mental health

A Guide to Making Social Media Less Toxic for You

We know it's bad for our mental health, but it could be a positive place.
14 October 2019, 12:44am
social media addiction mental health positive toxic
Photo by Marc Schaefer on Unsplash.

This article originally appeared on VICE Asia

Multiple studies have linked social media usage to mental health struggles. The JAMA Pediatrics Journal found that social media use could enhance symptoms of depression among young people, while one by the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that limiting social media use decreases loneliness and depression.

This is not surprising. It’s hard to feel good when your commute to work is spent staring at photos of hot models, ultra-rich celebrities, and successful friends. But considering how social media has become part of everything we do—from interacting with friends to finding jobs—it’s not realistic to cut it out completely from our lives.

So instead, why not curate it for your benefit? While it is important to see a professional to address mental health concerns, there are also some things you can do to help yourself along the way.

Follow People Who Inspire You

If we look closely, many of the profiles we follow don’t actually add anything positive to our day. Instead, follow people who inspire you. This can be anyone, but a good starting point is to look for people who share the same hobbies.

Whether it’s fitness, music, art or waste-free living, following people with the same interests can keep you inspired to do what you love. Your feed should be a melting pot of ideas that will get you excited to do more and shouldn’t dissuade you from trying new things.

Unfollow Toxic “Friends”

It happens to everyone: we’re scrolling through our feed and a photo of Candice pops up, that girl you met once in a club years ago who was only nice to you because she wanted to get with your friend. Do we care about what she’s doing now? No? Unfollow.

And then there’s Sam, the jerk from high school who was always talking bad about you behind your back. Do we care what he’s doing now? No? Unfollow.

These are just two examples, but we continue to follow so many toxic people because we either can’t be bothered to click the unfollow button or don’t want to hurt their feelings. But invest in those few seconds and see the change it could potentially make.

Mute, Hide, and Restrict

If there are people that you don’t want to unfollow because you still want to keep them as a contact or get in touch with them in the future, there are alternative measures you can take to keep them at a distance. For starters, you can hide their Stories and mute their posts.

If it’s your life you don’t want acquaintances to judge, restrict what followers can see from your profile. Facebook allows you to change this in privacy settings, while Instagram now allows you to only show Stories to close friends.

Take Yourself Less Seriously

It’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of trying to keep a perfect image online, where you always look good and are having the best time. But it’s fine to post yourself lazing on the couch on a Sunday looking unkempt. If we were comfortable doing these things around each other as kids, why not as adults?

It can be liberating, not just for you, but for the people who follow you too because it highlights an idea rarely evident on social media: no one is perfect.

Make Genuine Connections

Don’t make social media about looking at other people, use it to make connections—real ones.

If something bothers you, talk about it. You’ll be surprised to find out that others have been in similar situations. Ask for tips on how to cope with work pressures and be surprised to find out that that girl you were classmates with has the same problem. Social media is not just for sharing or consuming, it is for conversations.

Other Things You Can Do

We asked people for tips on how to make social media less toxic. Some valuable tips include:

  • Don’t mistake followers for friends
  • Ban trolls, hoax news, and body-shaming comments
  • Don’t photoshop your body
  • Turn off notifications
  • Flag things you don’t want to see so the algorithm can pick up on it

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