Negative Effects of Social Media and Seven Tips to Undo Them
We have a hunch that social media is hurting our happiness, but what, exactly, are the negative effects? And how do we create a better relationship with social media?
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According to Goali Saedi Bocci, author of The Social Media Workbook for Teens, social media has pros and cons when it comes to our mental health. Indeed, after spending the last year researching and writing my new book, Outsmart Your Smartphone: Conscious Tech Habits for Finding Happiness, Balance, and Connection IRL, I too have a better understanding of the real negative effects of social media.
So how do we undo the negative effects of social media? Here are 7 quick tips:
How social media may be harming your mental health:
1. Learn about your device-related behaviors
When people discover that I wrote a book on how to “Outsmart Your Smartphone”, the most common response I hear is: I know just the person who needs your book! Everyone seems to know someone who is on their phone too much... but we have a hard time seeing if we are the person who is on their phone too much. Smartphone addiction, like other addictions, can make us blind to our device-related behaviors.
So to start, interview someone you trust to ask them about your smartphone and social media habits. Ask these questions:
Try to be open to the answers that come from these questions to see if your smartphone or social media habits are having negative effects on you.
2. Track your mood after engaging in digital and real-life experiences
Sometimes we forget how much we enjoy real-world experiences—and how much more we enjoy them than spending all our time on social media. As a reminder, start tracking your mood and well-being after a few real-world experiences and after a few social media sessions (take this well-being quiz to get a better idea of questions you can ask yourself to track your well-being). For example, you could track things like sense of meaning, loneliness, or sense of purpose.
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers—you're just trying to get a better understanding of what makes you feel good.
3. Take a social media pause
Sometime when you would normally use your phone, simply do nothing and just be in the moment. Notice the discomfort. See if you can figure out why you're uncomfortable. Then explore other things you could do to relive the discomfort.
Having a hard time taking a social media pause? Watch this video:
4. Journal instead of posting
If you're someone who likes to post on social media a lot, shift your mindset by journalling instead. When we journal, we no longer have to think about how our post is received by an audience and it can help us to be more authentic. So give journaling a try and see if this remedies some of the negative effects of posting on social media.
5. Exercise (or commute) without earbuds
Consider taking a break from always having something to distract you by leaving your earbuds/headphones at home. By giving yourself these few moments to be mindful you may be able to quickly get a boost in happiness.
6. Try a tech-free weekend
In addition to taking short breaks from specific technologies, it’s often also helpful to periodically take more substantial and intentional breaks from social media and other technology by doing a tech-free weekend. This is where you disconnect from all technology—no phones, TVs, tablets, or computers—and instead actively spend this time reconnecting with everything else in your life that has been neglected—for example, your health, your body, your relationships, your passions, your creativity, your community, and your planet.
7. Set boundaries with friends
Take a moment to decide how and when you want to use social media. Ask yourself:
Once you have decided what to do, make an announcement on your social media to let your friends, family, and community know what you're doing, how it will affect them, and when you'll be available (and unavailable) on social media. By telling your social media community about your plans, you’ll be more likely to reach your goal. This simple little motivation trick helps because it increases accountability—you’ll feel more inclined to do what you said you were going to do because you’ve told other people about it.
Remember, social media can harm you, so be careful how you use it:
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.