Social media is a bit of a paradox. Some days, it may feel like a joyful way to connect with people, and others, it can feel like a toxic environment.
In today’s world, social media is a big part of our normal interactions. That was especially true in the opening months of the COVID-19 pandemic, where we spent an abundance of time in our own homes finding ways to entertain ourselves.
Social media networks, like Facebook and TikTok, helped us engage with others outside of our homes when we couldn’t spend time in normal social interactions. That was helpful, but as the months went on, the information we were seeing on our timelines and newsfeeds took a turn.
Instead of inciting joy, some posts stir up strong emotional reactions—and over time, this bombardment of information (and misinformation in many cases) can be harmful to our mental health.
But there are some steps you can take to better navigate life on social media. Start with these five tips:
Always check the source
It’s not uncommon to scroll down your newsfeed these days and see two posts with completely contradictory information, and much of it is related to health and wellness. How can you weed out the facts?
There are some basic guidelines that can help you find accurate information. First, never take a single source as evidence of anything. Look for multiple resources of different types confirming the same information.
Second, thoughtfully consider your sources. When it comes to health, look for information on websites that end in .org, .edu, or .gov. Those are the most reputable resources when it comes to evidenced-based information about health.
Still not certain whether the information you’re viewing is accurate? Your best source for health information and guidance will always be your doctor.
Create (and stick to) boundaries
It’s easy to get sucked into checking your social media accounts every time you have a free moment all day long. That might have been less of a problem when the only way to get online was via a computer. But today, internet access—and social media apps—are at our fingertips on our phones and other devices.
Because of that, you have to build boundaries of your own. This may mean setting up specific times when you allow yourself to engage with social media, or it might mean setting up “screen time” hours on your devices that lock you out after a certain time.
Consider a digital detox
Even if you maintain boundaries for your social media use, you can probably benefit from a day or two away from social media altogether every now and again.
Incorporate activities into your weekends or vacations that allow you to set your phone down and forget it. Soak up the joy and time with others, engaging with those right in front of you instead of on the other side of a screen.
Weed out your friends list
When you find yourself getting angry, upset, or frustrated while on social media, make note of what you’re reading or viewing. If posts from a specific friend or connection routinely push your buttons, use the tools at your disposal to prevent you from seeing those posts.
In some cases, you may benefit from snoozing posts from a particular connection for a while, but in the case of “repeat offenders,” you may simply want to disconnect from the online relationship.
Recognize that it’s not real life
Have you ever experienced FOMO? That “fear of missing out” is persistent when you’re seeing others post about what they’re doing.
While FOMO is usually light-hearted, social media, particularly on image-driven platforms such as Instagram, also has a darker side.
When you’re constantly viewing carefully curated images with filters galore, it can be difficult to tell what’s real and what isn’t. That can be harmful for your self-confidence, which is why it’s important to recognize that most of what you’re seeing has been enhanced in some way and isn’t reflective of reality.