How to protect mental health from the influence of social media

December 29, 2023
14 mins read
How to protect mental health from the influence of social media

Social networks have opened up new possibilities for us, made life easier, simplified friendships, and even allowed starting new businesses and romantic relationships without leaving home. But this comes at a cost, such as alienation, sadness, and low self-esteem.

"Despite their advantages, social networks contribute to feelings of isolation, unrealistic expectations, lostness, and other emotions that negatively affect mental health," says Professor of Psychology Claude Melins in a study conducted at the Columbia University Medical Center in Irving. That's why many people decide to completely or partially give up social networks when they feel their negative impact. Health News reports that even a short break from social networks can increase productivity and self-esteem, as well as reduce anxiety levels.

However, in reality, it's not that simple. Social networks have become so deeply integrated into our daily lives that it's not always easy to completely give them up, and sometimes it's even impossible. Nevertheless, mental health can be improved, not by leaving social networks, but by maintaining a kind of hygiene.

Unfollow those who upset you

One of the most common negative aspects of using social networks is comparing oneself with others. To avoid this, it's necessary to identify and eliminate problematic accounts. Depending on the platform used, it is recommended to unfollow or delete them from friends. "If you find something damaging your self-esteem and causing anxiety and suffering, it's best to unfollow or delete that account," says digital health coach Tamika Simpson in an interview with Byrdie. "Taking a break from social networks is beneficial. There's no need to constantly be aware of other people's lives, especially if it negatively affects you. You can always follow them again when you feel better."

Remember that social networks are not an obligation and that your feelings are more important than the feelings of others. As noted in Bustle magazine by psychologist Holly Schiff, some people may feel offended by such a deliberate refusal of "friendship," as it seems more aggressive and abrupt than when relationships "die a natural death" in real life.

Turn off unnecessary notifications

In Instagram and Facebook, there's an excellent opportunity to turn off stories and posts so they don't appear in the news feed. You can also disable message notifications. This is more convenient and emotionally easier than unfollowing, and the other person won't even realize that you're no longer following them.

Follow only those you like

If cleaning social media accounts of those who make life less pleasant seems too harsh, you can do the opposite - focus on adding those who improve your well-being. Determine what causes you pleasant emotions and find accounts that publish such content, even if it's funny animal videos.

For example, if you notice a decrease in self-esteem or acceptance of your body, increase the number of accounts talking about body positivity, self-respect, and self-love. Yes, experts warn about the dangers of social networks, but these platforms are also a great way to communicate with like-minded people. For example, Twitter (now X) and Instagram are useful for finding your community and helping you feel heard and less lonely.

Give up just one social network

Detox means a complete rejection of social networks (for a certain time), but giving up one or two platforms can also be beneficial for rehabilitation. This step can give you more time and opportunities for productive work and self-protection.

To choose what to give up, it's necessary to weigh the positive and negative sides of each social network. It's important to consider which platform you spend more time on and get the most unpleasant emotions from, as well as the consequences of "unfollowing." If you communicate with family members on Facebook, then it's probably not worth excluding it from your life. By experimenting, you can draw conclusions about what consumes more or less energy and what exactly you lack.

Delete outdated posts

A social network account is a representation of each person. If you have public posts related to the past and showing people you don't want to show, they should be deleted. This small step will make your life easier. For example, it refers to posts on Twitter that no longer correspond to modern values and beliefs. After all, your behavior on social networks can be a cause for regret and shame.

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