How to Develop Healthy Social Media HabitsMay 20, 2020 04:14PM ● By Michelle Jockish Polo
It’s late at night, and you have already brushed your teeth, washed your face, and put on a clean pair of pajamas. You are getting ready to go to bed, but you want to wind down, so you pick up your phone and open up Instagram and begin scrolling. Scrolling through the cute cat videos, your friends’ best captured life moments, and photos of stunning places around the world from strangers you probably will never meet; and all of the sudden, you look up and realize an hour has passed since you laid down, and you are probably not going to get the eight hours of sleep you thought you were going to when you first got in bed.
If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone; most of us spend several hours after our workday scrolling on Instagram and Facebook or swiping from video to video on Snapchat. While using social media is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be a negative contributing factor to stress, anxiety and depression according to Christine Mushlock, licensed social worker, clinician and outpatient therapist at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services - Campus Clinic - Grand Rapids, MI.
“It’s not about cutting out all social media, but it’s about finding a balance,” Mushlock added.
According to the Pew Research Center, finding that balance has become a priority for the majority of the 69% of the American population using social media today.
In order to find balance, Mushlocks adds that it’s important to question ones’ social media practices and behaviors. Is it to connect with others? Do I want to receive affirmation from what I post? Am I bored and want to fill up on spare time? Am I losing track of time when I am on social media? Are my friendships being affected by my use of social media? Do I have a hard time putting away my phone when I am with others, or when I am supposed to be working or sleeping?
“A lot of people use their phones before bed, and I know it can contribute to people having a hard time falling asleep and interrupting your sleep,” Mushlock added.
While Mushlock says healthy social media use will vary from person to person, it's important to practice putting ones phone away during a period of one or two hours per day and noting if any anxiety or stress comes up.
“If there is significant stress that arises in a person when they put their phone away, then it’s important to examine those emotions and recognize that it might be a sign of unhealthy social media use,” Mushlock said.
Exhibiting healthy social media use involves setting limits on how one interacts with others on social media, what kind of people or accounts we follow, and setting
“Being conscious of who and what you are following and how that’s affecting you emotionally, and putting limits on notifications can be really helpful,” Mushlock explained.
Examples of some limits can involve only using social media after work, or removing social media apps from ones’ phone, or using social media only in a personal phone or computer.
It’s important to practice some self-reflection on our own social media use. Each person is going to be the most knowledgeable about their use, but it’s important to ask ourselves what our motivation is by going online, and what are we hoping happens when we go online?
“If it comes down to feeling significant anxiety or stress when we don’t have enough followers, or likes on our posts then it’s time to set some stricter limits on social media use,” she added.