Today (April 18th) is the start of Mental Health Awareness week in the UK, so here’s Anna Ashbarry’s guide to using social media in a healthier way.
I have heard many people make statements or comments that they have or plan to delete their social media accounts. Usually, their reasons are connected to negativity and poor mental health. Over the years, I have seen many friends and family go on and off social media, taking advantage of the deactivation tool when things get a bit too much. But I often ask myself, is social media to blame or is it how we use it?
Social media platforms are a space where we can share our stories, have our voices heard, interact with others from all around the world and they are also a place where we can be inspired and learn new things. However many people often see social media as quite the opposite. A place where people critique, bully and compare themselves to others. Many users struggle with their relationship with social media and are therefore ditching it altogether.
Social media can often be frustrating. People share opposing views, leave negative comments or get swept up in the online world. However it can also be a beautiful place to spend some time. You could pick up a new hobby, showcase your latest project or join a movement. It’s all about how you choose to use it.
A guide to using social media platforms responsibly
1. Choose your platforms wisely
There are many social media platforms out there and more and more keep cropping up. Using social media apps can be quite daunting, especially if you haven’t used them before. Where do you even start? Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tik Tok, Linkedin, YouTube, I mean the list really does go on. To create accounts and manage all of these different platforms is quite the task. So what can we do?
It is important to take the time to explore each platform and decide which ones you would like to be a part of. Ask yourself why you are joining, what you want from it and what you want to share. If you love photos, perhaps you only need Instagram. There’s no need to be on every single platform, just the ones that serve a purpose to you and your life. Everyone will have different preferences and needs so it is important to make your own informed decision rather than following the masses.
2. Stay in control
Once you’ve decided on which platforms you want to use, it’s time to think about how best to use them. Staying in control of your privacy, your connections and what you see or share is vital in order to use social media responsibly. Take advantage of all of the settings within each app so you can monitor and make informed decisions on who sees your posts, what shows up on your news feed and most importantly, the connections you make.
If you decide to follow someone and a few weeks later realise they are having a negative impact on your social media space, unfollow them. Even if it’s a friend or family member. You can’t change their views or what they post but you can choose what you see on your platforms. Staying in control of your space will help you to be able to use social media in a positive way.
3. Use everything in moderation
Once you have decided on your platforms, how you want to use them and who you connect with, it is important to then monitor how often you use these apps. Using tools like Screen Time on iPhone can help with this. Sitting and endlessly scrolling through Facebook or Instagram probably isn’t going to have much of a positive impact on your day. However, sharing something that’s important to you, discovering a new and interesting account or putting together a mood board can be uplifting and can spark inspiration and creativity.
If you’re spending a lot of time on social media but you’re enjoying it and are having a positive experience, great! However, if you’re getting bogged down and using it when you’re bored, it’s probably time to rethink how you’re using socials. Perhaps turn off your notifications so you’re less likely to be distracted or sucked in. Using in moderation is key to keeping a balance to each and every day.
Finally, taking responsibility for how you’re using social media is probably the most important step. If you’re getting frustrated and wanting to quit social media altogether, maybe there’s a more deep routed reason? It’s important to ask yourself this question to get to the bottom of the problem. Perhaps there’s a simple solution like going off one platform that’s just not right for you, or maybe you need to unfollow an account or even spend less time on your phone. Social media has so much to offer us, don’t be quick to judge it without first questioning yourself.
Anna is a freelance content creator and an activist who is extremely passionate about the environment. She loves to write and blog about her passions and experiences. In 2018, Anna was a Youth Reporter and volunteer on the ICS placement in Nepal with Restless Development. Many of her articles share stories, tips and advice for future ICS volunteers.