How to Protect Your Mental Health on Social Media

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: Erik_Lucatero/Pixabay

While social media can be a wonderful tool for bringing people together, it can sometimes cause damage in real life. The latest tweets and posts just aren’t worth it if the price is anxiety, depression and more. If social media is affecting your real life, there are simple things you can do to keep yourself sane. Here’s a round-up of ways to protect your mental health while using social media.

Don’t Sleep With Your Phone

If you’re having trouble sleeping, it may be because of social media put your phone away from your bed at night. This way if you wake up and are unable to sleep, you won’t be tempted to grab it.

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Photo Courtesy: Claudio_Scott/Pixabay

While it’s common to charge your phone next to your bed, it’s better to put it out of reach on a counter or dresser. Keeping your phone away at night can discourage you from picking it up and aimlessly scrolling social media before bed or in the middle of the night. Instead, do something restful like meditation or reading to calm yourself down.

Unfollow People

If you’re friends with toxic people, it’s time to do some cleanup. Go through your list of friends and other people you follow and delete or unfollow anyone whose presence is bringing you down.

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If the people you’re interacting with are causing you stress or pain, then you’re better off getting them out of your social media life — and maybe even the rest of it as well. Once you cut those ties, you should feel a weight lifted off of you.

Turn Off Notifications

When your phone is constantly buzzing and going off with social media notifications, it can be hard to concentrate on anything. You might be too busy waiting for the buzz of likes on your phone to focus on life as it happens. Social media could be keeping you from enjoying the present.

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Photo Courtesy: LoboStudioHamburg/Pixabay

One way to stop this is to disable notifications on your phone. Constantly getting notifications can almost be like an addiction, so you need to cut this behavior off at the source. By disabling notifications, you remove the incentive to obsess over social media and make yourself free to enjoy the world around you.

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Don’t Multitask

It’s common today today to be writing a report, chatting with friends and browsing Twitter at the same time, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Multitasking often means you do a worse job at many tasks instead of a better job at one, and it may even consume more time than just completing each task individually.

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Instead of trying to look at social media while doing something else important, put down your phone until a later time. You’ll do a better job and probably have more free time afterward as well.

Get Off Social Media Before Bed

Going on social media right before you try to sleep can be distracting and disruptive. Instead of drifting off soundly, you may lay awake thinking about a post you just saw. Even just the light from a cellphone or other screen can interfere with your natural sleep cycle.

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Instead of scrolling on your pillow, get off social media at least a half an hour before bedtime. This will give you time to unwind and let your mind settle before you try and sleep. You don’t need the extra stress social media can bring before you go to bed.

Ignore Likes

Facebook created the like button as a feature in 2009. Since then, users have liked who knows how many comments, photos, videos and links posted by friends and advertisers. And who doesn’t appreciate getting a like?

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However, this feature also comes with anxiety over who is liking your posts and who isn’t. You may find yourself comparing likes with other people or stressing over how many people are viewing what you share. The sooner you realize that likes are just meaningless button clicks, the better.

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Keep Away From Mood Killers

There is content on social media platforms that may leave you feeling depressed or anxious, like political news or articles about traumatic subjects. Despite this, you probably click on them anyway. Curiosity, boredom or simple procrastination get the better of you.

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If you see a link you want to click, ask yourself if you’ll actually feel better having read it. If not, just keep on scrolling. Giving in to these mood killers won’t do you any favors, but they will suck up your time and play on your emotions.

Don’t Accept Unknown Friend Requests

If you’re worried about who can see your posts on social media, don’t accept friend or follow requests from people you don’t know. It’s better to trust everyone on your friend list so you never have to worry about what you posted after the fact.

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People you don’t know may be able to look you up by searching your email address or phone number. You can change this by removing this function from your profile. Make this information private so random telemarketers or advertisers can’t see this information as well.

Check Your Privacy Settings

If you want to filter what people see on social media, make sure you check your privacy settings. If you find yourself worried about what you are sharing, it might be time to change what content you make available on your profile

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In your privacy settings, you can filter who can see certain posts right down to the individual person. This can help alleviate anxiety about what you are sharing. You can also hide things from your timeline and archive items.

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Talk With Your Kids

When it comes to social media, it is essential to talk to your kids about safe usage. Kids don’t always know what’s dangerous on the web, so it’s up to you to teach them proper cyber skills from an early age.

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Photo Courtesy: sasint/Pixabay

Beyond teaching them not to click on bad links, talk to strangers or give out their personal info, you also want to be a sounding board for you kids and their concerns. Bullying and targeting can happen to anyone on social media, so it’s crucial to have regular check-ins with your children.

Delete Friends Who Aren’t Friends

You may have hundreds of friends or followers on social media. However, how many of these people are actually people you know or interact with? If you don’t know who someone is, even if they don’t seem like a toxic person, consider deleting them from your social media.

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If you don’t know them, chances are they don’t know you. That means they’re bombarding you with pictures of friends and family who you might not know at all, while you do the same to them. Unless they have value as a professional contact, it’s better to declutter your accounts and purge them from all social media platforms.

Cut the Celebrities

Following celebrities on social media is a popular pastime. It can be fascinating to learn more about musicians and actors, certainly. However, having an idealized version of their lives broadcast into yours may not be healthy in the long run.

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If you find yourself wishing for the life of a celebrity and growing discontented with your own, it may be time to cut Tom Cruise and friends out of your social media. Not only does celebrity gossip waste time, but it can also make you feel bad about yourself while hiding the struggles of other people.

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Beware of Ads

Ads are designed to pull you in, and social media ads are no different. Let’s say you have a habit of buying clothes worn by your favorite social media influencer, or you always fall for deals from your favorite online merchant. If you are prone to clicking on these ads and spending more money than you should, the ads on social media might actually be your problem.

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Consider using an ad blocker to avoid temptation and minimize stress both mental and financial. Many ad blockers come with customizable options on which ads they block and where, so you don’t have to shut them out altogether.

Fake News

In this day and age, it can be increasingly difficult to tell what is actually true on the Internet. Beyond the embarrassment of sharing a fake news story, this trend can also harm your mental health by making it difficult to believe anything at all.

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To help combat disinformation on social media, consider using a trust fact-checking site like Snopes or Politifact to verify that the stories you see on Facebook and elsewhere are actually true. You’ll have more faith in the news and a better understanding of the world around you.

Avoid Triggers

A trigger is simply something that sparks strong feelings of anxiety, anger or sadness, usually because of past trauma. Let’s say you recently broke up with a boyfriend — if he is posting photos of himself with a new girl, this can be a trigger for you.

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If you are always being set off by someone’s post, unfollow them. Triggers can be harmful to your mental state. You may find yourself stewing over something you’ve seen on social media for way too long in real life, and you don’t need that kind of negativity.

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Take Time Off

Sometimes you may need a break from social media. This doesn’t mean you have to go off for good, but you may need to step away every once in a while. You may feel overwhelmed by information and other people’s lives, or you may simply be procrastinating too much.

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Whatever the situation, consider, deactivating your accounts or delete the apps. Just take a little breather and remove yourself from social media for a while. After a recess, you can return ready to face the information age with a clearer head.

Think About Your Feelings

Sometimes you just need to reflect on how something makes you feel. If you are constantly feeling sad or anxious after going on social media, think about why that is. Maybe you are comparing yourself to other people, or perhaps you are getting too involved with people you shouldn’t.

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You should acknowledge these feelings. Take some time to reflect on how the situation is affecting you and why you feel a certain way. Social media should should provide connections to other people and casual amusement, not stress or envy.

Limit Yourself

If you don’t want to cut off social media altogether, you may need to set limits. Maybe this means no social media before bed; maybe this means you don’t post something. Whatever the limits are, think about how social media is affecting you and what you want to do about it.

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You can set practical limits regarding who and what you can see or how you share information. Maybe instead of scrolling on the train both ways from work, you only go on at the end of the day.

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Be Mindful

When you use social media, you should try and be mindful of what you share. If you feel like you’re always on display or have to measure up to some standard of perfection, it might be time to reexamine your choices.

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Take time to reflect on why you’re getting upset or having a hard time with social media. Mindfulness can help you get in touch with your feelings and be more in tune with what is upsetting you and why.

Set Screen Limits for Your Kids

Some kids stay on social media longer than others, and that may mean you need to set screen time limits for them. No matter how old your kids are, it isn’t healthy for them to be on social media until the middle of the night.

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If your child is having a hard time with social media, set safe limits. You can implement a timer with an app or use a good old fashioned alarm clock. When the timer goes off, it means the end of screen time.

Delay Posting

If you post right as you do something, you might end up sharing more than you want to. Generally speaking, if something is worth mentioning on social media in the first place, it can also wait a few hours or even days until you’ve had time to decide if you really want to share something.

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This is particularly important to keep in mind while drinking. Although it can be tempting to chronicle your night out, you might realize the next morning that you were better off not posting at all. You’ll have fewer regrets and less anxiety if you wait.

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Delete Old Photos

Employers today can look to social media to learn more about you. This is not only potentially harmful to your job prospects, but it’s also a source of additional anxiety on top of everything else social media brings.

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To save yourself the stress of wondering what other people know about you, consider going through your old photos and posts on social media and deleting anything you no longer wish to share. It will give you one less reason to worry.

Don’t Fall for Clickbait

Clickbait exists to to get you off of social media and onto a third party website that earns advertising revenue off of your desire to procrastinate. Some may be interesting, but overindulging in clickbait can lead to wasted time that results in anxiety.

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You can stop clickbait headlines and news from showing up on your news feed. When something comes up, click on the settings, and depending on the platform you are in, there is usually an option to stop seeing posts like the offending clickbait.

Don’t Let It Replace Real Interactions

Social media is great for preserving long-distance relationships and cultivating new ones, and because it can be used anywhere, it’s certainly convenient. However, that doesn’t mean that social media can substitute for the in-person relationships we need for our mental health.

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Try not to use social media for social interactions when you could do the same thing in person. Make a point of wishing people a happy birthday to their face rather than their wall, and make time to hang out with your friends rather than relying on Facebook chat. You’ll improve your mental health and theirs.

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Logout

If you use social media at work or on a public computer, you probably know that it’s important to fully log out after you are done. Failure to do so can lead to all sorts of sensitive information getting out.

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However, logging out doesn’t just improve your mental health by giving you one less thing to worry about. It also adds an additional barrier to signing on the next time you get on a computer, and that can be enough to deter you from using it, even on a personal device.

Set a Timer

If you find yourself addicted to social media, set a timer to cut yourself off. You can use the alarm on your phone, a screen time app or even an old cooking timer. By creating a hard cutoff for yourself, you can stay focused and make sure you don’t waste your time.

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Many people log on to social media only to find that an hour has passed and they haven’t done anything else. Don’t get sucked in. Set the alarm, and when the timer goes off, shut it down.

Stick to Your Purpose

Have you ever logged on to social media and asked yourself why you went on in the first place? It could be simple forgetfulness or the result of too many things to do, but it could also be a sign that you need to cut down on social media. Either way, it wastes time and causes stress.

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The next time you look for something on social media, stick to your original purpose. Keep your task in mind, and once you’re done, you can log out or scroll for fun.

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Get Out of Unhealthy Groups

Toxic people aren’t the only problem on social media. While social media groups can be a great way to meet like-minded people that would otherwise be impossible to find in your area, they’re not always a positive experience. Even groups full of healthy people can have bad interpersonal dynamics that aren’t good for your mental health.

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If a social media group is stressing you out, leave it. You can friend or follow people the positive people who first drew you there without all the negativity of the group itself.

Turn Off Comments

Commenting on social media can be a nice way to feel connected with friends, colleagues or family. If you feel as though people commenting on your posts or photos makes you happy and feel connected, then that's great.

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If other people’s comments are derogatory or otherwise you feel bad about yourself, however, it's time to shut them off. If an argument arises with other people over something you posted, you can always turn off comments for a particular post or delete the thread entirely.

Live in the Moment

The best thing about social media is that it brings people together. It allows us to connect with friends and even strangers who we wouldn’t usually be able to connect with. One of the downsides of social media, however, is that it can take away real-life experiences.

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When you are on vacation, for example, instead of posting a picture of your family doing every little thing, step back and enjoy life as it is happening. Delay posting until later so you can enjoy your time in real life. Doing so will give you the interpersonal experiences you need and set healthy boundaries between you and social media.

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