Social Media & Mental Health: How to Live with it

The rise of technology and social media is no stranger to anyone. Currently, we can expect almost everyone to be a part of at least one social media platform. While technological advancements bring benefits to our lives, the downside of them is the consequences that we face when we mishandle our devices.

When social media is used correctly, the advantages can result in feelings of inspiration, connection, and opportunity. We scroll past the seemingly perfect lives of others as they showcase their achievements, and we can’t help but feel motivated to reach their level of greatness.

On the contrary, the disadvantage of social media can bring distraction, comparison, envy, jealousy and unproductiveness. At some point, we begin to look at the success of others and compare it to our progress, and we realize we don’t amount to what they have accomplished. We are so consumed in others’ stories and posts about their grand lifestyles, that we don’t even recognize our own progress and small victories.

Think of all the wasted time that you could have used to work just a little bit more. It’s in those small moments in time do we attain progress, even if it’s just a fragment. Imagine your pursuit or goal as a puzzle; each piece, no matter how little, add up to build the bigger picture. If you lose any of your pieces, the puzzle won’t be complete. Similarly, if you continue to waste and lose time, you might not attain your goals.

When it comes to well-being and taking care of our mental health, many people nowadays will say that taking a break from social media is a must. This is entirely because of the constant “noise” that associates with social media. In a 2020 study, medical researchers discussed that teenagers constantly check on their friends’ messages and online activity on a regular basis, causing the onset of social media anxiety related to fear of loss. This goes to show that our brains are wired to feel the need to go on social media, only to make us feel as if we are already left behind.

Along with anxiety, depression and suicide are recognized as common repercussions of social media. Numerous reports on suicide have made headlines across the globe. The U.S. News & World Report released an article in 2017 about suicide prevention to military personnel who are on social media. The article reported that military personnel who post their life stressors followed by more negative emotions a few days later were showing indicative signs of suicide. As a result of such incidents, social media has since built tools that shows sensitivity and effectiveness of suicide prevention online. For example, when people search words that involve the word ‘suicide’, Google will launch a national suicide prevention hotline in respective countries. This is the type of progress we should always strive for.

The control that social media has on us is overwhelming. Society has experienced the highs and lows of mental health because of social media. It has brought awareness, advocation, and recognition towards the importance of mental health. Overall, the goal of using social media
should not be to gain external validation or bring self-doubt, rather, it should be a platform that we can use to gain more purpose in our lives.

In times when social media adds negatively to our moods and emotions, we can always change the narrative. Below are tips on how we can continue to use social media in a healthy manner:
1. Take a social media detox.
Practice taking one day from the week to stay completely off your phone. This may be easier said than done, especially when you have been having a routine that involves your phone. You can start by limiting the time you have on social media (this can be achieved on your phone settings). The next thing you know, the urge to go on your phone and on social media will feel foreign to you. Remember, our brains need to be cleared of toxins too.
2. Practice mindfulness and self-care.
Do activities that you genuinely enjoy and bring you peace. This works great alongside taking a social media detox. Once you decide to take a break from social media, use that time to pamper yourself or be productive. Self-care can look different for everyone; from relaxing in a bathtub to going to the gym for a workout – do something that moves your body, replenishes your soul, and nourishes your mind.
3. Unfollow, unfriend, & unsubscribe.
Let go of what does not help you grow. Always keep in mind that social media should bring you inspiration, connections, and opportunities. If it does not bring purpose to your life, drop it.
4. Take care of your real-life relationships.
Engage in positive conversations with your family and friends. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the number of our followers, subscribers, re-tweets, and likes, that we forget about the real behind-the-scenes people. Make it a habit to talk to people in real life and not just through the screen. Your validation should come from yourself and trusted individuals, not by the number of likes and comments on yours posts.
5. Focus on the facts.
Remind yourself that social media filters everyone’s flaws. We all showcase the best sides of ourselves through our posts. We also all go through different journeys in life. Next time you notice yourself comparing your achievements to another person’s achievements, always remember that they had to face their own challenges before reaching success.

The key factor that enables us to have a healthy relationship with social media is through self-discipline. Without discipline, the tips in this article will not be useful. We must condition our minds to be stronger than our desire to be on social media just for the sake of passing time. By having a disciplined mindset, our lifestyle will slowly start to evolve, and we will slowly start to become productive. Soon, a peaceful life will envelope us. One that does not involve social media for unnecessary validation.

We can all understand that the effects of social media have advantages and disadvantages to our health. Therefore, we must continue to work towards finding a balance between our real-life and online lives. There are countless ways we can enhance our social media experiences, but essentially, having emotional maturity and discipline is what allows us to take better control of our time and health.

Source: MHC Asia Group ©