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How to protect your mental health while using social media

It would be remiss to suggest social media doesn’t provide a host of benefits to everyday life. Helping us keep in touch with friends, allowing us to stay up-to-date with social and political news, and providing a welcome 5-minute escape from the rigours of our day-to-day struggles. Yes, social platforms are unquestionably a source for good more often than not.

But this positive presence can’t totally negate the potential harm which social channels can also do to our mental health. In an environment which champions comparing and contrasting the “likeability” of our lifestyles, it’s not hard to see how things can quickly turn toxic.

This is particularly true for younger people who are still forming a sense of identity. And with studies showing as many as 90% of teens aged 13-to-19 have used social media at some point in their lives, it’s important to build healthy social media habits not only for yourself, but to help guide the next generation.

Let’s discuss four ways to protect your mental health when using these handy, yet sometimes harmful, platforms.

1.   Delete or block any negative contacts

Not everyone on social media has the best interest of others at heart. While we all know how negative “trolls” can be, sometimes it’s regular people whose behaviours are inadvertently causing you to feel low about yourself.

Whether this is by making you feel inferior by comparison, posting negative news, putting odd comments on your photos, or even just neglecting your posts, other users can leave you feeling down. If this gets to an extreme place, it might be time to remove them from your channels.

2.   Remember not to believe everything you see

All that glitters isn’t gold. That’s no truer than it is when it comes to social media. While we might see our friends living lifestyles which seem almost incomparable to our own, in a lot of instances there’s a disconnect between what you’re viewing and reality.

A recent study highlighted that a staggering 75% of people were found to lie on their social media. These fibs were found to be the most severe on Facebook and Twitter, where just 18% of respondents said their profiles accurately reflected their daily lives. If you find yourself getting down because someone seems to be enjoying a better life than you, remember there’s a good chance they’re exaggerating.

3.   Watch out for the signs of social media addiction

Just as with anything which triggers a strong emotive response, social media has the potential to become addictive if not used in moderation. Shockingly, one study found that as many as 30% of adult respondents admitted to being addicted to social media in some capacity, with 40% of those aged 18-22 claiming to be hooked.

It’s important to identify the signs of a social media addiction early, in order to most effectively combat the condition. They include things like:

  • Spending too much time on social channels
  • Thinking about social media even when you’re not using it
  • Neglecting real-world relationships to be on social media
  • Neglecting hobbies in favour of social media

4.   Take breaks when you need it

Perhaps most importantly of all, it’s vital to know when you need to switch off and take a break from the internet. Whether it’s through fatigue, over-exposure, or because you saw something which put you in a bad mood, there’s never a right or wrong time to step away from the screen.

Do you feel better positioned to protect your mental health while scrolling on social media? Keep these tips in mind, and be sure to put the phone down whenever you feel overwhelmed by what you’re seeing online.

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The author

Harriet enjoys going on hikes and connecting with nature with her two Labradors. Though she enjoys being vegan, she is adventurous and enjoys trying out new food. Skilled in PR, creative media, and content strategies to assist brands and companies in developing and enhancing their online presence. Primary competency: - Market and audience insight - Campaign planning and strategy - Digital initiatives that result in 'earned' media attention that is organic.

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