How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

December 2023

For many people, social media is part of their daily lives. It helps them connect with people inside and outside their social circle, which can have positive effects on mental health.

But research finds that, for some people, social media can negatively affect their mental health — and may lead to or worsen anxiety or depression. It can also affect your physical health. A survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 80% of people admitted losing sleep because of viewing or participating in social media.

If you find your social media usage is affecting your mental and physical health, these tips from the American Psychiatric Association, The Jed Foundation, and other experts may help:

  • Track your social media usage. Most people have no idea how long they spend on social media. It’s easy to lose track of time watching TikTok videos or chatting back and forth on Facebook and other platforms. It’s time to take control. Most smartphone settings allow you to track and set usage limits on social media platforms. You can also download an app, such as RescueTime or Freedom, to track and manage your screen time.
  • Plan when you’ll use social media. Instead of checking social media at random times, set aside specific times — with a time limit — to use social media. Set a timer so you know when to stop.
  • Set up “no phone” zones. To make time for in-person connections, create tech-free zones and times, such as no phones at the dinner table.
  • Turn off push notifications. Rings and dings from online apps may tempt you to check social media too often, causing you to feel unfocused or scattered. Turning these notifications off can help reduce distractions and interruptions.
  • Schedule a digital detox. Set aside one day or more each week to go without social media.
  • Limit the number of apps you use. Instead of trying to keep up with too many online platforms and groups, choose a few that matter to you and that make you feel good about yourself. Delete the rest.
  • Screen your social media circle. If you notice yourself getting angry, anxious, or depressed with conversations on certain platforms or with certain people or groups, delete or block them.
  • Disconnect before bed. To get a better night’s sleep, the AASM recommends turning off electronic devices at least 30 to 60 minutes before bed.
  • Keep electronic devices out of your bedroom. Leave them in another room to charge to help remove the temptation to check social media. If you use the alarm function on your smartphone to wake up, switch to a traditional alarm clock instead. If you want to keep your smartphone in your bedroom, at least turn off push notifications to reduce the urge to check and respond.
  • Remember that social media isn’t always “real.” For some people, what they see on social media can trigger envy or fear of missing out (FOMO). It’s important to remember that social media posts aren’t always what they seem. People can photoshop images, making themselves look better. Or they can curate their content — only sharing happy or fun stuff and leaving out their own struggles.

When to get help?

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a mental health professional who can help you manage your anxiety and depression.

If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call or text 988 right away.

This new, nationwide, three-digit dialing code will connect you to trained mental health counselors at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It’s now known as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the previous Lifeline phone number at 1-800-273-8255.

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