Being stuck at home 24/7 in the thick of the pandemic meant that we only had one place to turn to: social media. That was the only place we could communicate, connect and share with one another despite the distance.
Cue the trend of social games and video calls! Zoom calls with family and friends became the go-to, and even virtual clubbing became a thing. Nights were spent playing online social games like Among Us and Fall Guys, or watching movies together over video call. And for many, days spent indoors were made more fruitful as they found and joined online communities based on their interests.
But despite all the good social media has brought to our lives, it can also be incredibly draining. Bombarded with news after news about Covid-19, social injustices, politics… it can all really take a toll.
The negative effects of too much social media
Everything is good in moderation. But if we're not careful, social media can easily become a place where negativity can breed.
1) Self-confidence issues
Social media is a place where people present the best images of themselves — and only their best images. When all we can see are the successes of others —their bodies, talents and wealth -- it's easy to start comparing ourselves. This can give rise to self-confidence issues, especially among young adolescents.
2) Conflict and drama
Drama can be fun on reality TV — there's something oddly cathartic about watching couples argue on 90 Day Fiancée. But on text-based social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, this can be a huge problem.
Social media increases the visibility of negative content. If our social media timeline is filled with endless arguments among different people, the constant barrage of anger can be incredibly damaging to our mental health.
Doomscrolling is a term that has emerged in the last year or two, and it refers to the tendency to continue scrolling through bad news on our social media. While it's always good to stay up-to-date on current events, this should be done in moderation.
After all, if we're constantly being bombarded with bad news, it can be hard to keep a positive outlook on life.
How to have healthy social media habits?
The pandemic has truly taught us that it's more important than ever to adopt healthy social media habits, for the benefit of our own mental health. So, here are 6 habits that you should pick up in order to give yourself a more positive online experience.
1) Set a time limit
In all, experts at the University of Pennsylvania recommend keeping the total time spent on social media to 30 minutes a day for a significant improvement in wellbeing.
But this is certainly easier said than done. Instead of cutting your social media time down to 30 minutes immediately, try to cut down slowly. To get yourself started, consider setting a 10 to 15 minute time limit whenever you decide to go on social media.
The time limit not only forces you to get back to work, but it also helps you become more mindful with what you consume! Why spend your limited time reading through the latest drama when you can catch up with your friends' messages instead?
2) Use an app limiter or newsfeed blocker
If you don't trust yourself to keep to your allocated social media time, consider installing app limiters or newsfeed blockers.
On Apple iOS, there's a feature called App Limits. This feature allows you to limit the amount of time spent on a specific app, and your phone will shut down the social media app automatically once the time is up.
Similarly, Newsfeed Eradicator is a browser add-on for both Chrome and Firefox that will block out your Facebook newsfeed and replace it with an inspirational quote. The only way you'll be able to scroll through the feed is by disabling the blocker.
These are great ways to force yourself to stay away from social media, so don't be afraid to use them!
3) Mute and block freely
No one has space for negativity and drama in their lives. The great thing about social media is that it has features that help you curate your social media feed. Put it to use by muting and blocking anything that takes a toll on you and your mental health.
For example, if there has been an upsetting event in your area that you don't wish to read about, then muting or blocking keywords will remove any relevant posts.
Weed out the negativity and fill your feed with things that make you happy, instead!
4) Clean out the people you follow
In the same vein of things, unfollowing people and content that make you unhappy is a good way to clean out your feed as well. Maybe an ex-classmate of yours keeps flooding your feed with negativity and complaints. Or maybe you keep comparing yourself to a public figure whenever they make a new post.
No matter what it is, if they make you unhappy, there's no shame in unfollowing them for your own mental health!
5) Turn off alerts and notifications
In the fine words of Michelle Obama, "there are just sometimes you have to give yourself space to be quiet, which means you’ve got to set those phones down."
When your phone pings with an alert, it can be incredibly difficult to resist clicking on it. And once you do, you might just fall back into the habit of scrolling endlessly on social media.
This is why you should turn off alerts and notifications, especially if you're supposed to be working on something else! This eliminates any distractions from social media, and overtime, you'll learn to stop constantly checking your phone as well.
6) Only post when you have something to share
Social media has made it easy to overshare. For many people, their social media has become their own personal diary. But the problem is, this "diary" of theirs can be accessed by others -- friends, followers, and sometimes even strangers.
Instead, try to be more mindful of what you're posting. Take a moment before clicking that "upload" button to consider: do you really need to share this? Is this something that should be kept private?
Being more mindful will help you regain some privacy in your life!
Plus, it will also encourage you to live in the moment instead of being preoccupied with making a social media post.
So if you're looking for another, more meaningful way of recording memorable events, then consider using a digital journal app like Journey. Journey allows you to pen (or rather, type) your thoughts down onto your phone, and you can even upload pictures and videos to immortalize the full experience.
When used correctly, social media can become a source of positivity and happiness in your life. With these tips, you too can curate a more positive social media experience for your mental wellbeing!