Protecting Your Mental Health on Social Media

Protecting Your Mental Health on Social Media

When a new study comes out about how social media affects mental health poorly, it’s hard not to sigh. This is the career I’ve chosen and I absolutely love it for some reasons, but it’s hard to argue that prolonged exposure to social media does affect one poorly. And when it’s your career, there is little you can do to get off of it. So you feel kind of stuck.

But there are some simple things you can do that can make your personal experience better and help your mental health. Some of these are long-term solutions that you work through a little bit at a time, but some are things you can do immediately.

Let’s take a look at my recommendations and hopefully you can find something that will work for you.

Limit your time on social media

It’s so tempting to be online all of the time, especially when you are just getting started in your career. It’s almost a race to see how fast you can reply to every comment. But the problem with that is there are so many more opportunities to have your mental health attacked and not that many opportunities to let your brain think creatively.

Instead, limit your regular check-ins to during working hours, with some irregular check-ins during off-hours. The exact frequency is up to you, but start with a step back from where you are now.

Dealing with social media in blocks is terrific for many reasons. You will be more mentally prepared for trolls and the like, and you will have much more time to create something that will wow your fans.

And I know there are times you cannot do this, such as when big campaigns come along. This is more of a rule for regular days to allow you to get more work done.

Unfollow the big offenders

Something people really forget about their personal social media is that it needs to work for you and not the other way around. Instead, they feel locked into what is fast becoming an abusive relationship. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Close your eyes and think of the people whose posts are causing the biggest problems for you. It doesn’t matter what the problem is. It matters that it’s affecting you in a negative way. Immediately, unfollow those people. Do not feel guilty about doing this. Sometimes someone was super helpful at one point, but circumstances in life change. You change and they change. You do not need to carry their energy just because they were helpful at one point in your life.

But there are always the people who you have to follow because they are a business contact or a family member or someone you love in-person. It would be super uncomfortable if they found out you unfollowed them. So just hide them. They will never know. If they do bring up something they posted about that you didn’t see, just tell them you are personally stepping away from social media to protect your mental health. That is understandable and should not be a big deal. Or you can always blame the algorithm. It seems like everyone is doing that nowadays so you won’t be alone.

Audit who you follow

It’s easy to get rid of the big offenders. What is not so easy is to get rid of the people who are less draining but are still problematic in your feed. These little instances can sometimes be even worse than the big offenders since there are more of them and it all adds up.

Set aside a time each week to go through who is in your follow list. If you gasped at this idea, I get it. When you have followed thousands of people, the idea of digging into those follow lists is overwhelming. Let’s be perfectly honest: You’re not following thousands of people anyway, so this culling is needed.

I’m not saying you should go to each profile and decide if this person is good for your mental health. This is a quick gut check. Look at a person’s name and decide if you enjoy seeing their posts or not. If you can’t remember who they are, then there is a good chance that they need to go. But to be sure, these are the people you go to their profile. If you still can’t remember who they are, get rid of them.

This is not something that will happen overnight. Taking ten minutes per week should be enough to slowly improve your social media and take back control over how it affects you.

Be careful with engaging

I’m a runner. I follow a lot of runners and some running nutritionists. But I’m careful with who I choose to follow within this space. Above all, I will not follow anyone recommending practices that are dangerous and they cannot be focused on weight loss. Running for me is about pushing my body, not to make it into something it will never be. I don’t want to get confused about that.

The problem is that because of who I follow the algorithm sometimes gets confused. It sees health and wellness content, so the weight loss reels start to follow. I try my best to not engage with it in any way and get off of it as quickly as possible. And conversely, I try to engage more with the kind of content I would like to see. Right now, I’m getting the least amount of weight loss content I have ever had in my feed.

If you look at what you are engaging with as a sign to the algorithm of what you’d like to see more of in your feed instead of engaging with whatever, you will have a more intentional feed that is full of things that will make you feel better. I know it’s hard to do this when you are on a reel spree, but being better about this will eventually get you what you want.

Embrace what you love

I love raccoons. Anyone who has followed my Instagram Stories lately knows this. I post about them constantly. My feed is full of them and my direct messages regularly have a raccoon meme happily waiting for me to discover its existence. In other words, my Instagram makes me super happy because there are raccoons.

If you go into a network trying to create an image of who you think should be, I can’t imagine that it’s very fun. In addition to the difficulties of portraying someone you are not, you are worried about people looking at who you follow, so it’s full of things you probably don’t actually care about. For me, at least, I want to log into social media for things that make me happy. I want to see some raccoons.

What is something that makes you unabashedly happy? Start looking for that on social media. It’s out there and you will get to meet loads of people who love it in the same way. Because that is the absolute beauty of social media. So do some quick follows every so often around those weird things you love, and if it’s not working out for you, just get rid of them as you audit who you follow. Every new follow should just be a trial to see if they make you happy anyway.

It’s hard work to make your social media work for your mental health. But spending ten to twenty minutes a week on it should be enough to make you feel better before you have to abandon a personal social media presence altogether. Do that work before you need it and watch your mood drastically improve.

What are you doing to improve your mental health? 



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