It’s no secret that social media influences just about every area of life. These platforms allow us to communicate with other humans all over the world. They show us entertainment and news headlines with the quick swipe of a finger. They even make it easier to raise awareness for important advocacy issues. Yeah…there’s a lot to love for sure.
With 4.89 billion active users across the globe, social media has clearly left an indelible mark on the zeitgeist. But if you’ve spent all of 30 seconds scrolling on a social feed, chances are, you’re familiar with the negative effects of these networks too. We’re not here to bash social media (shameless plug: follow us @sundazejourney!)—but we do think it’s healthy to create a more mindful relationship with the content you consume.
Why Re-Evaluate Your Relationship with Social Media?
A recent study from a team of researchers at the UK’s University of Bath found that a week-long detox from all social media use can alleviate depression or anxiety. The researchers focused on a group of 154 social media consumers, between ages 18 and 72, who would normally average about 8 hours per week on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok. Half abstained from these platforms entirely, while the other half continued to scroll as usual.
Those who were off their feeds for a week reported an increase in mental health and well-being. This points to what many of us have known all along: Social media can be fun in moderation, but it’s harmful in excess. Why is that so often the case?
Well…as beneficial as these networks are for building connections, they’re often cesspools of radical misinformation, negative comparison, and political division too. There’s also FOMO to contend with—a pesky, insecure feeling which tries to convince you that others are living the dream, while you’re over here missing out. In many cases, social media can even take the place of real-life interactions, causing a sense of loneliness or isolation to creep in.
These factors make social media consumption feel more exhausting than enjoyable sometimes. But let’s be honest with each other: The vast majority of humans are not about to leave their scroll holes altogether. (Ahem…Us. We’re in this human majority).
How to Curate a Mindful Social Media Feed
So if the obsession is here to stay—both on our phones and in our culture—what’s the solution for a healthier social media relationship? We believe it starts with an overhaul of your feed. Here are a few simple, intentional ways to create a more mindful social media feed.
Audit Who You Follow and What You Post
There’s no shame in unfollowing (or at least muting) social media accounts which harm your mental health. That friend who uses Twitter to vent their endless stream of complaints? That influencer who shares unrealistic diet or fitness “motivation” on Instagram? That coworker who can never resist a Facebook humble brag about their latest salary increase? Just because other users peddle this content doesn’t mean you have to consume it. Examine the messages you absorb on social media—both in your own posts and those you follow. If the content reinforces your values and self-worth, keep it around. If not, create some healthy distance.
Release Expectations for Virtual Validation
You know the rush of instant gratification you feel when that photo of your beach weekend starts accumulating likes and comments? It’s not your imagination—when others validate you on social media, this will activate your mental reward center by releasing the pleasure hormone dopamine. As that chemical hits the brain’s limbic system (which controls emotional processing), it tells you to seek out the source of this validation on a continual loop, says Dr. Anna Lembke, author of Dopamine Nation. The more you crave those likes and comments, the more addicting a social media habit can become, so be conscious of your motives for posting.
Don’t Waste Time Scrolling—Be Interactive
Let’s set the scene: After a stressful day at work, all you want to do is zone out. You tap the Instagram icon on your mobile device. “I’ll check my notifications for a few minutes,” you rationalize. An hour later though, you’re still on autopilot, caught in a social media scroll hole. No shade—we’ve been there too. But this mindless scrolling wastes valuable time and fuels a sense of detachment from our actual lives and relationships. So instead of just lurking on your friends’ posts with a glazed-over attention span, make a real effort to interact with them. Offer a sincere, authentic comment or initiate a meaningful conversation in their DMs.
Realize You Are Not Seeing the Full Picture.
We’re willing to bet you know social media content is not always an accurate representation of someone’s offline reality. Behind each heavily filtered, meticulously curated photo of that dream vacation, flawless home, lucrative career, and ageless complexion is a messy, imperfect, chaotic life—just like yours. But the urge to compare yourself to those you follow can lead to rife insecurities. According to the Social Media + Society Journal, this comparison will often cause adverse feelings about relationships, abilities, finances, appearance, body image, or level of success. So keep in mind: The narrative on your feed is a fraction of the story.
Prioritize Your Mental Health with a Mindful Social Media Feed.
Could you benefit from practicing mindfulness on social media? What steps do you take to build a healthier relationship with these digital platforms? When do you know it’s time to set screen limits or detox from social media altogether? We would love to hear your insights on how to create a mindful social feed in the comment section below!