Balance, Down time, Student Life, Study

Social Media and Mental Health

I once read online that my generation spends an average of seven hours on social media per day. This at first sounded ridiculous to me. Most students don’t even sleep for that long. However, the stat — regardless of whether it’s true or not — stuck with me and made me reflect on how much I personally use social media in my day-to-day life. Since I use my phone as an alarm clock, I sleep with it inches from my head. It’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I put away at night. I’m usually scrolling through Instagram whenever I have a spare moment, and I check Facebook more often than I care to count — as I eat, as I subway, as I lie in bed, and when schoolwork gets a little too dry. It isn’t unusual for a quick glance to become a half hour of aimless scrolling if I don’t catch myself.

Person on smartphone

Source: The Huffington Post

Often times, I like to tell myself that I need social media for work, school, and staying up-to-date on events and opportunities. I will often justify its use to work on a group project, to promote my blogs, or catch up with friends and family. Plus, my job title is “Social Media Coordinator” after all. However, the reality is that I’ve been using such excuses for years – way before I even started university – to do largely one thing: procrastinate. I have now realized the importance of consistently making efforts to curb my daily use and address the addiction – and yes it is an addiction – of social media.

Silhouettes of people with social media icons as heads

Source: TechnoFAQ

Someone once said to me that they ask one question whenever they use social media: is this purposeful? I’ve found that to be a good guideline. Particularly in times of academic stress, I try to limit myself to only being connected for a reason, instead of just using it mindlessly to procrastinate. This also applies to using my phone as a distraction on the subway, or when waiting for something. It’s easy to scroll aimlessly in these idle moments, but I’ve tried to remind myself that I don’t need to be occupied all the time and can just take the extra few minutes to breathe and tune into my surroundings instead.

A suggestion I also found helpful was to limit the use of my phone right before bed and in the morning. In the very least, I have it set automatically to “Do Not Disturb” between 11 PM and 8 AM so that I’m not distracted by buzzes or flashes late at night — distractions that hinder our ability to get good sleep. By keeping the phone on the floor, or at the foot of the bed instead of by my head, I also give myself space and time away from technology to wind down before sleep.

Doodle of social media icons

Source: Huffington Post

Though I would never claim that social media apps and websites are all bad, the trap is getting lost in their distorted reality. Everyone can relate to the anxiety of watching a “like” or a “follower” count. I don’t have a solution to this stress, but I have noticed that when I spend more time with people in real life, I’m less affected by FOMO (fear of missing out). I’m less likely to get wrapped up in online popularity or numbers when I’m happy and well-fed and rested, so the focus then falls largely on maintaining those conditions in real life.