Can social media benefit our mental health?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

We often hear about the dangers of social media and how it affects our mental health; we’re encouraged to limit daily screen time and tread carefully when navigating the online world. While it’s true that social media can be damaging, there is an interesting counterargument. Social platforms can facilitate self-expression and allow people to find support they may not otherwise be able to access.

 

Curating a positive feed

It’s only natural to compare ourselves with others; we do it all the time, often without realising it. And the content we see on various social platforms can be detrimental to how we perceive ourselves. Although social networks have policies in place to regulate and filter out harmful content, this doesn’t account for the personal impact we have to ‘everyday’ imagery that gets shared online.

However – and it can be easy to lose sight of this – as consumers of social media, we have the power to curate the content we see. In essence, we choose what fills our social feeds and we can make a conscious choice regarding which accounts we follow.

While it may sound simple, changing the content we engage with can drastically alter the way social media affects our mental health. An Instagram feed brimming with positivity and inclusivity is far more likely to make you feel good than one full of unattainable beauty standards, for example. If you are regularly scrolling through your feed and find that it’s having a negative impact, it may be time to address the accounts you’re following.

 

Accessing support

Social media can provide us with unprecedented access to a network of others experiencing the same things as us. We can discover and connect with hundreds and thousands of people we wouldn’t otherwise meet. This can create a sense of community, thereby reinforcing the message that we are not alone in what we are facing.

There are a staggering number of social media accounts dedicated to lifting people up and speaking out about important issues. These accounts often function as a safe space for people to find reassurance, validation and connection.

 

Expressing your identity

The internet has given way to a huge rise in self-expression. Although we can’t always regulate the responses we get, we can be selective about who we share our content and stories with.

Platforms like Instagram or Pinterest can be great resources for inspiration, encouraging exploration and experimentation. In addition, they can be a great place for showcasing your own identity and creativity.

 

Striking the right balance

Navigating social media is an acutely personal journey; in terms of the impact it has on our mental health, what works for one person may actually be damaging for another. It is important we are aware of what may be harmful and learn to recognise when an issue is developing.

Only we can truly understand how social media is affecting us. It’s helpful to keep in mind, though, that we can choose what we engage with online. We have the power to filter the content we see, and the power to put our phones down when we identify a problem.