We all know how bad social media is for our mental health, right? We scroll through content multiple times per day, knowing that what we’re doing isn’t providing any benefit to our lives, but we do it anyway.
And while we do this—whether consciously or subconsciously—we are comparing ourselves to what we see on our little screens.
We have to stop. But how?
Obsession fuels insecurities
According to healthline, some experts estimate that up to 10 percent of people in the United States have social media addiction. (But it’s actually probably more than that.)
If you automatically thought, “Sure, I use social media, but I’m not ADDICTED.” Same. But whether or not you’re addicted, social media use actually has a physiological impact on your brain.
Every time you scroll through social media, dopamine signals in your brain go up (your happy signals). When this happens, your brain connects this activity with happiness, which makes it want to do it more. Thus, fueling addiction.
But really what’s the harm?
A lot, actually. Especially if you’re following people who consistently post the best (or even edited) versions of themselves—a.k.a. their highlight reels.
If we sit back and think about it, we know that there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than what we see in stories and on the newsfeed. But as we scroll, that logical part of our brain goes out the window.
When we see a picture of someone posing in front of the mirror, we think, “Wow, they look good” or “I wish I looked like that” or “I need to start working out, too.”. We should actually be telling ourselves, “They’re flexing, they don’t look like that 24/7” and “My body is completely different from theirs” and “What can I do to make sure I am the healthiest version of myself?” but that doesn’t come easy.
So, instead we focus on everything that they are and we aren’t. Every little insecurity we have is magnified—whether that’s related to your body, job, house, car, or family—and we close the app feeling like a lesser version of ourselves.
It’s awful, and the only way to avoid that feeling is to make the conscious decision to redefine your social media use.
Take control of your social media
The good news is that we have full control over what we are taking in when we aimlessly scroll. Social media is a tool FOR us. You can personalize it to be exactly what you want.
Step 1: Unfollow
Do you ever get a pit in your stomach when you see stories or posts from a particular person? Their content may make you feel insecure, angry, annoyed, or all of the above.
Why are you still following them?
Sure, maybe it’s someone you used to be really close friends with. Or maybe it’s someone you’re actually friends with right now. Or maybe it’s a celebrity and you don’t want to miss out on the latest gossip.
None of those reasons are good enough to put yourself through any kind of discomfort.
It’s so easy. Just go to their Instagram page, click on the little arrow next to “following,” and select “unfollow.” You can even opt to mute their posts or stories instead. Personally, there are several people whose stories I have muted simply because watching them caused me some kind of discomfort.
(Hint: You can also mute people on Twitter, and unfollow them on Facebook while still remaining friends.)
Give it a try. It literally feels like a weight lifted off your shoulders.
Step 2: Follow
This part is more fun and less stressful than unfollowing people. Follow people that make you feel good!
Find content that you truly enjoy, and fill your feed with it. It can be specific people, organizations, companies, animals (dogs, especially), or whatever your heart desires.
The more good you add to your feed, the less insecure you will feel. Your scrolling will shift from consistently picking yourself apart to fueling your soul with waves of bliss.
Some of my favorite Instagram accounts include:
Step 3: Notifications
I decided to turn of my notifications after I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix (So good! Highly recommend!). While watching, I learned that social media companies use notifications to draw you in. Once you open the app and start scrolling, you’re hooked.
You spend minutes (or even hours) mindlessly scrolling, and you didn’t even make the conscious decision to do so. You were just prompted by a notification.
At first, I was nervous I would miss out on things. What if someone messages me on Instagram? What if I get tagged in a post? What if someone comments on my post? I acted as if the entire world would end if I didn’t look at an interaction as soon as it happened.
But my world didn’t end. It improved.
Step 4: Limit
This is the hardest one. And it’s something that I’m actively working on.
Set time limits on your social media apps.
If you have an iPhone, it’s pretty easy. You just go into your settings and choose which apps you want to set time limits for and what that time limit should be. This page explains it step by step.
I started out with a one hour time limit on each app, and after a while, I decreased that to 30 minutes. (Sure, sometimes I click “Ignore limit for the day” when I run out of time, but we’re about progress, not perfection.)
Setting limits has allowed me to find more time in my day. Time for things I enjoy, like reading, writing, or taking Zoey for a walk. Things that fill me with energy, not drain me.
Doing it all for you
You don’t have to do all of these steps at once to improve your experience with social media. Hell, you don’t even have to do them all. Just start with one and see how it goes.
Take it one day at a time and one step at a time, and remind yourself that you’re doing this for you. You’re doing this to improve your mental (and even physical) wellbeing, and that’s all that matters.
And hey, maybe we’ll become those people who rarely—if ever—use social media. We can only hope!
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