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5 ways to social media-proof your mental health

We’re living in a digital age with friend requests, notifications and “likes” popping up left, right and centre. Today, it seems almost everyone is using social media – in fact, 94 per cent of people in Canada have at least one social media account.[1] Whether it’s Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or LinkedIn, it seems that everyone’s logged in and joining conversations online.

Some say social media is contributing to the mental health crisis we’re experiencing, while others praise the benefits of being so connected to resources and each other. The research is so diverse, that there really isn’t one simple answer to the question of whether social media is harming or benefitting our well-being.

What we do know is that there are ways to use social media consciously. It’s not necessarily the presence of social media in our lives that affects our mental health, but the way we’re using it.

Here are some tips to help you use social media in a way that protects your well-being:

  1. Unfollow people or accounts that make you feel insecure, or that need you to be someone you’re not.

How often do you scroll through your feed and compare yourself to others? Challenge yourself not to compare your insides with someone else’s outsides. And, if you still find yourself with a pit in your stomach when scrolling through, click that “unfollow” button. Fill up your social media feeds with accounts that inspire you and make you feel great about yourself.

  1. Set limits for how much time you spend on social media platforms.

Did you know that some apps and phones can actually track how much time you spend on them? For example, Instagram has a feature that allows you to manage your time on the app. You can even pre-set a daily time limit and get a reminder when your time is up, to keep you from scrolling your precious day away.

  1. Engage actively on social media apps.

Scrolling mindlessly through Twitter might be a great way to fight boredom while standing in line for a coffee, but is it actually beneficial? And do you feel good about it?  Next time you’re online, try actually connecting with others. This means sending messages to friends and loved ones, adding comments to the content you’re viewing and sharing meaningful posts about what’s really going on in yours and in others’ lives.

  1. Join online communities.

One of the greatest things about social media is that it makes it possible to connect with anyone from anywhere in the world. Facebook groups are a great example. Whether you’re passionate about video games, gardening, or your cat, there really is a Facebook group for everyone. Get in there and start chatting!

  1. Be mindful of time and place.

Don’t let social media replace face-to-face connection in your life. Try setting some ground rules for where and when you use social media. A great place to start is to ditch the screens when you’re spending time with people in real life. Once you’ve mastered that, start thinking of other places you’d like to be more present. By creating boundaries with the digital world, we can ensure we’re fully appreciating the other aspects of our lives.

In today’s increasingly connected world, many people find themselves feeling disconnected—from each other, from their community and the earth. For those interested in exploring this in more detail, the 2019 Mental Health For All (MH4A) Conference theme is Connection Interrupted: Restoring Mental Health in a Fractured World. To learn more, or register, please visit www.conference.cmha.ca.

And, as always, connect with us at @CMHA_NTL to share your experiences, thoughts and favourite tips!

[1] Grudz, Anatoliy, Jenna Jacobson, Phillip Mai and Elizabeth Dubous. The State of Social Media in Canada (Toronto, ON: Ryerson University Social Media Lab, 2018).