As of 2021, nearly 5 billion people worldwide use social media, with the average user accessing 6.6 social media platforms on a monthly basis. Whether we admit it or not, social media takes up a large part of our lives — our thoughts, actions, and even relationships.
Oftentimes, our phones are the first thing we reach for when we wake up. In order to live our best lives, we need human connection. It has a huge impact on our mental health and well-being. When we are socially connected to others, it can ease anxiety and loneliness while giving us a sense of purpose. Many of us, particularly since the pandemic started, have relied on social media for connection with others. The various platforms have their benefits but can never replace real-world, human connection.
Social media was created to bring people together. But it also keeps us online, scrolling until our fingers get stiff. It’s how companies make money. Spending too much time engaging with it can actually make you feel lonelier and more isolated. It can actually worsen mental health problems.
I didn’t realize how much time I was spending on social media, until I started getting weekly screen time reports on my iPhone. It tells you how many hours you’re spending each day, how much time you’re spending on each app, how many times you pick up your phone, and the number of notifications you receive. Let’s just say I was shocked. To be honest, I was embarrassed.
When we think about creating a safe space on social media, it’s really about making sure we are healthy and happy. It’s about re-examining online habits and finding a balance. There are positive ways in which social media can help us stay connected and support our wellness. Social media allows you to:
- Stay in-touch with friends and family.
- Find new friends and network with other people who share your interests.
- Promote awareness of important issues that matter to you.
- Promote your business.
- Promote your creativity and self-expression.
Social media can be a healthy experience, but we don’t have to become a slave to it. That is when it becomes harmful. I’d like to share some of the ways I helped myself create a safe space on social media.
Block and Mute
You know, the block and mute buttons are there for a reason. It’s been a breath of fresh air for me. If you find yourself consuming content that affects you in a negative way, you can block or mute those accounts. You know your boundaries, so use the tools to clear out what you don’t want.
Let Go of Triggers
For many of us, certain words can be triggering. Social media is a breeding ground for content that can take you back to past trauma or bad memories. On Twitter, you can mute certain words. On other platforms, you can block accounts completely. This helped me to keep my feelings in check and not get hit unexpectedly by things I don’t want to see.
Think about the people you follow who you actually have unconscious resentment for. Maybe it’s someone you were in a past relationship with or an influencer whose life seems so perfect and you question why yours isn’t. If you realize you feel some type of way by following these accounts, stop following them. You don’t have to beat yourself up with something that doesn’t serve you.
I have discovered a few mental-health based accounts that offer tips, advice, and techniques when it comes to mindfulness. Therapy and mental health resources aren’t always accessible. Even though these accounts don’t take the place of professional therapy, they do offer value in helping to stay centered. Some of my favorites on Instagram are @nedratawwab, @_lisaolivera, @heydrrachel, and @hellodrjoy.
This has been the greatest thing I have done when it comes to social media. We all get that “ping” throughout the day — numerous times a day. It’s so tempting to drop everything and pick up your phone. The ping was making me frantic, so I turned all notifications off. It’s helped me to decrease the number of times I pick up my phone throughout the day. I am more productive and can focus on what’s important.
There are times when I will say, “I’m just going to check my Instagram really quick.” Next thing I know, two hours have passed. Scrolling and scrolling, liking, and more scrolling — afterwards, I feel tense and uncomfortable. I’m on the computer all day and catch my shoulders hunched, jaw tight, and eyes strained. I make sure that I give my brain and body a break each day by taking a walk or at least stretching to relax my shoulders and release tension in my neck and hands.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to create boundaries for how you use social media. A safe space is happy and healthy. You deserve that.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.