How can I take care of my mental health while using social media?
You’ve probably heard a lot about social media being bad for your mental health, but social media can be good for your mental health, too. Using social media can help you stay connected with others, show you new ideas and new cultures, and help you build an online community. Research shows that social media helps teens and young adults feel more supported, more accepted, and more comfortable being themselves. Social media also helps break down mental health stigma and encourages people to reach out for help when they need it.
Despite these benefits, it’s true that social media can be harmful to your mental health. Online bullying and harassment can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of depression, and anxiety. Constantly comparing your life to other people’s lives can cause these feelings, too. Social media can expose you to graphic or dangerous content, which makes you vulnerable to online scams and misinformation. Seeing this content can also lead to making risky choices like using drugs or meeting up with people you don't know.
When you use social media too much, your brain reacts like it would if you were addicted to a substance, making it harder and harder for you to stop scrolling. Addictive use of social media can prevent you from doing things that are important for your wellness like spending time outside, meeting up with friends, trying new hobbies, and having fun.
The good news is that there are ways you can use social media while taking care of your mental health.
5 tips to take care of your mental health while using social media:
- Limit your time on social media
- Use a time tracking app to notice how much time you are spending on social media.
- Explore what amount of time on social media feels good to you. Set an alarm to remind you not to continue scrolling after that amount of time has passed.
- Put away your phone an hour before bedtime and choose another relaxing hobby like reading, journaling, or listening to music.
- Be present offline
- Connect with friends and family in person. If you’re not used to hanging out in person, it may feel uncomfortable at first. Don’t give up! Try talking about shared interests or playing a game together.
- Explore new hobbies and activities. You might try drawing, painting, singing, cooking, or something else. The sky is the limit!
- Move your body. Try walking, hiking, dancing, or yoga, all of which can benefit your mental health and wellness.
- Use your 5 senses (see, taste, hear, touch, smell) to connect with your surroundings.
- Set boundaries online
- Change your social media settings to private so that only people you know and accept can view your social media profiles.
- Delete social media accounts that cause more feelings of stress and sadness than feelings of happiness and connectedness.
- Block unwanted contacts, graphic content, and misinformation.
- Be careful with sharing
- Never share identifying information like your phone number, address, or passwords online.
- Be thoughtful about where you share and who you share with -- social media content is often public and can be stored permanently.
- If you aren’t sure if you should post something, talk to a family member or trusted adult to get their opinion. Lean toward not posting something if you’re still not sure.
- Protect yourself and others
- Only open content from trusted sources. Do not click on strange links or respond to strange messages online, as they could be part of an online scam.
- Report online harassment to the social media site you saw it on immediately.
- If you’ve been exposed to online harassment, reach out to at least one person you trust who can give you help and support.
- Never post hateful content about another person or group of people.
- Learn about how to find reliable information online. Take care not to spread misinformation through social media posts.
Resources for taking care of your mental health while using social media:
- Scams, privacy, and good information
- Norton Security’s list of the 20 common online scams to avoid
- Guides for control and privacy settings on all popular social media apps
- Recommendations for finding accurate information on the internet (Michigan State University)
- Reporting online harassment
- If you have experienced or witness cyberbullying, you can report itat stopbullying.gov
- If you have experienced online harassment by a dating partner, contact an expert at Love is Respect for support
- If your private images have been shared online without your permission, visit Take it Down to help get them removed
Reaching out for help when you need it:
- NAMI HelpLine open 10am-10pm EST (Monday-Friday)
- Teen Line open 6-10pm PST (call) and 6-9pm PST (text)
- Call: 800-852-8336
- Text: text “TEEN” to 839863
- Email: complete theemail form on Teen Line’swebsite https://www.teenline.org/email-us
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline open 24/7/365
- Call: 988
- Chat: https://988lifeline.org/chat/