Note: This post was scheduled more than a month before the pandemic. While many people are spending a lot of time at home, we thought it was more important than ever to include this information about being healthy while using social media, and to try a social media detox. We provided resources at the end of this post for people under stress and in need of help during this crisis.
More than 40% of the world’s population uses social media. On average, users spend more than 2 hours per day on social media platforms, liking, commenting, and reading content.
That’s 730 hours a year!
However, one study from the Royal Society of Public Health learned that 70% of young people thought social media should have a popup, warning people about how use of social media could affect their mental health.
While social media can be a way to stay connected, it can also have a negative impact on mental health. The University of Pittsburgh studied adults aged 18-30 and found that Hdepression was directly correlated to negative social media experiences. In fact, depression and social media are so intertwined that researchers are now finding ways to scan posts and accurately predict depression. While most people can impose some restrictions on their own social media usage, what are social media managers, marketers, and entrepreneurs supposed to do to establish healthy boundaries with social media?
Their job requires being online and engaged with social media communities, for better or worse. Here are a few ways that you can separate from the negative aspects of social media without missing out on the opportunities for engagement that you need for your brand.
Social Media Detox Step #1: Audit What (and Who) You Follow
Are your social feeds filled with positivity? If not, then it may be time to start reconstructing your feeds. The easiest way to take back the control of your social media is to clean out what you see every time you log in. Focus on the content that you enjoy seeing, and remove the rest.
It can be hard to let go of connections on social media, even if they’re pulling down your mood. Here are some ways that you can distance from those who bring you down, without having to unfriend.
Instagram allows you to filter out words, phrases, and hashtags that you don’t want to see. If you make a list of topics that are upsetting or triggering to you, then Instagram will make sure that your feed is only the positive posts that you want to see.
Instagram also has a mute button, so that you can remove content from certain users from your feed, without having to unfollow them.
If you’re getting bogged down in negative comments, you can turn off commenting on all your posts, or just a single post.
Facebook allows you to mute users for 30 days, which is a great way to avoid a certain news story or topic of discussion. After a month, these news stories will most likely be “old news.”
Facebook also allows you to unfollow while remaining friends. You won’t see their posts in your feed, but you can still go to their profile, or communicate if needed.
Twitter also allows you to mute keywords so that you don’t see this content.
As a last resort, each platform allows you to unfollow or even block users from contacting you on their platforms.
Social Media Detox Step #2: Limit Your Time on Social Media
A study from UC San Diego and Yale discovered that the most active social media users, who clicked on about four times more links than the average user, were more likely to have worse mental health than the average user. In other words, those who used social media most suffered the negative effects of social media most as well.
The users spending the most time on social media will also have the biggest impact on their health, so limiting time spent on social media can help you maintain a better and more healthy outlook on life.
Create active and non-active hours
To start, you can create active and non-active hours. Picture it as intermittent fasting from social media. Active hours could be from 9-11am or only during your lunch break. Non-active hours could mean not going on social media after dinner, or not checking your phone once you’re in bed.
Creating amounts of time where you can go and can’t go on social media will help to establish boundaries for your social media usage.
Limit your session time
The research seems to point to social media being healthier in small doses. Even if you set a wide window of time that you can access social media, you may want to set a limit for each session.
If you are researching influencers, set a timer for 30 minutes and switch to another task after that. If you’re looking for new hashtags to use, limit your search to 20 competitor’s posts or a handful of related posts. Resist the urge to fall into the never-ending cycle of social posts and instead find ways to limit the way you do tasks on social media so that you can get in, get out, and finish the task at hand.
You can also put your phone to use with new social media controls. Instagram tracks time spent on the app and there are plenty of social media apps out there that can remind you when it’s time to take a break.
Social Media Detox Step #3: Switch Your Tactics
The University of Michigan discovered that students who were asked to read Facebook posts for 10 minutes were in a morse mood than students asked to post and talk to friends on Facebook. While 10 minutes of reading made users feel worse, posting and talking to others didn’t have the same negative effects.
If you aren’t able to take a full break from social media, then switching tactics can help you feel better about your social media use. Instead of reading posts and scrolling through the endless feed, you can focus on content creation and authentic conversations.
Creating content for Facebook and Instagram can help you engage with hobbies and other habits that help improve your mood. When seeking out conversations on social media, you can also go straight to the profiles of the users you’d like to chat with, instead of just scrolling through the feed.
Social Media Detox Step #4: Schedule, Then Take a Break
If you are craving a break, but you work on social media every day, then it is possible to take a break with the proper tools and planning.
Using a social media scheduler allows social media managers to queue up posts for social media so that their channels stay active when they take a break. Later, Hootsuite, and Buffer are all great options for schedulers.
Building up a bank of social content with a scheduler also allows you to create posts outside of the platform, limiting the time spent on social media.
However, you can’t ignore community engagement when you take a break. Asking a co-worker to answer comments or questions on your brand’s social profiles can help you make sure that your customers are covered when you’re off the clock.
Social Media Detox Step #5: Replace Social Media with Healthy Habits
It’s not enough to just take a break from social media. Instead of just giving up social media cold turkey, think about which hobbies, workouts, or events you’d like to replace social media with.
Setting a goal to take up knitting or paint a picture can help you use the time that would otherwise be spent online. You can also try these techniques to reduce your stress.
Hobbies and these types of activities can also help to raise your mood. Exercise also helps to create the brain chemicals that can boost your mood.
Setting Healthy Social Media Habits: Asking for Help
Spending too much time on social media can make people feel bad and even alienate them from friends and family. Spending hours on social media can take a toll on your mental health if you’re not striking the proper balance.
A few warning signs to look out for are:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Sleep changes
- Anger or irritability
- Appetite changes
- Lack of interest in daily activities
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased and unexplainable aches and pains
If you need help, you can reach out to any of these organizations:
- NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Mental Health America
- National Institute of Mental Health
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741