Written by Natalie Glennon
If I asked you to describe your relationship with social media, how would you respond? Is it something that boosts your mood, fits into your schedule, and connects you with loved ones? Or is it something that drains you, takes up too much of your time, and maybe even lowers your self-esteem? For many of us, trying to shift our social media experience from the latter to the former is a constant work in progress. It’s almost like being in a toxic relationship—social media can easily control our lives, isolate us, and deepen our insecurities. And yet, we keep coming back for more! After all, social media is designed to be addictive.
If you’re feeling stuck, don’t worry—I’m here to dig you out of that rabbit hole and help you take back control with 3 tips that have helped me prioritize my mental health and use social media intentionally.
1. Think Critically About the Social Media You Consume
Although social comparison is a part of human nature, it often sets us up for failure, especially when we compare ourselves to an unattainable standard. As the saying goes, comparison is also the thief of joy. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the various ways someone can make themselves appear flawless online, including through the use of:
- Photo/video editing apps
- Airbrushing and filters
- Lighting tricks
- Posing and camera angles
…Not to mention personal trainers, plastic surgery, makeup teams, and extreme diets when it comes to wealthier influencers.
And do people usually disclose this information in their posts? Hell, no! So we’re often left believing that it’s reasonable to compare our reality to someone else’s perfectly curated post. One of my favorite content creators, @saggysara on Instagram and TikTok, often showcases how difficult—or nearly impossible—it is to tell when someone has edited their face and body online.
Aside from unrealistic appearances, it can be helpful to remember that what a person posts online is not reflective of their entire life. Social media doesn’t let you see the hundreds of outtakes from a selfie, or the family arguments that broke out on a European vacation, or the state of someone’s mental health. If all we’re exposed to is other people’s highlight reels while we have a front-row seat to the gruesome details of our own personal issues, then of course we’re going to feel inadequate! We’re comparing our entire lives to just a sliver of someone else’s carefully crafted reality. By reminding ourselves of these truths, it can be easier to stop ourselves from immediately assuming that someone else has it better than we do.
2. Curate Your Feed with Intentionality
If you’re already well aware of the reality behind social media, that’s great! But unfortunately, that knowledge alone is not always enough to stop us from making unhealthy comparisons and even damaging our self-esteem—sometimes unknowingly! That’s why I take time to intentionally curate my feed with content that boosts my mood or benefits me in some way. Reevaluating your feed can be as simple as seeing a post and asking yourself a few reflective questions:
- What do I gain from seeing this?
- How does this affect my mood or sense of self-worth?
- Would I be better off without this type of content?
When I did this, I started to notice that scrolling through endless posts of perfect-looking women in bikinis made me feel insecure about my own body, despite knowing how polished and misleading social media can be. Now, the diverse content in my feed makes me feel noticeably more confident in myself. After following and unfollowing accounts based on this reflection, social media became something that had a positive impact on my wellbeing.
3. Manage Your Time in a Way That Feels Good
Some of you might be at a point where you’ve had it with social media. It might be time to delete your apps, bury your phone, and go on a complete social media detox. I support you! Others, however, might be looking for less extreme solutions when it comes to managing your time online. Here are a few easy tips that have been game-changers for my own social media habits:
- Manage your time in app settings. On apps like Instagram, you have the option to set reminders to take breaks and set daily time limits depending on how much time you want to spend on the app. A reminder to take a break after 20 minutes could be just what you need to snap out of your social media-induced hypnosis and spend your time more intentionally.
- Modify notifications. When we’re constantly bombarded with notifications, it’s easy to get distracted from whatever else we might be doing and become desensitized to the influx of content we consume. Managing what types of notifications you get and how frequently you get them can help you clarify and prioritize your specific purposes for using social media.
- Adjust ease of access. Changing the position of the apps on your home screen might make it less convenient for you to access them. For instance, instead of seeing Instagram immediately as you unlock your phone, having to search for it in a separate folder or in your app library can provide you with a buffer that results in less app usage overall. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Schedule time without your phone. When I schedule an activity that requires an intentional break from my phone, I find that I become less reliant on social media and more in tune with my thoughts and feelings. These simple alternatives to screen time can include going on a walk, meditating, journaling, or seeing a friend.
Breaking habits around social media can be difficult and uncomfortable, but ultimately, it’s a type of self-care that can really benefit your mental health. If you need help setting intentions and creating a schedule that works for you, you’re in luck! We are currently giving away a free downloadable version of the weekly spread from our planner—either physical or digital—just in exchange for an email address! We’d love for you to try it out and start living the life you want.