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Mental Health

Happy Media: Cultivating a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

With social media now such a normalized part of everyday life, most of us have probably felt both the positive and negative effects of its presence.

Maybe you’ve experienced connection, found new ideas, made new friends, kept in touch with causes that mattered to you, learned new things, or found inspiration. Maybe you’ve also felt left out, compared your life, body, or experiences with someone else’s, felt inadequate, introduced or increased anxiety into your day, or wasted your time.

Hands up if you’ve maybe experienced ALL of these effects.

Yeah. I know I have.

Grappling with how to use social media in a healthy way is relevant and real. When I found myself struggling to establish boundaries, specifically with Instagram, I decided to take a break and deactivate my account for several weeks. This was a good reset, but when I came back to it, I didn’t exactly have guidelines in place for how to use it again—this time in a healthy way.

Sure, I thought about deleting my account altogether. But a trusted friend challenged me to see if I might be able to approach it from a place of self-care. I decided to try it, and here’s what helped me find balance:

  1. Notifications off. Pretty straightforward, right? You probably don’t need those constant interruptions. Instead, try engaging on your own time.
  2. Hit “mute.” If certain stories or posts are a trigger for you, but you prefer not to unfollow, you can click the three little dots on a friend’s profile to mute their activity (stories and/or posts). You can “unmute” anytime.
  3. Follow hashtags. This helps you stay relevant on topics, places, or issues that really interest you as opposed to absorbing general updates in the feed.
  4. Post for you! Enough said.
  5. Know your intentions. Before you open the app, ask yourself what you’re looking for. Maybe you’re standing in line somewhere and just feel like checking in. That’s cool. Just make sure you aren’t going into it with an unhealthy intention.
  6. Check in with yourself. If you’re feeling vulnerable, you might be more prone to compare your experience to the Insta highlight reel. For me, it can be harder to resist those thoughts when I’m having a rough day. If that’s the case, it might be helpful to give yourself space instead.
  7. Monitor your time. Avoid the endless scroll. Be thoughtful about how much time you want to invest, or set screen-time limits on your phone (if that’s your thing).
  8. Commit to being present. When you’re with people (you know, IRL), try putting your phone away instead of leaving it in front of you. Out of sight, out of mind, yeah? To me, nothing replaces that quality in-person time—and I don’t want to miss it.
  9. Talk about it! (Offline, too) If any of this resonates with you, know you aren’t the only one. Opening up with a friend about establishing good social media habits can be both helpful and affirming, as well as provide some accountability, if you’re looking for it.
  10. It’s okay to opt out. Or take a break. Remember, it’s your space and you can use it (or not) in whatever way honors your experience best. Be gentle with yourself in the process of pursuing your own happy medium, whatever form it takes. ♦♦♦

Like this post? View similar content here: Dear World, Is Social Media Ruining Us?

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by Emily Patterson

Emily Patterson is a writer and editor in Columbus, Ohio. She studied English and Music at Ohio Wesleyan University, where she graduated summa cum laude and received the F.L. Hunt Prize for most promising student in creative writing. Emily is currently pursuing an M.A. in Literature for Children and Young Adults at The Ohio State University. Emily's poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in Spry Literary Journal, catheXis Northwest Press, and Harness Magazine. Her most recent publication in Harness is the poem, "Still Life of Girl, Awake," featured in Issue III, Poetry & Motherhood. Emily is currently writing her first chapbook of poems and a novel-in-verse for middle readers. She works as an editor for an educational publisher located in Columbus.

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