Recent headlines about social media have been pretty scary to say the least. A quick Google revealed the following:
“The dangers of social media on your mental health”
“Stress and social media fuel mental health crisis among girls”
“Is Social Media Messing with Your Teen’s Mental Health?”
“Instagram worst for young mental health”
Eeek. It’s enough to make you swap your iPhone for a nokia 3210 and live out your days in the woods playing snake. OK… not quite (we’re not animals) but still – pretty scary reading, right?
As much as I wish we could get away from the fact that social media has an impact on our mental health, we simply can’t.
“Social media has become a space in which we form and build relationships, shape self-identity, express ourselves, and learn about the world around us; it is intrinsically linked to mental health.” – Shirley Cramer CBE, Royal Society for Public Health
But… when I see these scaremongering headlines I feel conflicted. On one hand, yes, if we’re pining over other people’s seemingly perfect lives, equating ‘likes’ with self-worth and using it as a means to torture and compare ourselves, sure, it’s going to affect us in a negative way.
On the other hand, I think these headlines make us sound incredibly powerless. And that’s not true. I appreciate that perhaps younger, more impressionable people may fall more easily into this negative social media trap… but all of us have the power to use social media as we please.
I mean, we also have the power to step away from it completely (and in some cases this may be preferable) but what power can we exert to make social media a positive experience? How can we use it to improve our mental health?
One of the biggest ways I feel we can do this is through curating our social feeds.
Make it a place full of inspiring, uplifting and motivating humans. Choose which promotions you see. Train the algorithm. Mute negativity.
I’ve put together a few tips to get you started on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. For all your social accounts, start with these steps:
Step one: Go through your ‘following’ list and remove anyone (including brands) that make you feel anything less than awesome.
Step two: Every time you see a post and feel bad about yourself, ask yourself – do I have to look at this? Could I unfollow?
Step three: Fill your feed with more positive accounts – ask your followers for recommendations or scroll through the explore tab if you’re on Instagram.
How to further curate Instagram
I’ve genuinely found Instagram to be the most supportive and lovely community, but I know not everyone experiences this. So here are some quick ways to further curate your Instagram feed and enjoying the platform:
Hone your explore page. Scroll through the explore page and on any picture you see that makes you go ‘urghh’ click on it, tap the three dots in the top right corner and tap ‘See fewer posts like this’. This will train the algorithm to show you what you want to see (for me that’s fewer diet ads!)
Get involved in the community! Use it to actually be social, leave comments, start discussions, connect with people. People here are so generous with their support.
How to further curate Twitter
Twitter can be difficult – more people seem willing to spread nastiness, hate and negativity (and they now have 280 characters to do so). But again, there’s also community, conversations and bloody hilarious GIFs. After following the steps from earlier, try the following:
Get rid of ads you don’t like. If you see a promoted tweet that’s bothering you, tap the arrow in the top right corner and tap one of the options (‘I don’t like this ad’, ‘Mute X’, ‘Block X’).
Mute hashtags. If certain words or hashtags are upsetting/triggering you, go to ‘Settings and privacy’, go to ‘Content preferences’ and under ‘Safety’ tap ‘Muted’. Here you can select ‘Muted words’ and add any words you don’t want to see. You can also mute, unfollow and even block accounts.
How to further curate Facebook
Facebook has become a slightly strange platform now hasn’t it? All I seem to see are videos and brands, there’s so few real updates from friends. But, I’ve also discovered some hidden gems in the form of Facebook groups. A couple I love are the Blogtacular group and the new What She Said Podcast group.
After going through and unfollowing, unliking and even unfriending those who make you feel a bit shit, go on the search for uplifting pages and people. Here are some more Facebook curation tips:
Join groups! See if your favourite blogger has a page, find the brands you love and see what they’re saying.
Hide posts/ads. If you see a post or ad you don’t like, click the three dots in the top right (those three dots are great aren’t they?) and choose an option, such as ‘Hide post’.
These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling and to help you regain power over your social media usage. Do you think social media helps or harms your mental health? What do you struggle with the most when it comes to social media?
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