There are almost 3.5 billion social media users worldwide. Social media platforms allow us to stay connected unlike any other time in human history. In the span of a few minutes, we can see what’s happening with our neighbor next door, our aunt in California, and our friend on the other side of the planet.These platforms also come with the dreaded time vacuum we’ve all experienced. We hop on “just for a second” and before we know it we’ve been online half an hour.
Perhaps you’ve wondered what kind of impact social media is having. Does social media have an effect on mental health? Are social media and mental health connected?
For many of us, these may be passing thoughts. Maybe they aren’t even something you’ve ever thought about. People are often surprised to discover the impacts that platforms like Facebook and Instagram are having on people’s lives. As counselors, we see it on a regular basis. They are changing the way human beings interact with one another and how people relate to themselves.
In this article, we will explore social media and mental health and discuss ways to manage social media addiction.
Social Media Addiction and Healthy Boundaries
Social media addiction is real. It also appears to be increasing. Multiple studies have shown correlations between the amount of time spent on social media and increased depression and anxiety. Suicide rates and self-harm rates have also been increasing in the last decade, which may also be linked to an increase in social media usage.
This can be a difficult addiction to identify. If you believe you, or your loved one, has a social media addiction, please reach out to us for additional help. Mental health experts are drawing connections more each day between this addiction and mental health problems.
It can be helpful to remember that these platforms are built to suck you in. They are programmed to learn what you like and what gets a reaction out of you. You’ll then see more of this content in your newsfeed. That’s why it’s so easy to get lost in the newsfeed.
Our brains also receive a dopamine hit from scrolling and from seeing the numbers pop up on notifications. This can further feed the addictive tendencies towards these platforms because our brains crave that dopamine.
People have begun reaching out to platforms and asking for help managing healthy boundaries. Change is happening; several sites now offer the ability to track your amount of time spent on a certain platform. This allows you to monitor your usage and can be very eye-opening.
It’s also a good way to gauge if there might be an addiction happening. Changes are also starting to take place regarding that dopamine hit we talked about earlier from “likes” and other number notifications. Recently Instagram has begun experimenting with hiding the number of “likes” on a post because it is suspected this may help with depression and comparison.
How to Handle a Social Media Addiction
First of all, get help from a counselor. People often feel silly for getting help for this addiction. Folks seem to more openly accept addictions such as substances or pornography use as “valid” addictions. This addiction is so new that people often don’t believe it’s a real reason to get help.
However, it’s just as difficult to overcome as other addictions, and in some cases, it may even be more difficult because of how culturally acceptable it is to use these platforms and how little monitoring there is on these sites. Please reach out for help from a counselor. Having a trusted guide and helper will make this easier.
Here are tips you can do on your own, with the help of loved ones, or alongside a counselor to help manage a social media addiction. Even if you don’t think you’re addicted but want to cut your usage back, these tips may help.
Install a newsfeed remover extension
These are available on web browsers on the computer. They’ll hide access to your Facebook newsfeed but still allow you to visit groups, pages, and profiles. This way you’re not getting sucked into scrolling.
Set a timer for use
Facebook and Instagram have timers that monitor your use. They can even give you an alert when you’ve hit a certain time limit. Setting a timer on your phone or another device when you log in can be helpful too. Try allowing yourself 15 minutes at a time.
Schedule a specific time of day (or a couple) to check your accounts
Like the tip above, this can be quite helpful. Schedule it into your day. For example, schedule 15 minutes after breakfast, 15 minutes mid-afternoon, and 15 minutes about 3 hours before bed. (Staying off screens within 2 hours of bedtime has been shown to increase sleep quality)
Pick one or two platforms only
You don’t need to be on every single platform that is out there.
Ask yourself “what am I feeling right now?” before you get on
This is a powerful question. Take the time to answer it honestly in your mind before you continue spending time online. If you find yourself getting on when you’re feeling a certain way, that’s definitely something to explore with a counselor.
Journal about what you get out of social media and what it takes away from you
This may seem hard at first. Once you get into it you’ll find it to be incredibly eye-opening. People often don’t realize all they’re missing out on by being online.
Install website blockersThese are apps and web-browser add-ons. They allow you to specify which sites and/or apps you can use. You can also find blockers that restrict access at certain times of the day and/or certain days of the week.
Make a list of things to do other than social media when you’re bored
Boredom is one of the top reasons people start scrolling. As a society, we’ve become uncomfortable with boredom. Come up with other ways to use your time when you’re bored. There are a lot of productive ways to spend brief periods of time.
Delete accounts altogether for at least 40 days
It takes most people 40 days to start a habit. Try a social media fast for 40 days and see how you feel at the end of that time period.
More tips and ideas to cut social media addiction or create healthy habits:
- Unfollow negative, fear-mongering, trolling, or click-bait pages.
- Only allow yourself to get online as a reward for completing certain tasks.
- Remove the apps from your phone and only get on a computer when someone else is watching.
- Find an accountability partner. This works best if it’s someone who is not also struggling.
- Think about what social media is filling in your life and how to fill it in other ways.
- Journal as a way to express and explore your feelings.
- Connect in other ways, such as:
○Write a real letter- everyone loves to get mail
○Schedule time to get together with someone for coffee or lunch
○Go on a walk with a friend on a regular basis
○Join a social group
○Take part in a small group at church
○Send a text
- Make a scrapbook or photo album of photos you would post online
- Take a walk or get some exercise
Christian Counseling for Mental Health
If you’re looking for Christian counseling, feel free to contact one of the counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment.
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