6 ways to use social media for your mental health
Published: 13 August, 2019
Dr Bridianne O’Dea, Research Fellow at the Black Dog Institute, has a mission to improve mental health through technology. Here she explains how you can actually use social media to boost your mental health.
There is currently no evidence to support the idea that a social media detox leads to better mental health, it is a new and emerging area of research. However, there may be some truth to the activity depending on your individual relationship with social media.
There may also be times in our lives when taking time out from social media might be in our best interests. For example, relationship breakups or other times when our mental health feels vulnerable may be good moments to exercise space from social media platforms.
“It is important to always reflect on the types of content you follow and the impact they have on your emotions to practice safe social media use. This is particularly true during moments of change in your life,” says Dr O’Dea.
New smartphone features are helping to make us savvier to our social media use with the introduction of ‘screen time’ limiters that measure and monitor how much of the day we spend ‘tweeting’ or ‘gramming’.
If you are worried about how your social media use might be affecting you personally, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Work out how technology works best for your relationships
It should act as a tool that strengthens your relationships, not weakens them. If you’re finding technology isn’t leading to stronger relationships, then it’s important to invest in other ways such as face-to-face catch ups and spending time together.
- Consider setting a tech time out during your day
This could be during dinner time where you place your phone in another room or exercising without your phone. This allows time for you to be present in your surroundings and for your mind to focus on other things.
- Use smartphone features to monitor your app usage
You may be surprised to find how many hours a day you spend on social media. Think about other things you’d like to do with this time and set boundaries. If you are finding that your usage is getting quite high, consider removing apps from your phone for a while.
- Limit phone use at night-time
Spending time on your phone right before bed is very tempting but it can have negative impacts on your sleep. If you find that the temptation is irresistible, consider putting your phone at the opposite end of your bed or just outside of your reach.
- Try to monitor how you feel when exposed to certain content online
If you’re finding that it makes you feel sad, down, disappointed or ashamed, then it’s likely that this content is not helping you. Consider unfollowing the content or taking some time out. If these feelings continue for two weeks or more or start impacting other aspects of your life such as relationships or work, consider speaking to your doctor or getting some professional mental health advice.
- The above also works in reverse – consider the types of content you choose to share on your platforms and how it may impact your followers
There is strong evidence showing that stigmatising messages can negatively impact other people’s mental health as well as their intentions and likelihood to seek help. Ultimately, we should all try to be mindful of the content we share and its effect on others.
Want to know more? Check our Dr O'Dea's TEDx Talk 'Is your phone bad for your mental health?'
If you or someone you know is in crisis please call one of the following national helplines:
LIFELINE COUNSELLING SERVICE - 13 11 14
SUICIDE CALL BACK SERVICE 1300 659 467 (cost of a local call)