SOCIAL MEDIA & MENTAL HEALTH: Is it the connection the world needs?

The always on of social media…

Is it the connection the world needs?

Whether you’ve spent a few hours curating content for social media, or spent the same amount of time passively scrolling through it, you’d be familiar with the waves of lethargy, anxiety, guilt, plummeting confidence (and sometimes misery) from your excessive usage.

It’s no secret that using social media has positive benefits for our personal and professional lives. It wasn’t that long ago that a yellow pages ad, a phone attached to the wall and a big sign on our shop front were the main methods of peddling our wares. We simply couldn’t go without social media nowadays.

But in a world that is becoming increasingly ‘wired’ in an attempt to connect, are we ending up doing the exact opposite and fuelling a massive disconnection within ourselves and the other people in our lives?

It is certainly something to think about when we read about the effects that unhealthy social media behaviours have on our mental health. Whether our self esteem is taking a battering, our memory becoming distorted, our sleep interfered with, anxiety and depression increasing or the actual physical connection that us humans needing being lessened considerably.

So how do we intertwine the obvious benefits we get from social media for our personal and professional selves whilst also making sure that we keep our wellbeing on point?

Be Self-Aware

It’s well known that certain content can affect mental health over time. Often these negative feelings can sneak up on us, because of the cumulative effect of not only what we are consuming, but what other stressors exist in our personal lives.

If we’re noticing that we’re feeling a little different than usual, if we’re feeling more exhausted, avoiding activities that we normally enjoy, avoiding other people or that our mood has changed, then perhaps it’s time to have a think about what could be contributing to this.

Take Self-Responsibility

As adults, we don’t have others placing boundaries for us when they see us doing behaviours to the detriment of our health. This is up to us. Realising what you need and that you are responsible for making changes in your life going forward is something we all need to figure out.

Sometimes this may mean taking small steps yourself and other times it is getting more guidance from a someone who specialises in helping people who are feeling low in confidence, stressed, burned out, or depressed, like a psychologist. Placing strong boundaries on your social media usage (i.e. strict checking times, strict working times and strict length of times is needed). You are in control of more than you think.

Practice Self-Care

It’s not always about what we are doing when we are on social media, it’s also about what we are NOT doing when we are on social media. Self-care is any activity we proactively do for ourselves that supports our physical, mental and emotional health. It can be anything that you know specifically makes you feel good, from exercising, spending time with friends, eating healthy food, relaxing and prioritising sleep. It can also mean placing boundaries on what makes you feel bad, like too much social media, drinking too much or spending time with people that upset you.

Too much of anything is a bad thing, and this definitely includes social media. By being aware of the effect it has on you, knowing what limits you need to place on it and then just generally being good to yourself in all the other areas of your life, you will likely find you get a more balanced perspective of life, and your social media usage will lift you up, not drag you down.

Take a deep breath and give yourself a break. There’s no need for social media to impact your mental health.

Dr Marny Lishman is a Health & Community Psychologist, Personal Coach, Keynote Speaker & Media Commentator. She works with individuals and corporate groups to promote personal and professional growth, and speaks on a wide variety of topics to facilitate positive mental health & wellbeing in the community.