How to make social media a positive force in your life

The social networking dos and don'ts for improving your mental wellbeing

You shouldn't have to choose between social media and mental wellness.
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Social media can be a useful tool for keeping in contact with your family, completing schoolwork, and staying on top of the latest news. But if you overdo or misuse it, social networking sites can also have serious ramifications on your mental health.

While it’s easy to believe that deleting your accounts will solve all of your problems, for a lot of students this isn’t possible—or even a smart idea. Giving up social media for good shouldn’t be the answer to preserving your wellbeing. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be.

In an effort to help students use social media to their advantage, we’ve compiled five tips for making the most of your screen time, or lack thereof.

Don’t check your feed first thing in the morning

One horrible habit to kick is tuning into social media first thing in the morning.

When you’re lying in bed struggling to wake up, it’s tempting to open Instagram after shutting off your morning alarm. But checking these apps right away is not the kind of wakeup call you need.

Nobody wants to see posts about the climate crisis or news about the upcoming election first thing in the morning. These posts can make you anxious or stressed, and feeling either way is no way to start your day.

If Twitter has you fearing for the state of humanity, or peers’ party posts from the night before make you feel insecure, you’ll begin your morning on the wrong side of the bed.

To start your day with a healthier mindset, save social media apps for when your mind is fully awake and you’re able to properly process what you’re seeing.

Bonus: If you employ this tip, you’ll not only start your day in a better mood, you’ll be able to get it started quicker by wasting less time lying around in bed on your phone.

Do spread positivity

The anonymity and convenience of social media has made it easier than ever to spread hate.

Instead of hiding behind your screen and criticizing others (or taking criticism yourself), spread love and self-love. This can mean sharing someone’s positive post on Facebook, pumping someone up over their latest Instagram, or retweeting something you found funny or insightful.

By spreading positivity online, you can cause ripples in your social circle and inspire others to do the same. As much as doing something nice will make you feel good, it can make the recipient of your kindness feel even better. They might even be inspired to spread some of their own love in return. 

Do curate your feed

Social media apps use algorithms to determine what users’ interests are and to better predict what kind of content you want to see. The algorithms rely on data collected on each user’s habits. That means if you only like or comment on posts that make you angry, don’t be surprised to find those are the kind of things that start showing up more.

To curate your feed and make sure you’re only seeing what you want see, like, comment, save, and share posts that you genuinely enjoy or are interested in. If you love interior design, only react to those posts. If you hate seeing updates from your old high school buddies, don’t bother forcing those connections—don’t react to the posts.

Do mute, unfollow, or block

Although social media is great for staying connected to friends, family, and people from your past, ultimately these platforms are your space.

When you bring these sites with you everywhere—to school, your workspaces, and home—you’re always turned on, and ready to entertain and be there for others. This can sometimes be a source of stress.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, be vigilant about who gets to bother you when you’re at home or busy working. This might mean muting someone who’s posts annoy you, or unfollowing an old friend you’ve lost touch with. In extreme cases, you might even have to block a bitch.

When your mental health is on the line, drastic measures must be taken. If you follow someone whose posts or interactions with you, over social media or in person, are consistently negative, rude, or hateful, there’s no need for pleasantries or curtesy follows. Block them.

Keep your space positive and serving your best interests.

Don’t just take a break, delete the app

Social media can feel all-consuming because the sites are accessible to us 24/7 via our phones.

We look at these apps when walking to class, while getting out of bed, and even while we’re in the washroom. These apps make it so we always have stimulation, and this doesn’t give our brain a break. Constant stimuli and sensory overload can make us feel like we’re always busy. 

While some people prefer to implement cold-turkey social media cleanses to refresh their minds from feelings of constant distraction, another option is to simply delete the apps on your phone.

When you want to check out your social media, log on via your computer. Typing the URL in your search bar and entering your username and password doesn’t take that long, but the added few steps are enough to make you reconsider logging on in the first place.  

If you feel like logging on is worth taking the extra steps, then the change in the site’s appearance, from handheld device to webpage, might be enough to deter you from scrolling too long.

By removing the apps from your phone, the passive choice to use them is turned into an active one.

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While these five tips won’t make every experience on social media a perfect one, they will help to make them more positive and productive. Keeping your social spaces positive, both in your real and digital life, will make for a more enjoyable experience for everybody involved.

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