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  • How to be Mindful about Social Media

    In today’s world, it can be difficult to avoid excessive consumption of social media. Going without social media at all can leave you feeling disconnected, and like you’re not “in the loop” with friends, family, or perhaps even the rest of the world. Social media platforms are evolving and being created that, instead of having a “news feed” where users see a limited amount of posts from people they have added as friends or followers, a truly endless feed of content has been curated for them, so that no matter how long they scroll, they will never find the “end” of the content. As social media platforms continue to become smarter and more personalized, it can make it more and more difficult for users to go without viewing their social accounts, checking the news, etc.

    While some social media users can feel more connected with their peers and feel a sense of community when using these platforms, excessive use can lead to increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Teens are especially at risk for developing negative symptoms when it comes to excessive social media use. For example, Instagram may be a contributing cause in self-harm and body image concerns among teens.

    It would be easy to say that all social media should be avoided, but it is not as simple as that. While excessive use and certain forms of content may be damaging to users’ mental health, other content creators use their platform to share helpful mental health tips, connect people to resources, and encourage other users to take steps to better their mental health.

    So, what can you do to improve the way you use social media?

    1- Be mindful
    The most important part of this process is to be mindful. It is important to ask yourself things like:

    • How do I feel when I am on social media?
    • How do I feel after I have viewed social media posts?
    • How do I feel when I have spent long periods of time on or off social media?
    • Do I compare my life, body, choices, etc. to others when or after viewing social media?
    • How important is it to me that I view the topics that are on my social media feeds?
    • Are there certain types of posts that make me feel worse or better than usual?

    If you have a teen, it can be especially important talk to them about how they can be mindful about the type of content they view on social media, and teach them how to analyze how different types of social media posts may be affecting them, especially if they are expressing distress related to comparing their lives, bodies, choices, etc. to someone else’s.

    2- Avoid Excessive Use

    Smartphones today have features where you can check how much time you use different apps per day. Whether you have an Android or iPhone, both have tools for you to check your app use, as well as set limits for specific apps.

    This can be helpful if you want to limit your time on specific social media apps, but not delete them altogether. Often, it can feel like time on social media goes by very quickly, and you might not even realize how much time you are spending on it. Viewing your statistics and setting timers/limits on them (if needed) is the first step to limiting your use if you are noticing negative effects of social media on your mental health.

    3- Curate Your Feed

    If there is a certain type of content/posts/etc. that you have realized worsens how you feel and you want to avoid that type of content, different social media platforms have ways that you can curate your feed. There are several different ways that you can change the type of content that appears on your social media feeds. You can unfriend, block, or mute folks that you don’t want to see anymore, as well as filter out posts with certain words that you know are not the type of content you want to see. Instagram and Twitter both have features where you can filter out all content that has any words you type in (for example, if you notice that weight loss posts make you feel worse about yourself or have you comparing your body to someone else’s, you can add a filter where all posts with “weight loss”, “body transformation”, or other similar keywords are taken out of your feed). Similarly, TikTok has a feature for videos where you can select that you are “not interested”, and that will make it less likely that similar videos show up on your feed in the future.

    These tips are only the beginning of how you can be proactive about mindfully using social media. As technology continues to get smarter, social media apps will continue to become more skilled at keeping users engaged with their content. Knowing this makes it all the more important to take charge of your own “digital wellbeing”. Your biggest advocate for your wellbeing needs to be you, because it will never be the social media apps that we all use on a regular basis, no matter how positive they may seem.