We know all about the negative effects of social media, it’s been researched and they’ve been proven. We also know there are some really nice benefits to using social media, like staying in touch with friends and family through the last couple of years, and seeing what others are up to. As humans we like connection, and even scrolling through Instagram gives us that sometimes.
Our use of social media has definitely risen over the past couple of years, with the pandemic leaving us a little bored, seeking comfort and connection. Maybe that’s led to a bit of a habit of mindless scrolling for you? Or maybe you feel like you’re on your phone all the time looking at social media? And not to mention how dull and somewhat draining January can be, what else is there to do on a cold, dark evening?
Self-doubt, FOMO (fear of missing out), envy, imposter syndrome, low self-esteem, lack of concentration, internet trolls and bullies, are just a few of the negative side effects we might run into with mindless scrolling through social media. If we’re not checking in with our scrolling, we risk developing some serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Should we stay off social media?
Not really, in fact, telling others and ourselves to get off social media is quite ridiculous. There’s almost no point in pressuring ourselves to not use something so popular, and at times lovely, out of fear that it’ll make us feel bad. Because the irony is we’d end up feeling down about it anyway.
Plus there’s actually research to say that abstinence from social media doesn’t necessarily increase happiness anyway . The good news is there’s a more productive way to go about using social media without feeling miserable about it or because of it, or because we’re not on it at all!
It’s important to recognise that despite everyone’s individual opinion, social media is just a thing we have these days. It’s not inherently good or bad, it’s simply a tool. The way we choose to use, consume and interact with it is what influences our lives. After all, it’s the people behind the screens that give social media the power for transformation, improvement, change, and sadly damage and potentially ruin lives.
How can we have a better time on social media?
Be conscious about your usage - notice when you're reaching for your phone for a social media fix. Are you connecting with people, or mindlessly scrolling out of boredom? Are you scrolling through feeling jealous or feeling unable to meet the standards everyone else seems to? For some of us, a good scroll through the explore page of Instagram is quite joy-inducing, funny and relatable reels, cute animal pictures, and that’s totally ok. When scrolling becomes tedious, irritating or saddening, jump off and do something else.
Create a space you like to look at - follow people, accounts, pages that you like to look at. People who you know or perhaps inspire you, pages with pictures or messages that leave you feeling content or cheerful, accounts that validate your feelings and experiences. It’s important to check the credentials of some accounts these days. There has been an increase in social media self-help and therapeutic pages that aren’t always from experienced or knowledgeable backgrounds that risk worsening how we feel so be sure to check out who you’re following, and remember not to believe everything you read on the internet!
Pay attention to your mood - if social media use is impacting our mood, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what your mood is saying. If you find yourself feeling negative or being mean to yourself, wishing you had that home, her car, or your babies would sit as still for the perfect grid post, turn it off. When we notice our mood changing, we can step away from the platforms. Mindless scrolling often results in noticing a bad mood several minutes, hours, or possibly days later and by then we’ve absorbed it. Try to stay present with scrolling, and pay attention to your feelings around what you’re engaging with.
Be kind - When you're online (or in real life) remember to be kind because we really don’t know what others are going through. As your mum probably told you, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.
Social media sign-off: Thinking of social media as a tool will help alleviate the stress we can feel when we think we shouldn’t be using it or using it as much. It’s good to check in with your usage to ensure we’re not leading down a path of negative self-talk, doubt or worth. Remember we don’t need to be on social media if it’s not for us, and if we do use it it’s your account, your choice of what you look at and how.
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1. Experimentally manipulating social media abstinence (2021). Media Psychology.