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Recognising when social media is affecting our wellness

The inception of the first social networking platform, Six Degrees, feels like history from a time long forgotten. These days, we live in an era where social media has been seamlessly integrated into our daily lives, fundamentally altering how we experience the world around us.

 

While social media has brought about many conveniences and opportunities for its users, it comes with its fair share of dangers as well while impacting our overall wellness.. Hence, as people living in an increasingly digitalised world, it is essential we recognise how our digital habits can have a huge impact on our lives, and may even undermine our overall well-being.

 

The dangers of social media

 

The effects of social media on our psyche has long since been questioned, with increasing evidence suggesting heavy social media usage is linked to an increased risk of depressive symptoms and a decrease in contentment (Robinson & Smith, 2023). 

 

One reason could be due to social media facilitating upward social comparison. Due to being presented with idealised versions of the people around us and their lives, it can leads us to view ourselves more negatively in comparison to these facades of perfection, which could result in negative psychological outcomes such as depression and low self-esteem (Samra et al., 2022).

 

Another reason for the negative impact of the rise of social media is the uptick of people getting addicted to it, which leads to harmful consequences ranging from negative impacts to mental health, to an increase in unhealthy lifestyle practices and also detrimental effects on one’s real-life relationships (Pellegrino et al., 2022). 

 

Beyond these overt harms, it has been associated with decreased use of mindfulness and emotion-focused coping strategies to deal with stress and life crises, which by extension results in increased emotional exhaustion (Sriwilai & Charoensukmongkol, 2016). Other consequences to our physical health include eye strain and sleep disturbance (Masthi et al., 2018). 

 

Sounds scary? Thankfully, there are ways to recognise when social media is negatively affecting us, which is the first step to mitigating these harmful consequences.

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How can we recognise when social media is affecting our wellness?

 

As a general rule of thumb, feeling as though online platforms cause us more distress than happiness is reason enough to take a step back prioritising mental well being. 

 

When feelings of inadequacy emerge, it’s important to take a moment to think about what might be causing this - could it be the excessive exposure to the “perfect” lives splashed all over social media?

 

For those who feel as though our personal lives have been compromised due to the tendency to use social media as a means of escapism, this could point to possible addiction (Al Ubaidi, 2018). 

 

Finally, it’s important to understand ourselves as well. People who find themselves dependent on social media tend to be driven by the desire for instant gratification or for a boost in their social standing (Al Ubaidi, 2018). In other words, those of us who start to rely on social media to boost our self-esteem could be extra cautious not to fall into this trap.

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How can we mitigate these effects of social media?

 

Once we’ve identified how social media is affecting us, what can we do about it? Here are some tips!

 

1. Curating social media feed

 

First of all, we can take control of the content we consume by mindfully and selectively curating who we follow. To counter the feelings of inadequacy that typically accompany excessive social media usage, we can actively choose to follow accounts that feature informative and uplifting content, for instance, educational pages, motivational speakers or artists (Samari et al., 2022).

 

By consciously selecting content that adds value to our lives, while also removing those which affect us negatively,  we can shape the social media experience in a way that enhances well-being.

 

2. Setting time limits and breaks

 

Limiting our exposure to social media can have a positive effect on our lives. Some ways to do this could be:

  • Setting daily time limits for online activity  

  • Allocating designated time slots for checking social media, and avoiding mindless scrolling for extended periods

  • Take regular breaks from social media over the day (we can even fill these pockets of time with activities that promote mindfulness, such as reading and exercising)

 

3. Designating “digital detox” days

“Digital detox” days are days specially set aside for us to disconnect from social media and digital devices. This allows for us to recalibrate our relationship with technology and reduce the stress and anxiety that may arise from constant connectivity. Furthermore, it facilitates greater nurturing of relationships and hobbies offline without constant distractions.

 

While this may sound difficult, one way to do this could be beginning with a day per week and increasing as per one’s comfort level.

 

Do look out for our next article on this Digital Wellness! While waiting, let’s take this chance to examine our browsing habits and think about how we can achieve greater digital and overall wellness together with Total Wellness Initiative Singapore. 

References

L. Robinson, M. Smith (2023), Social Media and Mental Health. Source - https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm

Oluwafemi J. Sunday, Olusola O. Adesope, Patricia L. Maarhuis, The effects of smartphone addiction on learning: A meta-analysis, 2014. Source - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chbr.2021.100114

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