Pics or it didn’t happen? These days if your life is not posted online it can feel like it’s not even happening. As our obsession with social media rises so too do our levels of self-esteem issues and anxiety. But it is possible to break the cycle of negative social media use and log on in a way that doesn’t impact our mental health. We spoke with 3 experts about how you can successfully merge social media and mental health.
What effect can social media have on our mental health?
Deep in our minds we know that social media is not displaying real life. We know the constant styled photos, quirky captions and craving likes is doing nothing to help our self-esteem, anxiety or depression. And yet, we still play the games. In fact, all our experts agree social media can have detrimental effects on our mental health if not used properly.
“Social media use can affect our self-esteem as we are bombarded by images of perfection and keeping up with the Joneses,” says psychologist Stephanie Lau.
According to counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip excessive social media use has been linked to symptoms of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. While clinical psychologist Renee Mill has seen the negative impacts in young people especially:
“Young people need social approval above all else and watching others who they perceive to be having a “better life” is upsetting. Comparing how many likes you get to hers is demoralising. Being shown how sexy someone else [is] can feel terrible. I’ve heard stories where young girls now conduct the “paper test” – they take an A4 piece of paper, hold it up and use it to determine the narrowness of their waists.
In my practice, I regularly hear clients tell me how envious, depressed and upset they feel when they view other people’s successes. It is in their face. The raising rates of anxiety and depression may be a result of social media and while it is difficult to conclusively find a direct link statistically, intuitively it makes sense that being bombarded with other people successes can make people feel inferior and deprived.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are positive effects to social media like the ability to connect with people all around the world. As Dr Karen notes, studies have shown a healthy amount of social media use can help with loneliness or to support those suffering from chronic illness:
“Connecting with family living away or those seeking to connect with likeminded people in specifically targeted groups can be beneficial. Social media can also be helpful for people with health conditions to know that they are not alone and can connect with other people who have gone through a similar condition.”
For the most part, social media carries with it a lot of risks. Becoming too obsessed with our online worlds leads to dissatisfaction at best and depression at worst in our real lives. So what can you do to ensure your social media use is healthy?
How can we take better care of our mental health?
The key to keeping your social media in check seems to be striking a balance between time spent online and offline. Here’s 5 ways you can protect your mental health without cutting social media out of your life for good.
1: Take the day off
Dr Karen suggests a day off the social media here and there to keep a health perspective.
“A day or two of no social media each week is ideal however if not possible, then an hour or two each day to check and post is time enough so it does not take over the life of the user. Socialise with family and friends, talk, interact personally, play sport, all aids us to retain a balanced life and positive mental health.”
MyDeal Pro Tip:
How to spend an afternoon offline
It’s as simple as doing an activity for the pure joy of it (and not to post later). You could try:
- Playing with your pets
- Cooking something magnificent
- Getting dirty in the garden
- Or finally hanging those family photos around your house
Everything you need and more for an offline afternoon is waiting in MyDeal home and garden.
2: Set yourself time limits
Renee Mill highly recommends putting a daily limit on your social media use to keep it from getting out of hand.
“It is all about balance. Just as it’s not healthy to party every night to 3am and expect to go to work the next day and function well, being constantly alert to updates, needing to comment or like, needing to post and needing to be gorgeous is unhealthy. I recommend setting a few times a day when you can check your social media for max fifteen minutes. Then set aside maximum one hour to go through it all in detail, do your posts and respond. Then log out. Be in the moment of what you are doing (like being in a therapy session). This is called being mindful.”
3: Don’t fall for ‘just 5 more minutes…’
Stephanie Lau suggests using apps to stop yourself from falling into a social media wormhole and telling yourself you’ll quit in just 5 more minutes.
“Moderate your social media consumption by setting limits and specific timeframes. For example, set clear goals and ensure you don't lose track of why you logged onto your computer or screen as it is easy to end up in a web of lost browsing. Use technology to monitor your time, including apps or stats to gauge how much time you spend on each social media account or phone app - they can also be helpful ways of monitoring social media and technology use.”
4: Express your negative thoughts
No matter how hard we try, negative thoughts can creep in at times. Pushing them to the back of your mind is not going to help you deal with them. But having a strong support network of friends, family and possibly even professional help is. You may choose to vent to a friend on the couch or make an appointment with a psychologist. Either way finding a safe environment where you can voice your concerns, no matter how small, means you can move past them.
5: Find positive uses for your socials
There’s a difference between turning to social media for inspiration and comparison. Surrounding yourself with seemingly perfect lives and wishing you could emulate them is comparison. Looking at your life for things you want to improve and using social media to find ideas is inspiration. Use it to your advantage when you have a new project and enjoy one of the benefits of social media. For example, it’s full of fantastic ideas for redesigning a stunning bedroom retreat which is the perfect place to relax away from the Internet.
Or get involved with the positive social media movements and hashtags taking charge. Keep your mind on good thoughts by searching hashtags and accounts dedicated to promoting good vibes. If you want female empowerment try #realwomen, #bodypositivity or #effyourbeautystandards. Want all round happiness? Check out #positivethoughts and #positivevibes.
At the end of the day, social media is whatever you make of it. While we’re all guilty of falling prey to unrealistic expectations at times, we all can do something to change our habits.
A special thank-you to our experts for contributing for this article. If you’d like to see more from any of our experts you can find their details here: