There have been numerous research papers and articles written about the affects of social media on our health. I decided to follow the trail of multiple papers to understand the research a little better. In one such paper, the author claimed that the more we use social media, the less happy we seem to be. And while this is true to some, the peer review research (the author mentioned) was based on 28 people being surveyed in one area of Michigan, the USA. This is hardly representative of the world.
Although I don’t want to say that scientific research isn’t credible or true, I want to remind us that many big headlines are often based on a quick summery or opinions – not many people are digging deep enough and some of the research is indeed isn’t credible enough. With that in mind, I think, there are many changes in our behaviour that social media technology is encouraging. Many of these changes aren’t improving our mental health.
Although inevitable for humans, comparing our lives with others often affects our happiness and mental health. Comparing our lives with others is one of the potent behaviours social media is often blamed for. However, this isn’t something social media created for us. We’ve always compared how much money we made, how we look and how many awards are children are getting with those around us. Social media technology simply allows us to peer into more personal lives, enabling more frequent comparisons.
That is, however, can be managed. We indeed can make a choice to watch others and make a choice about how we feel as well, teaching our children, family and friends ways to navigate their own social media use, leading by example.
I believe that social media use requires individual responsibility and discipline in order to create and maintain good mental health. Similarly to any other activity, using social media should come with caution. This is not to take away from the social responsibility of the social media designer but to remind us all that we have a part to play in our own well-being and habits we develop.
To help improve and maintain good mental health online, I think, we need to identify why we are using social media – this may require some time with ourselves, asking honest questions and writing down your reasons for going online. I don’t mean the reasons Facebook or our friends or family tell us, but what you truly and honestly want to get from your time on social media.
Be very honest – you don’t have to share it with anyone. You just need to decide what social media means to you. From here, it’s easier to create boundaries and rules you need, and really embody them.
For example, although social media is often marketed as a tool that helps us keep in touch with friends and family, Facebook News Feed can be a nightmare to follow with so many different pieces of information entering our lives fast and at once.
This is why I don’t watch news – I don’t like multiple information pouring into my head without my choice. Thus, I made a decision that I don’t scroll mindlessly anything. Ever. This decision helped be download Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator on my desktop – its entire purpose is to remove my Facebook Newsfeed from my sight, showing me inspirational quotes on the screen instead.
This can be really helpful for those who keep their desktop Facebook open all day at work or home or who are tempted to visit it again and again throughout the day.
Restricting your desktop Facebook Newsfeed access can help you start developing new and healthier habits. For many, it’s their phone that is giving them the most anxiety. I think we giveaway way too much power to a piece of technology, like our phones. If it’s a smart phone, we should treat it that way – using it a little smarter. I highly recommend turning your phone applications off. Visit your phone Settings to explore this.
For me, this means that out of over a hundred of apps I only allow five to send me notifications – calls, Skype and three different messengers (text, What’s App and Facebook Messenger). Once done, your phone will stop buzzing so much, giving you the silence and focus you need.
Restricting your phone apps intrusion also means that you have to make a conscious choice to visit your social media or emails, allowing for a little more brain space making better choice and moving away from compulsory behaviour.
With these small changes, many find a breather. You take back the control of your technology also allowing for more room to think, create and enjoy time with people you love.
Over time, less becomes more as you start appreciating so few distractions.
With a few external changes, internal metamorphosis takes place a lot easier. With less distraction you may want to re-evaluate your reasons for using social media, designing habits and boundaries that help you improve your health and reach your goals, in both business and life.
For me, this was a decision that social media is a pubic stage and I come online to share my views and expertise helping others make their mind about their social media use. This decision also came with a realisation that I will be bold, honest and consistent and will think before I talk [online]. I also accept that some people disagree and I welcome discussions because it means that what I am saying matters.
Finally, I also decided that if I feel a little down, hungry or bored I don’t reach out for my phone but meditate, go for a walk or have a big glass of water instead, training my monkey brain to develop better habits.
With more meaningful and regulated social media use, you’ll be able to listen to your body and mind better, identifying what support you need.
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