11 Practices for Mindful and Healthy Social Media Use
Welcome to the exciting, often chaotic, sometimes envy-inducing, yet oddly addictive world of social media.
You know, it’s where you’re always late for a very important date – catching up on the latest super life-changing trends, TikToks, tweets, and events, you can always influence (not).
Sometimes you may feel too small in the vast expanses of the internet or perhaps too large when the pressures of keeping up with the online Kardashians seem overwhelming.
So all this feels like scrolling down an infinite newsfeed, doesn’t it?
That’s why I wrote this article in which I discuss…
- Nine science-based stats about the impact of social media
- The pros and cons of social media
- 11 practices for mindful and healthy social media use
Ready to change your social media game and learn about a healthier approach? Let’s dive in…
9 Science-Based Stats About the Impact of Social Media
Social media’s profound impact on our lives is no longer a matter of conjecture.
A growing body of scientific research, with several notable findings, explores its influence. Let’s dive into some of these:
Impact on Mental Health: In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2017, researchers found a strong association between increased social media use and decreased well-being or happiness.
However, in the same source, it is stated that other studies slightly conflict with these results.
Effect on Sleep, Anxiety, and Depression: According to a study on Mayo Clinic’s website, teens who use social media at night and are emotionally invested in it likely get worse sleep quality and feel higher levels of anxiety and depression.
A similar link between social media usage and social anxiety was found in a study done with medical students.
Regarding depression, a 2015 University of Missouri study found that “regular Facebook users were more likely to develop depression if they felt feelings of envy on the networking site.”
Influence on Body Image: A study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found a link between the frequency one compares the body appearance to the person followed on social media and body dissatisfaction.
Role in Spreading Misinformation: According to a study published on the Science website, false information on social media (especially on Twitter) spreads nearly ten times faster than true information, primarily due to its novelty and the emotional reactions it incites.
Impact on Productivity: A study from the University of California, Irvine, revealed that it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus on a task after an interruption, such as a social media notification.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): According to this study, you could equal social media usage to the amount of FOMO you perceive.
So people who had more FOMO also used social media in a more problematic way. This effect was independent of age and gender.
Cyberbullying: According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 59% of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online, indicating a significant negative aspect of social media usage among younger demographics.
The Illusion of Social Resources: This study found that those who spent the most time on social media were more likely to report perceived social isolation, indicating that digital interactions might not replace the benefits of real-life social interactions.
Phantom Ringing Syndrome: Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology reported on “phantom ringing syndrome” or “ringxiety,” where users think their phone is ringing or vibrating when it isn’t.
According to this source, this phenomenon can be attributed to heightened anxiety and stress linked to high mobile phone use.
The Pros and Cons of Social Media
|Connects us with people across the globe||Mental health impacts|
|A powerful platform for learning and raising awareness about important issues.||Cyberbullying and harassment|
|Community building||Misinformation and fake news|
|Provides an outlet for self-expression and creativity.||Privacy concerns|
|Powerful tools for businesses: They can be used for networking, recruiting, marketing, customer engagement, and more.||Distraction and productivity loss|
|Physical health impacts|
Since I am biased (my hate-love relationship with social media is no secret), I identified slightly more cons.
I really tried hard to find more positives, and I had to hold off on writing instead of an “outlet of self-expression,” an “outlet of narcissistic behavior.”
And you may want to consider that not each pro and con has the same weight. This depends on your preferences.
However, I would still prefer to use social media mindfully and healthily before getting sleep problems, higher stress and anxiety levels, gaining weight (in fat, nothing against muscles), and other metabolic issues because of the former.
So what can you do? Let’s discuss 15 practices for mindful and healthy social media use in the next section to reduce the weight of the cons.
11 Practices for Mindful and Healthy Social Media Use
Let’s use a garden metaphor to discuss the 15 mindful and healthy social media use practices.
So, suppose your mind is a garden.
Every piece of information you consume is like a seed you’re planting.
To grow a healthy “mind garden,” you must be intentional about the seeds you’re sowing.
Are you planting vibrant flowers or invasive weeds?
Your “mind-garden” depends on the quality of your seeds – or in this case, the content you’re consuming.
This brings us to the concept of mindful and healthy social media use.
Let’s break down these tips as if we were planning a garden…
1) Curate Your Social Media Garden (Limiting Exposure)
Think about how you pick flowers to plant.
Do you randomly scatter seeds or carefully choose the ones that will bring joy and color to your garden?
The same principle applies to social media. You want to unfollow or mute accounts that bring negativity, stress, or self-doubt into your life.
Instead, fill your feed with content that inspires, educates, and uplifts you.
2) Water in Moderation (Time Management):
As with watering a garden, balance is key with social media too.
Too much water and the flowers wilt; too little, they dry up.
As I worked out earlier, the same goes for social media use – too much can drown your focus and well-being.
According to this source, you just need to limit your social media use to 30 minutes daily to reduce loneliness and depression.
3) Daylight and Regular Pruning Is Essential (Technology-free time)
Just as plants need periods of darkness to photosynthesize and grow, your mind needs breaks from screens to rest and recharge.
Consider regular digital detoxes or tech-free periods each day.
The ‘Pew Research Center survey 2018 found that 54% of U.S. teens said they spent too much time on their phones and were taking steps to cut back.
And this study found that participants who quit Facebook for a week reported higher levels of well-being than those who continued using the platform.
4) Healthy Soil (Digital Literacy)
Just like a garden needs nutrient-rich soil to thrive, a healthy social media experience requires a solid foundation of digital literacy.
Understanding how algorithms work and recognizing clickbait and misinformation will help you navigate social media landscapes wisely.
As a complementary reading, I recommend the book “Mental Immunity: Infectious Ideas, Mind-Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think” by Andy Norman.
5) “Pest Control” (Blocking and Reporting)
Like you’d deal with pests in a garden, managing negativity on social media is necessary.
Don’t hesitate to block, report, or mute users who consistently spread negativity (e.g., complaining or complain-bragging) or engage in harassment.
It’s essential to maintaining a healthy online environment, akin to removing pests that could damage your plants.
6) Keep an Eye on the Weather (Self-Monitoring)
In gardening, you’d pay attention to changing weather patterns.
Similarly, monitor your feelings before, during, and after using social media.
It may be a sign to step back if you notice feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, or general sadness creeping in.
Self-monitoring plays a significant role in maintaining emotional health and has been recommended by various psychologists to manage digital consumption and behavior change in general (source).
7) Plant Seasonally (Scheduled Use and Boundaries)
Just like some plants thrive better in specific seasons, scheduling your social media use to specific times can boost productivity and prevent the blur of endless scrolling.
So this also means not checking social media during meals or before bedtime.
Many apps and built-in phone settings can help set usage limits or allocate specific ‘social media times’ in your day.
I already wrote about them in my article about reducing screen time.
8) Variety Is Key (Diversify Your Activities)
A garden mix of different plants makes it more resilient and vibrant.
Similarly, ensure your daily routine involves various activities that aren’t screen-based.
Physical exercise, reading, hobbies, and face-to-face social interaction are important for mental and physical health.
This all ties into the various principles of digital minimalism I covered in this article.
9) The Right Tools (Use App Features)
Just as a gardener uses the right tools to maintain their garden, use the tools provided by social media platforms to manage your usage.
Many platforms have well-being features such as screen-time reminders, muting notifications, or setting ‘quiet hours.’
You can use them to your advantage.
10) Cultivate Empathy (Positive Interactions)
Just like planting a flower and watching it bloom brings joy, positive interactions on social media can enhance our overall experience.
Comment positively on posts, share uplifting content, and engage in meaningful conversations.
11) Feed the Plants (Focus on Growth)
We feed our plants with nutrients; similarly, we can feed our minds with growth-oriented content.
Follow accounts that inspire make you think, or teach you something new.
This aligns with the concept of ‘positive computing‘ – technology designed to improve our lives quality and increase well-being.
12) Plan your Landscape (Goals)
Gardeners often sketch their garden designs.
In your digital life, this equates to setting clear goals. So you want to decide what you want from social media.
Do you want to network, learn a new skill, stay informed, or keep in touch with friends?
Clear intentions can help you use social media more purposefully and not get trapped into a black hole of negativity consisting of complain or humble bragging posts.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication per our editorial policy.