Social Media and Our Mental Health - By Lucy Howard

‘Technology should improve your life, not become your life’.

In the last week how often do you think that statement has been found lacking in your life? How often do you find you have lost an hour of your life scrolling mindlessly through timelines and newsfeeds with no real benefit to your mental or emotional wellbeing.

Social media has many positives and can add real benefit to our lives but it can also lead to real lows in our mental health and as a result it is important to recognise there are times that it may well be beneficial to take a ‘social media time out’ or a digital detox.

Endless scrolling and lurking can affect our mood in so many ways. It can leave us feeling isolated, overwhelmed and inferior. What we need to remind ourselves of is that social media represents a brief snap shot of anothers’ life, you are, in effect, comparing your full length feature film with the ‘trailer’ for their film. We are all capable of adding filters to what we post to make our lives appear a little sharper, a little brighter, a little more unique. We live in a society now where attracting likes to our posts is more important to some that the actual veracity of the post itself.

How then can we help ourselves use social media in a way that adds value to our day? How can we use it to affect our mood in a positive rather than a negative way?

1. Don’t lurk. Have you ever noticed how negative you can feel by simply scrolling reactively through your social platforms. Instead, if you are going to be present, then be proactive. Use that time to comment. Post something positive to a friend. Ask how someone is doing or suggest a catch up.

2. Alter your perspective. Just because Stephanie from work has posted 12 pictures of her latest trip or night out that shouldn’t make you feel low or left out. Turn that feeling into something positive by injecting some proactivity to your social media use. Sometimes frequent social media posts can mean someone feels insecure themselves and may be doing it to try and feel better about themselves. By commenting positively and being kind you can help them to feel better about themselves and feel better about yourself in turn too.

3. Change your internal narrative. Instead of feeling envious about anothers successes, feel happy for them. Try adding a positive comment and see how it makes you feel. See how it then makes them feel and what it then does to your relationship with them. Use your time online to make positive interactions and that in turn will lead to positivity in your mood afterwards.

4. Set a time limit on your online time. This is key to our mental health. As the Cox quote above states, your time on social media should improve your life. If you feel this is not the case then take a time out from it. Put down your devices and get outdoors. Take a walk, take some photos, grab a coffee and pick up a paperback or a magazine. Some self care and a ‘time out’ can sometimes be all that is required.

Signs you may need to take a ‘time out’:

1. Do you feel low after looking at your social media platforms?

2. Do you find yourself feeling like your friends and family lead a more interesting life than you?

3. Rate your mood out of 10 before going online, rate it again after your time spent online. If the number isn’t either the same or higher then you need to look again at how you are using social media?

4. Do you feel drained either physically or mentally after spending time online?

Are you noticing issues with sleep?

5. Do you feel anxiety if you are without your digital devices, or without the ability to connect to social media?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes then its perhaps time to take a look at your use of social media and take some time out to reassess how you are using it and what changes you need to make to generate some positivity around your usage.

Social media has some great advantages when used correctly but let’s make sure we only take from it what we need to be the best and happiest versions of ourselves that we can be.

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