression, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.
Some other negatives of social media include cyberbullying, when you’re the target of hurtful rumors or abuse, and self-absorption, when you become consumed with your online image and crave the need for likes, retweets or shares.
Do you have a problem?
Being aware of how you use social media and how it makes you feel can determine the healthiness of your social media relationship.
If you’re spending a lot of time on social media and letting emotions like sadness, frustration, loneliness, anger or jealousy overwhelm you, it’s the clearest sign you need to re-evaluate your online habits.
Some other questions to ask yourself include: Am I neglecting my closest relationships because of social media? Am I using social media as a distraction or a way of avoiding other issues in my life? Is social media the last thing I check at night and the first thing I look at in the morning?
If you answered yes to any of these questions or felt any of these emotions, it may be time to create some new habits around your social media usage.
Having a healthy social media relationship
Start by making one or two of these adjustments to your social media routine and see how you feel.
- Limit your time. Use an app to set a timer for how long you spend on social media and only allow yourself to check it a few times a day. Even taking a short break for an hour or two will help you feel better and get some perspective.
- Practice self-care. Do something you enjoy that does not involve a screen – take a walk, read a book or spend time with your family. Additionally, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating healthy foods and practicing mindfulness using meditation or breathing techniques will do wonders for both your physical and mental health.
- Talk to someone. If you’re down, reach out to someone you trust and let them know how you’re feeling. Don’t let social media make you feel isolated and alone. If you don’t have anyone to confide in, the National Association of Mental Illness has a helpful guide listing many organizations that provide free and confidential support.
- Remove distractions. Social media can be hard to resist if it’s right in front of you. Leave your phone in another room to charge overnight and don’t bring it to bed. Disable social media notifications to help you regain your focus. Or try removing social media apps from your phone so you won’t be tempted to start mindlessly scrolling through your latest feeds.
- Find your focus. Consciously determine why you’re using social media. Is it out of habit? Are you bored? If you can pause and assess why you want to be on social media, it may help reduce your time spent and improve your experience.
- Manage the news. Make sure you are only receiving your news from credible, reputable sources on social media. For reliable information on COVID-19, for example, follow accounts for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
If you’re having trouble finding balance and experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, behavioral changes related to medication management or substance abuse and other behavioral issues, Oceans Healthcare may be able to help. As a nationally recognized provider of behavioral health services, we are passionate about helping adults and seniors attain the best possible quality of life. Find a location near you.