Girl looking at a photo of a friend on instagram

Social media has a lot of benefits: it’s a place where we can keep up with friends, make plans and hear about events. However, it can also become a source of stress and anxiety. Here are some tips to help you navigate social media in a positive way.

Check your accounts

Do you know how many accounts you have online? Once you start looking at all of your social accounts, you may realize you have more than you thought. Social media is built into many of our favorite apps: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, TikTok – the list goes on. Take a moment to look at what kinds of social media accounts you have, and reflect on how you use them. Ask yourself:

  • What do I do while I’m on this app?
  • Does it bring me joy, laughter, stress, anger?
  • Does it add value to my life? How?
  • Am I making meaningful connections here?

Social media accounts should be a place where you find connection, relief and feel uplifted. If you find that your social platforms are missing the mark, consider getting rid of them or use them less frequently. Unsure about deleting an account? See if you can deactivate it instead. This will temporarily remove your profile from the site without losing your account entirely. If you find that you miss it, you can always re-activate it later on.

Hit unfollow

Who do you follow on social? Whether you follow close friends and family or celebrities and meme accounts, it’s important to know who you’re following and why. Take a look at the accounts you follow and ask yourself:

  • Am I seeing posts that make me feel unhappy or put me in a bad mood?
  • Does this account make me feel like I need to be someone I’m not?
  • Am I comparing my life, body or success with others?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to unfollow. If you’re worried about unfollowing an account altogether, try hiding them from your feed instead. Hiding this type of content from your view can help you feel a sense of relief and will free up space for accounts that make you feel good.  

Pause before you post

Parties and practical jokes can make for funny social posts, but they may have a larger impact down the line. Many employers check social media profiles during the hiring process, and they may look back further than you’d think. Group accounts and even those that aren’t directly tied to you (think finsta) can have a negative impact in the future. Before you post, ask yourself:

  • Will posting this positively or negatively impact my life down the road?
  • How will it impact other people (e.g. those in the photo/video)?

If the answers to these questions are largely negative, skip the share button. You’ll still have the memory to look back on.

Take a vacation from social

If you find yourself on social throughout the day, it may be time for a mini vacation to help you disconnect. One way to decrease your time on Guy laying in a hammock on Instagramsocial accounts is to designate phone-free spaces. For instance, you may decide that your classrooms are a phone-free zone. By keeping your phone in your backpack, you may find that you’re able to focus more in class (it has also been shown to improve grades and performance on tests). Hanging out with friends is another great time to disconnect and focus on the people you’re with. If you need extra help unplugging, try these tips:

  • 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.
  • If an app doesn’t spark joy for you, consider deleting it.
  • Set a timer for 20-30 minutes while you’re studying or working on a project. Avoid using your phone until the timer goes off. You can also use apps like Pocket Points to earn rewards for staying off your phone or make pacts with friends using Flipd, which limits your app use at certain times during the day.
  • Use “do not disturb” mode. If you hear a tone or vibration from every notification, you’re more likely to pick up your phone. Silencing notifications can help you stay focused and improve your sleep schedule, since you won’t be woken up throughout the night.
  • Try using social media as a way to plan face-to-face outings. Whether it’s in person or over video, we tend to have more meaningful connections through face-to-face interactions.
  • Talk to your friends or family about what you see on social and how it affects you. Discuss what you like, don’t like and what you might like to see change. Take the lead to make social media a more positive experience for you and your friends 

If you are struggling or having a difficult time coping with social media issues, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is here to help. They offer walk-in hours at their main office in C4C N352, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also visit Let’s Talk for a free and confidential consultation at a variety of locations across campus.

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