Tips To Keep Social Media Use Healthy

Recognise this?: You’re all tucked up in bed, ready to drift off to sleep, when you see the light of your phone flashing away in the darkness. Instead of ignoring it and getting some shut eye, you pick it up to check your notifications, and end up scrolling through without realising those precious minutes of rest and relaxation are slipping through your fingers.

While social media is a great way to connect with different people, the scenario we’ve just described is all too common. We can be so taken by the short-term rewards and validation we get from our favourite digital platforms that we often find ourselves getting into bad habits. And according to SmartInsights, the average daily usage is two hours and 27 minutes.

If you’re concerned about how much time you’re spending connecting online – or how the experience is affecting your mental health and concentration – here are some tips for healthier use.

Don’t sleep with your phone in your room

The easiest way to escape the familiar scenes above is to ban your phone from the bedroom altogether. Buy yourself a decent alarm clock, perhaps one that wakes you up gently with natural light or plays relaxing music to bring you out of your sleep, and charge your mobile somewhere else. If this isn’t possible, charge your phone as far away from your reach in bed as you can, and flip it over or put it in a box. That way, you’re not disturbed by any flashing, and may find yourself less motivated to get out of bed and walk over to it if you do see any notifications going off.

Give yourself a time limit

Building good habits is all about the little actions you take consistently over time. Instead of repeatedly going online, set yourself a time limit to have a scroll and check your messages. Perhaps you can do it at the same time every day, or similar times twice a day, for 15 minutes each. Another good idea is to remove social media apps from your phone, so you have to intentionally log on via a laptop or other digital device. Putting an extra step between you and your timeline could be all you need.

Switch your notifications off

If you do want to keep apps on your phone, turn your notifications off so you aren’t responding to every single interaction as they come in. Instead, factor looking at your notifications into the time frame you’ve outlined for your social media use. Some phones offer digital wellbeing options to block out notifications from chosen apps when you’re working or winding down. Also, for ‘likes’ on Instagram, see if you can hide your count. That way there is more freedom to be yourself without being glued to your engagement figures.

Follow people who truly inspire you

Social media can be a real force for good, and a gateway to so many inspiring artists, writers, activists and cute animal profiles. Our advice? Mary Kondo your timeline. If a profile doesn’t spark joy, or it constantly gives you bad feelings, unfollow them. If it’s a person you know, but don’t want friction with, most social media platforms allow you to hide or mute them without them having any idea you’ve done so. Instead, find people who post things that lift you up and give you good vibes. The more you interact with positive content, the more you‘ll end up being shown.

Spend time with your friends IRL

We know, we know, it’s obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people blur the lines between digital connection and physical, in-person relationships. And it’s crucial that we spend time socialising with our friends in real life. Too busy or far away? Pick up the phone and give them a call instead, or schedule some time for a video chat. Use social media as a secondary tool to connect, rather than the main mode of communication.

Go cold turkey and take a break

This requires a little introspection and a dose of self-awareness, but if you do notice that social media is bringing you down, preventing you from concentrating on things that matter, or overwhelming you, take a break and come off of it for a while. Many people disable their accounts for a short time, delete apps, and ask friends to contact them by phone or in person instead. If you want to work out whether it’s making a difference to your mood and general wellness, keep a diary and log how you feel. You might find out you’re better off without it.