By April Knipfer – LICSW
Over the last decade, social media has transformed our relationships, and the ways we interact with others. In many ways, this is a great thing. We have the ability to seek information, and keep in touch with people all around the world in a way we never have before. Social media is intended to create and maintain connections, but it can also have an impact on our mental health. Recent research has found that people who use social media heavily often experience higher levels of depression, social isolation, low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, and even insomnia. This is most common when we use social media as a substitute for real-life interactions, or when we are comparing ourselves to what we see online.
It’s unrealistic to think that we should stop all social media use completely. However, there are ways to use it positively while minimizing the negative impact on our health. One way to do this is through practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as a practice of focusing one’s mind on the present moment, with acceptance and without judgement. By being mindful during our social media use, we can be more aware of how it affects us, and practice better self-care.
Here are 6 helpful tips for using social media mindfully:
1. Consider your intentions.
Before you open the app, consider your intentions. Often times, we scroll through social media as a reflex. Ask yourself what you are hoping to gain from the experience. If you’re not sure, maybe you should consider staying off the app for the time being. It’s more difficult to achieve satisfaction on social media if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.
2. Be present.
As you scroll through your feed, practice being present in the moment. Notice the feeling of your phone in your hand and the screen on your fingers. Check in with your emotions and your body. If you take it slow, you might notice that particular posts or people create more negative feelings than others.
Additionally, be present in your real-life social interactions. Make sure to set aside no-phone time when you are with friends or family. People often miss out on valuable face-to-face relationships when they are focused on their phones.
3. Remember that what you see may not be reality.
Have you ever been scrolling through your feed, and started comparing yourself to what you see? It is important to remember that someone’s profile is simply their highlight reel- not a realistic picture of their life. Don’t compare your full story to their highlights. Making unrealistic comparisons leads to low self-esteem. Keep in mind that nobody’s life is perfect, despite what their posts might have you believe.
4. Be Authentic.
Be yourself! Post what you want, not what you think is going to earn you the most “likes”. You’ll feel more fulfilled by posting what interests and inspires you.
5. Don’t scroll, interact!
When we mindlessly scroll through our feeds, we lose sight of how it’s really impacting our emotions. Taking the time to interact with a post will give you a moment to notice your experience. Studies have also suggested that people gain more satisfaction and happiness out of social media when they use it as a tool for interaction by liking, commenting, sending messages, etc. Simply “lurking” or scrolling through your feed can lead to feelings of disconnection and loneliness.
6. Avoid the negativity.
If you notice that particular people or topics are creating negative emotions for you, considering unfollowing them. There is no shame in distancing yourself from something that isn’t healthy for you. Instead, focus on following things that match up with your interests and passions.
It may also be helpful to take breaks from social media every so often for a few days, or even a few weeks. Remember, social media is supposed to be a positive experience! So if it doesn’t feel positive for you, try stepping away and focusing on what does make you happy. You might find that you feel more connected to the world around you.