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5 Ways to protect your mental health on social media

It is becoming increasingly harder and harder to keep up with the social and technological developments these days. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. are everywhere! You can't help but check your feed every time you're online. It's human nature to want to know what your friends are up to daily.

But here's the thing: it can really take a toll on our mental health if we overindulge in scrolling through that never-ending feed of memes, posts, pictures, and videos.

How do you keep your sanity while jumping from feed to feed, liking, commenting, sharing, and retweeting posts? How can you stay sane amidst the barrage of posts about how amazing everything is, or how doom and gloom everything sounds? What does it mean to be online and mentally stable when the Internet is forever becoming more addictive?

With social media becoming more intertwined with our daily lives, it is important to find a balance and reduce the effects it can have on your mental health. Here are 5 easy ways to protect your mental health on social media:

1. Don't put other people down: It is easy to respond with a mean remark to a "stupid" or "silly" comment/post someone puts out, however, remember that when you put negative energy out, it will come back to you. You can become a target for people looking to get back at you. You can equally express yourself without resorting to mean language or bullying behaviour. It may sound simplistic, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. Being a bit more thoughtful and choosing our words carefully on social media, will not only help protect our headspace but will also show kindness to the strangers, friends, and family we interact with daily. You never know what someone is going through and how one thoughtless comment can affect the person. Remember, it is possible to be positive on social media.

2. Start using social media mindfully: Each time you reach for your phone (or computer) to check your social media, ask yourself these hard questions: Why am I doing this now? What do I hope to achieve from this check, and based on the honest answers you give to yourself, decide if that social media check is necessary. With practice, you will notice over time, that you reduce the endless scrolling and unlocking of your phone.

A recent study found that the overuse of social media leads to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. We can use social media to help us build our networks of friends and family, write our own blog or articles, post about a good day we had, create new content or promote someone you know or care about. This can be done without posting too much information about yourself. Use your favourite social media service mindfully. Take time to consider how you will use it so as not to overuse it and get addicted. Take breaks from social media every once in a while to keep yourself sane and balanced.

3. Curate your feed: The social mediascape thrives on popularity and numbers - number of likes, follows, shares, comments, etc, so we are eager to attract as many followers as possible. But when the popularity becomes your source of validation and a measure of your self-worth, then a decrease in these reactions can lead to low self-esteem and loss of confidence. Likewise, when we jump on the bandwagon and follow every popular account or profile, we are unable to control what information we consume. The online friends, pages, celebrities, and organisations you follow may not all be sharing information that is beneficial to you, it is recommended to periodically check your list and unfollow, unfriend, or mute those accounts that no longer interest you, or whose content you no longer find useful. Majority will not even notice and your life will be the better for having a "cleaner" feed. In short, follow people and pages who make you feel good, whose content resonates with you, and who give you positive energy.

4. Beware of triggers: Some content can be quite upsetting and triggering. Usually, people will add a trigger warning (TW) to the post, to help avoid such posts. Some platforms will hide such posts from your timeline if you have selected not to see those content. Unfortunately, many triggering content shared on social media doesn't come with a warning, and the best way to handle such posts is to unfollow accounts that constantly share upsetting content without any warning and also, avoid sharing or forwarding such posts yourself, and if you must, be sure to add a trigger warning to help others decide whether they'll like to consume that content or not.

5. Have detox periods: As much as social media has become intrinsically part of our lives, we can still do without it now and then. Schedule, periodic breaks from social media. Several studies have shown that even a five-day or week-long break from Facebook can lead to lower stress and higher life satisfaction. You can also cut back without going cold turkey: reduce the time you spend daily on these apps by setting a time limit, after which you wouldn't have access to the app for the rest of the day, or delete one app at a time for a week or however long you can. Many people have reported that using Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat just 10 minutes a day for three weeks resulted in lower loneliness and depression. It may be difficult at first, but seek help from family and friends by publicly declaring you are on a break. And delete the apps for your favorite social media services. When you take a break, replace the time with other activities, such as reading a book, doing a hobby that doesn't involve the use of social media or digital means if possible. Enjoy your break, social media will always be there when you come back and you'll realise you haven't really missed much if anything at all.

Social media is a place where we can all get together to have beautiful and important conversations, create groups, network, and build friendships that we never had the opportunity to do before. Social media is to be enjoyed, to make an impact, and be impacted positively. You can curate the social media experience that you want, which will enrich your life. When you are online, remember to protect your mental health and help others do the same.

#mentalhealthawareness #socialmediamentalhealth #mentalhealth #womensmentalhealth

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