Social media (mis)use

Social media. We all use it, sometimes more than we should. Isabella O’Halloran explains how you can create a balanced relationship with social media to protect your mental health.  

It’s the first thing we do when we wake up and the last thing we do before we go to bed. We're all familiar with social media. It's become such an integral part of our lives whether we like it or not. Often, you may not realise how much time you spend catching up on your Facebook feed, scrolling aimlessly through Instagram stories or binge-watching YouTube videos.

While social media has allowed us to become more connected with one another, it is scientifically-proven that social media (mis)use can exacerbate signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, loneliness and envy. However, there are ways to reduce the harm social media can cause to our mental health. 

Limit Tech Time

It is easier said than done, but you'll feel all the more refreshed when you set aside time each day to be ‘tech-free’. You will realise that social media can interfere with work or study, distracting you from your priorities and deadlines. Social media becomes a non-stimulating habit so instead, why not read a book, go for a walk or meet up with a friend. It may be difficult at first, given what a digitally-driven society we live in,  but keep it up and start reaping the (mental health) rewards!

Bonus tip: focus your online interactions on people you also know offline. Social media should not substitute your real-life interactions, rather it should supplement your relationships, allowing you to connect with people easier and with greater accessibility. By focusing your interactions with people, you also know offline, you are less inclined to unrealistically compare yourself to others.

Keep it Real

Over the last few years, social media has seen the rise of ‘digital personalities’, otherwise known as ‘influencers’. There's always at least one type of influencer lurking on the explore page – the beauty guru, the eternal traveller, the fitness expert and my personal favourite, the mums and bubs.

While there are definitely ‘influencers’ that create a positive experience for their followers, they are few and far between. More often, followers have to call out ‘influencers’ for their lack of genuine and realistic content – mainly for misleading advertisements and extreme Photoshop.

On this note, here are my top 3 ‘authentic’ Instagram accounts you must follow:

@therealjadetunchy: Sydney-based influencer, Jade Tunchy, created a second Instagram to share a more honest depiction of herself, reminding her followers to love themselves no matter what.

 

@thenakediaries: The Naked DIaries showcases women’s untouched and unique bodies. The account celebrates natural beauty of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.


@celestebarber: Celeste’s hilarious recreations of popular model photos make you realise that those ‘perfect’ images you see online simply aren’t real life.

Ask ‘Why’?

Who do you choose to follow and why?

In the past, I have been guilty of following social media accounts that make me feel deflated. These are the ones that promote the societal standards of beauty that are already so engrained within all of us. Obviously, following these accounts was doing me more harm than good, although it took me a while to realise this.

So now, I regularly take it upon myself to look over who I follow and consider whether their content is useful to me. Whenever I scroll past a photo or video that leaves me feeling inferior, it's best that I scroll right back up and unfollow the account. Then I can look to follow people that keep me inspired and motivated.

 

The unrestricted use of social media can negatively impact our mental health and overall wellbeing. It's important to recognise when you should turn off your phone and immerse yourself within your surroundings, your family and friends. When you spend less time worrying about likes and view, you'll create more meaningful bonds with those around you.

 

For more information or if you need support, visit the websites https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ and https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/. And, as always, call 000 in an emergency or Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you or someone you know needs assistance.

Isabella O’Halloran is a third-year Public Communications and International Studies student. When she isn’t busy working, or attempting to study, you can find her watching the latest crime docuseries on Netflix or spending way too much time analysing her daily horoscope.