Healthy Ways to Use Social Media

January 28, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Ashley Crumby, M.D. contributes to topics such as Psychiatry.

Have a love–hate relationship with social media? You’re not alone. On one hand, it’s nice to stay connected to friends and family members. But social media is also a breeding ground to trigger our deepest issues. It can make you feel insecure when you compare yourself to what others portray of their lives online. One friend travels the world on a regular basis, but you can’t afford that lifestyle. Another lost a ton of weight and looks great, but you’re struggling to fit into your favorite pair of jeans. Sometimes it’s just the constant chatter or strong opinions that is enough to put you on edge.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that research has proven that social media can have ill effects on our mental health, but we’re here to help you find healthy ways to use it and protect your sanity. Ashley Crumby, M.D., a psychiatrist at Hackensack University Medical Center, shares a few tips for using social media in healthy ways.

LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA—AND SCREEN—TIME
Recommendation: Spend 1 hour or less per day online.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently unveiled a study that showed a “clear causal link” between using social media and experiencing depression and loneliness. In 2017, a psychology professor at San Diego State University found that students who used electronic devices more often than those who did not were less satisfied with their lives. In fact, those who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely to have a suicide risk factor including depression compared to those who only went online less than one hour a day.

By giving yourself a cut-off time, you can reduce exposure to potentially upsetting information. Plus, you’ll have time to participate in more positive activities that boost happiness.

If you’re a parent, keep in mind that you model how your child will use social media. “It’s very important if there are children in the home that parents have good habits and show their children how to engage with and on social media,” Crumby said.

SKIP NEWS
Recommendation: Find a favorite source, dedicate time to catching up.

“Following news outlets may keep you in the know, but it also can keep negative headlines front and center,” Crumby said.

You may want to consider reducing the amount of news outlets you follow on social media, and instead check a news site or watch your favorite reporters on TV during a dedicated time.

USE FILTERS
Recommendation: Customize your newsfeed so it works best for you.

Many social media platforms have filters, plus there are other programs that enable you to exclude content you don’t want to see. Consider using the Facebook feature that lets you stay friends with someone but “mute” their posts so you don’t see them. It can go a long way to keeping negativity out of your feed and let you continue browsing content you want to see.

IGNORE THE COMMENTS
Recommendation: Scroll through quickly, don’t spend a ton of time digging in.

Like browsing your social media feed but get ticked off listening to everyone’s personal thoughts? You may have to set a boundary with yourself to ignore comments on posts. That way, you will know what’s going on but don’t have to feel irritated when someone’s personal opinion irks you.

DETOX
Recommendation: Every once in a while, cut it off completely and take note if it has positive effects on your health.

When social media gets to be a drag—and causes you to experience anxiety, depression or other uncomfortable feelings—it may be time to detox.

“It can be hard for people to stop using social media cold turkey, but taking a digital detox may be just what you need,” Crumby said. “Cut down or stop using it all together and set a time limit for yourself so you know the ban isn’t permanent. At the end of your detox, take notice of how you are feeling to see if it was beneficial. Then determine if you should extend the detox, return to social media or cut it out altogether.”

You may want to detox during meals, for example. That can be a nice way to get a break from electronics and connect with other family members if you eat together.

However you approach using social media, and whatever kind of impact it has on you, most people know that they have to set some sort of boundaries with themselves.

“Even if social media isn’t having a negative effect on your mental health, all the screen time takes away from connecting with others and completing everyday tasks. Knowing how to balance social media usage with real life is a very important skill that many adults are only just learning,” Crumby added.

Ashley Crumby, M.D., is a psychiatrist at Hackensack University Medical Center and practices in Maywood, NJ. To make an appointment, call 551-996-4450. To learn more about the behavioral health services offered at Hackensack Meridian Health, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org/BehavioralHealth.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

Sources
Preventative Medicine Reports
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology