Social media is both a blessing and a curse. It can be a dangerous place if you aren’t actively protecting your mental health.
On the one hand, it makes it easy to stay connected with friends and family, make new friends, and share what is going on in our lives.
On the other hand, if we aren’t careful it also has the ability to trigger unhealthy emotions, dig up past hurt, and cause us to relive traumatic memories.
The most obvious solution would be to stay off of social media, but there are ways to protect your mental health while remaining online.
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Protecting Your Mental Health with Time Limits
How much time do you spend on social media?
You might be surprised to find that spending more than 30 minutes per day on social media can have a negative impact on your emotional well-being.
Try setting a limit.
If you are like I used to be, which is someone who was popping in to check the feed of one or more social media apps on an hourly basis, cutting back to 30 minutes a day might be a bit too drastic at first. If that is the case you may want to try the following:
- Track and log your social media usage by noting how often you check-in and how much time each session lasts.
- Once you know how much time you spend on social media, cut that time in half and make that your daily limit.
- Set a timer to make sure you don’t get lost in your feed.
- After a few weeks, divide your time in half again.
- Repeat until you reach 30 minutes a day.
Our findings strongly suggest that limiting social media use to approximately 30 minutes per day may lead to significant improvement in well-being.
Take Control of Your Feed
Let’s get real. We all have at least one person on our “friend list” that we wouldn’t have contact with in real life.
It may be because of something as simple as not having anything in common with them other than a blood relation or a work connection.
While it is understandable that you wouldn’t want to hurt a family member or friend’s feelings by not accepting their social media friend request, doing so doesn’t mean you have to be aware of everything they are doing or feeling.
You may have different religious or political views. Their posts may be depressing, angry, or offensive. Like you, they have a right to their own opinion and thoughts. You cannot control what others post, but that doesn’t mean that you have to read or view it!
Take control of what your mind absorbs and who has details about your life by:
This applies to people and pages that do not bring value into your life, inspire you, or trigger traumatic emotions. The level in which you choose to restrict a person or page depends on how significantly they are impacting your mental health.
Have a Purpose for Checking Your Feed and Reason for Posting
Why are you scrolling through your social media feed so often?
Are you bored?
Could you be avoiding something?
Maybe you fear being left out of the loop or missing out on some “major” moment.
Before you open your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram app, ask yourself the following:
- What am I looking for and why?
- Is there something else that I should be doing instead?
- Why do I want to share this meme, video, photo, or thought?
- Is what I am about to share something that should be shared with people I don’t really know?
Sometimes Protecting Your Mental Health Requires Taking a Break
Like I said earlier, you don’t have to totally give up social media. Protecting your mental health on social media by cutting back is one option, taking breaks now and then is another.
Whether you choose to announce your break to your “friends” or not is up to you. If your break is going to be a long one it may be useful to share an alternative way of being contacted if the majority of your list consists of real-life close friends and family. However, there is nothing wrong with just taking a few days or a week off and not telling anyone! Being connected on social media does not mean you have to know everything that is going on with each and every one of your contacts!
If you find yourself in need of a break and also having to check into social media for updates on a sick family member or friend, ask your spouse or someone else you trust to keep watch for you. That way you can stay in the know while tending to your mental health.
Has your social media consumption changed in the past few years?
How are you protecting your mental health on social media?
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