Social media — we love it, we hate it, but can we have too much of it? Many of us likely saw our screen time increase throughout the pandemic, particularly when social media seemed to be the only way to maintain connection with others. Schools and restaurants have been closed, and we have had to limit face-to-face visits with friends, leaving us with just our devices at hand. We engage with Instagram memes, post dance choreography to TikTok, stay updated with current events through Twitter and scroll through Facebook.
Social media can be an excellent way to source information, keep in touch with loved ones and share content we find meaningful. However, social media can also lead to comparison traps, mindless scrolling and seeking validation through likes and comments. The assumption that all social media is either good or bad for our mental health would be an unfair judgment. It is important to recognize how we use online platforms and how they might impact our mental health.
Pandemic Made Me
Throughout the pandemic, there has been a general increase in technology use. According to a Canadian Internet Use Survey conducted from November 2020 to March 2021, 75 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older have engaged in increased internet activities since the beginning of the pandemic (Bilodeau, Kehler, & Minnema, 2021). Being at home on our phones has often led to mindless scrolling. The COVID-era has resulted in distressing events worldwide, and platforms that might have been used as a break from reality are now leading to feelings of anxiety and loss of control.
Likes = Validation
Seeking validation through likes, followers and comments on social media can impact our mental health if we build our self-worth around the engagement. As humans, we tend to feel reinforced, acknowledged and seen through external validation, which is not wrong. However, viewing social media as a tool for validation can impact our sense of self and mood. We should ask ourselves why we post what we do. Positive affirmations from within keep us from hyper-focusing on likes under a photo and is more sustainable than focusing on external factors.
The impacts of social media on mental health have been present well before the start of the global pandemic. How many of us have sat on our couch while mindlessly scrolling? It is important to be aware that we are always absorbing what we see on social media. Even during mindless scrolling, we are acknowledging that “Susan got engaged,” “Jack got promoted at work,” or “Talia is on such a sweet trip in Italy.” When engaging on social media, we might fall into comparison traps. This can lead us to believe our day-to-day is bland. You will see someone’s life and compare how it matches up to your own. Comparison traps can leave us with feelings of sadness, discouragement or overwhelming thoughts. Remember: Social media gives us a small piece of the whole picture.
Using Social Media: Tips & Tricks
There are ways to determine how social media impacts us. This mindfulness can allow social media to have a more positive impact on our lives.
- Schedule social media time
- Try scheduling specific times in the day for social media use. This can help create a healthier life balance and can allow you to focus on other priorities.
- Scroll with purpose
- Consider asking yourself a few questions: “Why did I open my app?” and “For how long do I want to be on the app?” Once you feel the purpose of engaging over social media has been achieved, make a conscious effort to close your app.
- Set boundaries
- You may realize that a specific app increases anxiety or certain accounts you follow may not be healthy for your mental health. Establish boundaries. Consider unfollowing accounts and stay off social media if you recognize you might be feeling low.
- Mental health check-in
- Checking in on your mental health will help you identify which strategies to implement when using social media. Be aware of your emotions before, during and after using social media to help guide your decisions.
- Have fun!
- Here is your friendly reminder that social media is what we make it. With the right intentions and a healthy mindset, engaging on social media can be a fun and positive experience.
- Schedule social media time
If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please call 211 (in Alberta) or your local distress line.