5 Tips To Help You Keep Your Relationship With Social Media Healthy

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Social Media: Friend or Foe?

BY BRITTANY MCGILL

There’s no question that new developments in technology over the last 5-10 years have revolutionised the way we socialise and connect with others and the world around us. Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat … the list goes on, and it’s growing year by year. Added to that, the amazing functionality of smartphones and other devices means that these applications are literally at our fingertips and can be accessed in an instant, any time, any day. I want to be clear that I don’t hold the view that social media is universally ‘bad’ or ‘damaging’, but there are a few things worth keeping in mind to ensure your social media use stays ‘healthy’ (read: doesn’t cause stress or interfere with other important aspects of your life). Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Tip #1: Avoid Using Social Media To Procrastinate

Reaching for your phone to scroll through your newsfeed will only reduce anxiety or stress in the short-term. It may be useful to spend time reflecting on the cause of your current stress/anxiety rather than avoiding the experience of it.

Tip #2: Be Wary Of Social Media Addiction

Social media by its very nature is highly stimulating. Social media applications like Facebook and Instagram operate in small bursts of stimuli that are colourful and emotionally salient, sending pleasure signals to our brain. Some scientists argue that these processes underlie ‘addiction’ to social media. If you’re having trouble regulating your social media use despite your best intentions to do so, you may wish to seek the support of a mental health professional.

Tip #3: Remember The Body Keeps Score

Be wary of the possible impact of excessive smartphone and computer use on your body. I’ve met people who are suffering repetitive strain injury (RSI) and chronic shoulder and neck pain from the movements associated with excessive typing and scrolling! If this is a concern for you a physiotherapist may be able to advise exercises to alleviate your symptoms, or provide suggestions regarding ‘safe’ device use.

Tip #4: Know It’s Not A Substitute For The Real Thing

Social media is a great way to keep in contact with friends or family who may live far away, to connect with people with shared interests, and can be a wonderful supplement to existing friendships. But connecting via social media is not enough to sustain friendships and relationships in the longer term. Remember that face to face communication and meaningful conversations are the cornerstones of any healthy relationship.

Tip #5: Always Keep Things In Perspective

Remember that what you see on social media is most often a glossy, purposefully selected ‘snapshot’ of real life. I often remind my younger clients that no one’s life is perfect, and everyone has their struggles. Don’t judge a person by their Instagram page – it’s highly edited.

Brittany McGill is a clinical psychologist who completed her postgraduate clinical training at the University of New South Wales. She is interested in anxiety and mood disorders across the lifespan and uses cognitive-behavioural and other evidence-based strategies to help people achieve positive change in their lives.


 

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