Social media, like most things in life, isn’t necessarily all bad or all good. There’s no doubt that social networking sites – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and others – can have a negative impact on mental health, but is there a flip side to that coin?
Most experts believe yes, there is. And the good news is, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as…well, you know, so many other things in life.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to time spent on social media is that we curate our own experience and we can definitely take measures to protect and promote good mental health.
6 Ways to Have a Positive Social Media Experience
There are a variety of social media platforms to choose from, and everyone uses them to suit their own tastes and needs.
Here are 6 easy ways to use social media in a positive way to improve mental health:
1. Follow Your Interests
Follow your interests rather than compare and contrast your life with other users.
A recent study ranked “lifestyle” sites like Instagram the worst for people’s mental health, especially young people.
One useful way to use a site like Instagram is to follow users who share your creative activities or hobbies, such as other writers, photographers, hikers or any number of other things that spark curiosity rather than jealousy.
A site like Ravelry, home to more than 8 million of the world’s knitters, is a thriving online community where people share their interests and learn or improve upon their skills.
Find a social media site, or an appropriate group within any of the networking sites, that shares your goals and passions. This can be a powerful motivator and a healthy experience.
2. Connect With Important Causes or Charities
Follow and engage with causes or charities on social media that are important to you.
Social media is a great tool for organizing and learning about opportunities to give back on a local level. There are so many worthy organizations to follow, across all of the major social media platforms, that it’s an easy search to find what matters most to you.
Donating time to charities is not only good for our mental wellbeing, it also expands are relationships to people in the real world, outside of our computer screen.
One simple way to keep informed about issues is to set alerts for organizations you’re interested in. That way, any time the organization posts an upcoming event or meet-up to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other site, you are aware ahead of time and can plan and reply instantly.
3. Keep in Touch With Friends and Relatives
People going through tough times often need the help of those who are near and dear to get them through the rough patch. Unfortunately, those who are dear, might not be so near.
Social media is a beautiful thing when it comes to staying in touch with the comfort of family and friends, even if they may be a world away.
Even though there’s no shortage of social media peeps to engage with online, sometimes only a trusted friend knows the right things to say that will pull us out of a rut. Take advantage of the tools available and lean on those loved ones to keep things in perspective.
4. Connect With Others Anonymously
Anonymity may be overrated, but for those who are stigmatized by mental health issues like anxiety or panic attacks, engaging with others in an anonymous fashion can provide a comfortable buffer for them to still have a social life of sorts.
Human interaction is necessary for the soul to thrive, even if it isn’t in face-to face situations. We all have a personal need to hear, and be heard by others, regardless of whether we know the people we’re communicating with or not.
Making a connection with others is often times more important than the identity of those who we have a connection with, and doing it anonymously can have a huge impact when the stigma of doing so is removed from the equation.
5. Use Social Media as a Resource Tool
The internet is a treasure trove of medical information for anyone looking to diagnose their latest illness. It’s too bad much of it is inaccurate or off the mark.
That’s not to say that it’s all bad, and social media can still be an invaluable tool for finding information about mental health or addiction recovery resources. Many people in the recovery industry have shown to be quite helpful for those in need, either to provide a compassionate voice or, to steer others in the right direction.
There are literally hundreds of online support groups made up of caring and compassionate people also in recovery who have made it through their own low points to thrive in a happy and health life again.
Most of them are extremely open about sharing their stories of inspiration and the resources that helped them recover. Be sure to follow people who inspire you and share resources that are valuable to you.
6. You Can Always Start Over
Don’t be afraid to start over! It’s all too easy to get caught up in the “rage machine” that social media can be for some users.
In fact, anyone can get sucked into online negativity and find that it leaves them feeling worse, maybe even deepening their feelings of depression.
One of the unique aspects of social media is the ability to un-follow or mute users that spread unhelpful and unhealthy pessimism.
Sometimes, simply not engaging does the trick, but it’s also acceptable to delete old accounts and create new ones that cater to a happier and healthier attitude or lifestyle.
If you’re worried about losing quality followers, make sure to re-friend the important ones or inform them of your new account.
The amount of “follows” and “likes” we get on social media is less important than the quality of the time spent on these platforms. Engaging with others online should be a positive experience, as much as possible.
Protect your mental health by curating a positive social media atmosphere. A more inclusive and understanding group of users has the ability to discuss meaningful and personal topics and help support one another.