With everything on social media available at our fingertips, it is difficult to imagine a world without it – apps like Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram and Twitter have become a huge part of our lives.
Social media offers us lots of new ways to connect, however; you may find that sometimes you see things on social media that make you feel angry, worried, sad or stressed. If left unaddressed, these feelings can build up and begin to negatively impact your mood in everyday life. According to recent research by NHS Digital, 17% of 11-16 year olds said the number of likes, shares and comments they got on social media affected their mood.*
If you ever feel like you’re unable to switch off, or find it difficult to cope with the negativity you can find on social media, you’re not alone. We all struggle to keep our virtual spaces positive sometimes. Here, we’re explaining some of the ways you can manage your social media use, so that you can begin to create social media habits that better protect your wellbeing. Let’s make a start:
Think carefully before you post
It can be tempting to take to social media in the heat of the moment, however; it’s important to carefully think about your content before you put it up for others to see. This is because, in the digital world, it is much more difficult to take back your words. People will see what you post and with the ability to screenshot and share content, simple deleting a poster later on may not be enough to remove it if you later regret what you shared.
Keep your corner of the internet positive
You can help keep your relationship with social media positive by posting positive content and avoiding trolls and disrespectful online debates. Think about whether the content you wish to share – whether it be an article, post or video – is helpful or harmful to others.
Be selective about what’s on your social feed
In the same way that you want to keep your own feed positive, it’s important to be selective about who you follow, so that you’re not being exposed to content that makes you feel bad. If someone’s posts consistently make you feel bad about yourself or make you feel angry and frustrated, don’t hesitate to unfriend or unfollow that person.
Check your sources
In a space where anyone can publish anything, it can be harder to find reputable sources of news and information. According to research by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 70% of UK participants were concerned about what is real or fake on the internet, with 15% saying they have been exposed to completely made up news.* So, it’s important to be conscious of what you’re sharing and make sure any news you post to your friends or followers is accurate.
Look to other people’s posts for inspiration rather than comparison
Social media is a place where many people publically celebrate their successes and capture the very best moments of their lives for the world to see. When all you see is the happy, fun and exciting highlights of someone’s life, it can make your own daily life seem worse by comparison and feed into feelings of inadequacy, isolation or Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these snippets aren’t representative of someone’s full life, and the person posting them has problems and struggles like everyone else. So, rather than directly comparing your life to someone’s sparkly social media feed, looking to these posts as inspiration to work towards your own goals could be a healthier way to view posts on social media.
Schedule time to use social media and times to step away
How much time we spend on social media, and the time we choose to use social media, can have a big influence on our mood and sleep. Researchers found that teenagers who use social media during the night could be harming their sleep quality and increasing their risk of anxiety and depression.*
As with most things, balance is key to developing a healthy relationship with social media. If you find you spend way too much time aimlessly scrolling through Tiktok or Instagram, try designating a specific time of day to look at your feed and times where you switch off and ignore notifications, and stick to it. Doing this is particularly important when you’re spending quality time with those around you, or before you go to sleep.
Have a purpose to your social media use
We’ve all found ourselves watching video after video on social media with no clear purpose. It can be helpful to approach your social media with a clear purpose, to avoid procrastinating. This could be, for example, to check the date of a birthday, to connect with friends or to get a news update. By being thoughtful about why you’re logging into a site and making a point to sign off when you’re finished, you’re using social media in the way you want to, without allowing what other people are doing online to take over your day.
Take apps off of your phone and remove notifications to avoid over use
If you have a difficult time staying away from social media, don’t give yourself easy access to it. By removing the apps from your phone, you will avoid checking your social media whenever you feel the urge and instead only check these sites when you really need to. This will also help you be more present in daily life, rather than looking to your social media at any spare moment. More than this, if notifications popping up throughout the day makes it harder for you to stay away, then it’s worth deleting the apps from your phone or disabling push notifications, so you only see alerts when you sign in manually.
Further mental health support at The College of Animal Welfare
If you’re a student or staff member with us, and you’re struggling with your mental health, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your teacher, head of course or line manager – they are there to help and support you. We also offer lots of additional mental health support that you can access free of charge. To find out more visit www.caw.ac.uk/wellbeing