Phone screen with instagram

Social media can be a great place to keep up with friends, make plans or hear about events. At the same time, it can be a bombardment of news and information, which can get stressful. Here are some tips for navigating social media in a healthy way.

What are some of the impacts of social media use?

Social media can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, whether it’s seeing updates from them or arranging lunch dates. It also facilitates a sense of social connection and shared experience.

However, when overused, social media can negatively impact your physical and mental health. When you’re preoccupied with social media, you can become less attentive to doing things like going to bed on time, engaging in conversations when out with friends or paying attention in class.

With the amount of information that comes through various news feeds, you may also see things that evoke a variety of reactions. Social media makes it easy to compare yourself to other people, which can lead to anxiety and feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Seeing friends or family members post about values that may not align with your own can also contribute to feelings of stress.

How can you minimize the negative impacts?

One step you can take is to decrease the amount of time you spend on social media. Here are a few of ideas to get you started:

  • Move social apps off of your home screen. Having an extra step can reduce the urge to open the app as soon as you get on your phone.
  • Schedule specific times to check social media or set a timer to limit yourself to 20-30 minutes at a time.
  • Put your phone on silent or use “do not disturb” features. If you don’t hear a tone or vibration every time you get a notification, you may be less tempted to check your social media accounts.
  • Take a break from social media or limit the number of apps you use. Try sticking to apps that you use the most to communicate with people.

It’s also good to be critical of social media. Remember that what you’re seeing is usually someone else’s highlight reel, and isn’t typical of their day-to-day life.

How can you use social media in a more positive way?

There are steps you can take to help you have more positive experiences when using social media:

  • Use social media as a way to plan face-to-face meetings. Whether it’s in person or over video, you’re more likely to have more meaningful connections through face-to-face contact.
  • Be mindful and intentional of your social media use. This includes things like following people and brands that make you feel good. If you find yourself comparing your life unfavorably to other accounts, consider hitting the unfollow button. Instead, opt to follow accounts that promote positivity, post funny memes or inspirational quotes that make you feel better.

How do you know if social media use has become a problem?

Reflecting on how often or how long you’re using social media can be helpful to understand if it’s getting in the way of our day-to-day activities. If you find that you prefer social media over more direct forms of communication or if you constantly feel the urge to check it, even if there isn’t a notification, it might be time to scale back or adjust your habits.

If you find that you need more support in finding balance, stop by a Counseling and Psychiatric Services’ Let’s Talk location for an informal consultation with a counselor.