Digital hygiene: 8 social media habits to quit for your mental health today
It is within our power to decide what kind of experience we want to have on social media.
We often criticise social media, saying it’s the reason behind many mental and physical health problems, from depression and anxiety to inactivity. But we conveniently forget all the amazing things we’ve been able to achieve with its help - like connecting with old friends, forming communities, spreading awareness about important causes, sharing unique experiences, telling stories and building businesses.
A study published late last year found that increasing the time spent on social media does not make people more depressed and reducing the use of social media doesn’t reduce depression either. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t an ugly side to social media. Another study published in 2017 noted higher chances of having increased levels of depression and anxiety symptoms if you used more social media platforms (7-11) compared to people who used fewer platforms (zero to two). But it is within our power to decide what kind of experience we want to have on social media. The intention, the way it is used, can make all the difference. So here are some unhealthy social media habits to quit today:
1. Following toxic accounts
The first thing you do when you create a social media account is to follow different accounts. This decision is an important one - who you follow affects what kind of content you end up consuming. Following accounts that post things you may perceive as negative will increase the chances of you having a negative experience on social media. It doesn’t matter if everyone follows the account or if their feed is aesthetically pleasing. If anything about them bothers your mental health, hit unfollow.
2. Changing yourself for likes
Have you ever decided where to eat based on what would look nice on your social media? Or bought an outfit just to share it on your profile? Overextended yourself at the gym for a video? Trust us, likes won’t matter when you get the stomach flu because of the food you eat, empty out your bank account or get a serious injury. No, this isn’t a far-fetched idea - people have lost their lives doing things for social media.
3. Competing with other accounts
Having the right intention is essential for a healthy relationship with social media. We deal with enough competition in our real lives already - do we really need more of it in the online world? It doesn’t matter if someone gets more like or followers than you do. There are a lot of algorithms at play when it comes to social media apps. Your numbers aren’t a reflection of you as a person. Don’t ever let it bring you down!
4. Keeping all notifications on
The phone pings and you look its way. It’s an automatic reaction - it could be an urgent message or a work email that’s time-sensitive. But when you’re active on many social media apps, the number of notifications you receive in a day goes up by a lot. Not only does this feed our smartphone addictions but it also causes a lot of distractions. These distractions can cause harm if, say, you get a notification while you’re driving. It’s best to turn off push notifications for social media apps and only check them during a particular time of the day you’ve designated for social media.
5. Comparing your life to others’
Most people on social media only share their best, happiest moments online. Ones they look perfect in and ones that show them in the best light. They don’t share their mistakes or bad habits. They don’t share failures or sick days. But they do have those, everyone does. And it’s an unfair comparison if you don’t have the full picture, isn’t it? Following someone on social media doesn’t mean you know what their life is like.
6. Entertaining bullies
Just like in real life, there will always be someone who doesn’t like you on social media. And that’s absolutely alright. Don’t give negative comments the time of day - and if they’re crossing the line, make sure you report their profiles. They could be doing the same thing to many other people who may not be able to deal with it as well as you probably can.
7. Prioritising your virtual life
Don’t get so lost in the virtual world that you neglect yourself and your loved ones. There is a time and place for being active on social media and it’s not during a meeting or when you’re having dinner. This could cost you your health, career and even your relationships. And keep in mind, social media apps can be discontinued just as quickly as they're introduced. You shouldn't depend on them more than you do on real people.
8. Being a passive user
A study published in Computers in Human Behaviour in 2019 suggests having an active approach instead of a passive one on social media. What this means is that instead of scrolling mindlessly and indefinitely, you should interact with posts by liking, sharing and commenting on them as this could help you have a better experience online. Also, avoid looking up your ex-partners on social media - they're not a part of your life anymore for a reason.
For more information, read our article on Mental Illness: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatment.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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