Consider this scenario: One minute you’re happy and content, thinking that your life is going pretty well. You have a few minutes to spare, so you open up Facebook and start scrolling…
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First, you see a post from a friend announcing she just accepted her dream job.
Then you read an overly political rant from a coworker.
You keep scrolling and watch a video of your neighbor on some amazing, tropical vacation.
And now, your cousin just posted a before and after picture that makes you want to hide your thighs forever.
The next thing you know, you’re second guessing your career, feeling angry about politics, wondering why you can’t afford a vacation and Googling the next diet you’ll go on.
For some people, social media has turned into an emotional roller coaster of comparison, perfection and opinions. So how do we stop the ride if we’re not having fun anymore?
Behavioral health therapist Jane Pernotto Ehrman, MEd, RCHES, ACHT, discusses how to have a healthy relationship with social media, plus signs it might be time to take a break.
There’s no denying that social media is a huge part of modern-day life and there can be a lot of positives and upsides to it. Plus, it’s good to be connected, especially with those we don’t see on a regular basis. But we also know that social media can be a slippery slope for depression, loneliness, anxiety and low self-esteem.
What’s the healthy balance then?
According to one study, keeping social media use down to just 30 minutes a day can lead to increased mental health and well-being. Participants in the study reported decreased depression and loneliness when they reduced their time spent on social media, which seems ironic. After all, it’s called social media for a reason, right?
The trouble is, there’s large amounts of comparison happening on these social platforms. It can be hard for people to see past the filters and witty captions.
“Social media pulls us up into our heads,” says Ehrman. “We’re judging, comparing and daydreaming about what we’re seeing online, so we’re not fully living our own life. Instead, we’re caught up in a virtual world that might not be exactly the way it appears.”
But the benefits of limiting social media don’t just happen overnight. According to the same study, it takes about three weeks to start noticing the advantages of limited social media time.
So rest assured you don’t have to go cold turkey when deciding to set boundaries with social media, but taking a break or doing a social media detox might be something to consider.
A social media detox is simply just a break. You define how long it is and what it includes. You can choose to announce it on social media or just simply step away.
Maybe your detox includes removing one of the apps or unfollowing accounts that make you question your self-worth. Maybe you want to stay off all social media platforms for one month. Or perhaps you just want to get down to the recommended 30 minutes a day.
“Stepping away from social media is a great way to get a better picture of reality,” says Ehrman. “It’s good for our mental and social health, but it doesn’t have to be forever. The whole idea is that you’re just more aware of it.”
Not sure if your habits are healthy? Check these signs:
Sometimes, your timeline can feel like a giant celebration of all the great things other people are doing. It can be hard to step back and remember that nobody’s life is exciting and fun 24/7.
“If we’re not careful, we can get caught up in feeling like our life isn’t nearly as good as other people’s lives,” says Ehrman. “But you never know what goes on behind closed doors or when the video isn’t rolling.”
We need to make sure that we’re using social media with intention and purpose, Ehrman advises. Here she recommends tips for keeping your social media and phone habits in line:
Health and wellness providers can’t stop talking about mindfulness – and for good reason. Practice mindfulness when using your phone and social media so you can do less scrolling and more living.