Using social media in a better way – the negative effects of social media
To use social media in a way that makes us feel good, we can start by recognizing the good things that come from it. Social media can be home to positive social movements, a place to connect over common interests, and a resource for communities that would otherwise be disconnected from the rest of the world.
What’s more, now that every one of us is familiar with feelings of isolation due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, we might find a new appreciation for apps designed to keep us close, especially when we’re physically distant.
To focus on the good and avoid the common pitfalls, there are a few habits to help us use social media more mindfully:
- Spend less time on social platforms. One study found that reducing social media use to a maximum of a half hour a day led to a decrease in feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Need a little help tracking those 30 minutes? Phone settings allow our devices to alert us when we’ve reached our quota for the day — with these benefits top of mind, we can feel good sticking to it.
- Don’t scroll first thing in the morning or before bed. While many of us use wake-up alarms on our devices (making it all too easy to reach for our phones in bed), a constant stream of news, updates, and selfies doesn’t typically set the best conditions for winding down or gearing up to start the day.
Consider establishing more mindful routines around these 2 daily constants. Screen-free activities like journaling, practicing gratitude, and meditation are great places to start.
- Turn off notifications and only check social media at certain times. We all know how easy it is to respond to pings showing us the latest comments or new posts. But in reality, we’re the ones in control.
Try a tip from Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe: “I check in with email and social media at dedicated times where possible. I find this helps limit distractions. I do not have email or social media apps on my homepage and I have all notifications turned off.”
Without all that prompting, and with a schedule that you control, you might find that you can avoid a lot of social media anxiety.
- Use social media on a device that’s not your phone. When we think about it, do we really need access to every social media platform on all of our devices? Try taking a break by removing apps one-by-one from the device you use most (likely your phone) and see if it’s easier to find a better balance in your social media use when it isn’t always on hand.
When we access social media only when we’re sitting at a computer, we might find ourselves less concerned with the virtual world, and able to be present with our physical surroundings.
- Create a feel-good follow list. If the worry is that social media use is contributing to negative feelings, we audit our follow list. Unfollow the accounts that might be leading to the negative feelings we’ve mentioned, and instead follow accounts that make us feel good, provide entertainment, or even help motivate us to reach your goals.
We might also try maintaining a profile in which only real-life friends and community leaders are the majority of that new follow list so we can use social media as it was originally intended: to find new friends and maintain bonds when we’re apart.
Meditation for social media
Social media user or not, it’s always worth remembering that we can improve our mental well-being by practicing mindfulness meditation. Meditation has real benefits, and research shows that it can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve self-compassion.
For meditation practices that can help address some of the negative feelings you might have after spending too much time on social media, try one related to gratitude, self-compassion, or being present.
When we’re focused on the now, we’re less likely to think about what might be new on social media. To get there, these mindfulness practices can help.
Using the training we get from meditation can help us take a mindful approach to using social media in a better way. At the end of the day, our phones are just pieces of metal, and it’s our relationship with them — and social media — that can affect our moods.
Mindfulness gives us an awareness that helps us observe how much time we spend online, and whether or not that’s healthy. It also helps us catch ourselves in the moments when we feel the urge to reach for our phones at a time when a scroll might not be helpful.
The more we practice mindfulness, the more we can create a better relationship with using our phones, and how they make us feel.
Try 8 meditations to use social media more mindfully
Looking for more meditations to build awareness and find balance between our lives on- and offline? The Headspace app offers subscribers several courses and single meditations on topics related to social media and anxiety, including:
- Putting Down Our Phones guidance. Devices don’t cause stress — how we relate to them does
- Managing Anxiety 10-day course. Experience anxious thoughts from a new perspective.
- Letting Go of Stress 10-day course. Learn to reframe negative emotions and let them go.
- Restlessness 10-day course. Learn to work with a restless mind more skillfully.
- Reframing Loneliness 10-day course. Learn to feel more connected to the world around you.
- Reset meditation. Find some focus and relaxation during a busy day.
- Alone Time meditation. Allow yourself to unwind when no one’s around.
- Connect With the World mindful activity. Get out of your head and into the world around you.
Now that we have the tools, let’s see how it feels to choose not to open up a social media platform right away the next time we feel the pull of the feed. Instead of grabbing our devices, try taking a breath or two first.
This way, we’ll help set the conditions to make a more mindful choice of what to do in that moment, and, if we do decide to scroll, scroll with greater awareness and intention.
Source: How to deal with the negative effects of social media – Headspace