How to Use Social Media to Support Mental Health
Is it possible for social media to help rather than harm your mental health?
Social media has become an incredible vast and popular source of news, entertainment, connection and more. Between Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok and Facebook, individuals across the globe have near instant access to much of everything ranging from fun easy-to-make recipes to serious political updates. A popular conversation is about the many risks associated with increased social media use. It often stirs unhealthy comparisons to idealized versions of people’s life. One of my favorite reminders as a therapist is that we tend to compare the very raw reality we know to be true of our lives to the highlight reel of someone else’s displayed online, and hence the comparison is unfair and inaccurate. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, many have found themselves leaning into social media even more than ever before. This is for many reasons including but not limited to boredom, more time at home and yearning to feel connected to others. While there are very real risks to this increased exposure, there are also some guidelines you can consider to create a social media feed that actually supports your mental health rather than harms it.
First and foremost, pay attention to who you are following, and consider asking yourself why you follow them. How does this person’s content make you feel? People follow different accounts for different reasons. Following friends to stay connected is a nice place to start and then adding in feel-good accounts that may offer you entertainment, positivity and/or inspiration can be worthwhile additions. If you find that you often feel worse about yourself in comparison to an influencer or celebrity you follow, ask yourself again, why do I follow them, and consider removing them from your list. On the other hand, if you find that you laugh or smile from someone’s funny content of their child, for example, they may be someone to keep around. Consider ways to link who you follow with what you are interested in. If you are into baking, consider adding some baking accounts and if you are interested in health and wellness, follow some related accounts. If you want to learn more about a new industry, consider following some thought leaders from said industry. Social media also offers community, especially when it comes to causes you are passionate about and following people who share values with you can elevate the role of social media in your life. Also pay mind not to follow accounts just because you think you should. Check out this blog my one GTS psychotherapist, Mariam Hager about the risks of “should-ing” yourself. Regardless of the type of accounts you choose to follow, be mindful not to follow accounts that make you feel like you are not enough as you are.
In addition to the accounts you are already following, there are actually tons of accounts dedicated to mental health and general wellness that can be great to mix into your feed. These accounts have different focuses – some aim to de-stigmatize mental illness and therapy, while others are dedicated to specific diagnoses. A few great Instagram accounts include i_weigh, Mental Health Coalition, and MyWellbeing. Recently, many therapists have moved onto TikTok, sharing videos with different tips and tricks they share with their clients. These sorts of accounts can disrupt the flow of beautifully curated photos or videos you are used to seeing and serve as support and validation for things you may be struggling with. They can also provide some education and resources. While social media accounts dedicated to emotional wellness are helpful, they do not substitute professional care.