Instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, I set New Month’s resolutions. So, rather than brainstorming a few different goals to tackle throughout the year, I set one main goal to tackle each month. In January, I set a fairly simple goal of journaling each night. In February, I (regrettably) challenged myself to do 100 squats every single day. And in March, I attempted to defy all odds and give up social media.
That’s right—no Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat for 31 days. When I shared this news with my friends or my coworkers, I was frequently met with wide-eyed stares and nervous smiles. Nobody thought I could do it. And nobody understood why I would want to do it. But my determination (and stubbornness) led me straight to success. And I’m happy to report that my predictions were correct: First, it wasn’t that hard. And second, it was incredibly therapeutic. Why? Because the benefits greatly outweighed the negatives. Sure, I missed out on a few updates from my friends. But I also escaped the dark rabbit hole that leads a healthy mind astray.
Down the Rabbit Hole: Harmful Effects of Social Media
As many now know, social media isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While it promotes worldwide connectivity and enables one to share or receive news in an instant, it has some enormous drawbacks. Most notably, it can (and does) negatively affect users’ mental health and overall wellbeing. “In this media driven world, many spend way too much time comparing their blooper scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. This will do nothing but cause you to feel depressed and anxious,” Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist Jessica Snyder explains. Additionally, spending too much time on social media can…
- Lower one’s self-esteem
- Lead to feelings of loneliness
- Trigger jealous thoughts
- Damage one’s sense of self
“Turn the media off. Stop Scrolling. Turn away from the chaos in the world for a little while,” Snyder recommends. She goes on to suggest that in place of all that scrolling, you spend more time enjoying a good book, catching up with friends and family, or maybe even refocusing your mind. Now, whatever it is you choose to do, don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole—and no, that doesn’t mean you have to completely surrender your social media accounts like I did. It’s all about adopting healthier social media habits, instead.
4 Rules for Healthy Social Media Use
For most, it’s pretty unrealistic to completely give up social media forever. Admittedly, even I, after feeling incredibly refreshed and relieved from my social media break, was excited to sign back in. But thanks to my hiatus, I was ready and prepared to do so. Those four weeks allowed me to get my mind straight and reflect on how my social media use in the past negatively affected me. More importantly, it enabled me to identify and implement much healthier social media habits going forward. And fortunately for you, I’m going to share them with you. Here are 4 simple guidelines for using social media whilst keeping your mental wellbeing intact:
1) Be intentional about your time on social media. Instead of allowing yourself to scroll and scroll and scroll—in bed in the morning, on your break at work, during dinner with friends—set some boundaries. Allot a certain amount of time to spend on social media, say no more than an hour a day.
2) Only follow those that have a positive impact on your life. This is another good rule of thumb, as certain people don’t have anything good to offer their followers. Weed these accounts out, and only follow those that have a positive impact on your life, such as your best friend, the fun foodie, or the inspiring world traveler.
3) Challenge its reputation as a highlight reel. Take it upon yourself to challenge social media as a highlight reel. If you aren’t familiar with this reference, it basically means that users only put their best selves on display. This only creates unrealistic expectations and leads to feelings of inadequacy in others—unless we object. Make it your mission to put the real you on display, flaws and all.
4) Choose a day or two to completely unplug. And finally, know when it’s time to sign off. We can all benefit from a day or two a week completely free of social media. Identify a good time for you and then say “see you later” to your feeds.