7 Ways To Mitigate Your Anxiety from Social Media
Posted on Jun 26, 2018
These days, it’s pretty easy to feel anxiety from social media. For anyone with a smartphone, information overload seems to have become the default setting. Apps and websites are competing for your time, attention, and dopamine (the neurotransmitter responsible for making your brain anticipate a potential reward). “Get addicted to us!” They scream. We’re flashy and pretty, and if you scroll through us, maybe you can be flashy and pretty, too! Emphasis on the maybe -- by pandering to our insecurities, desires, and curiosity, we’ll never feel like we’re enough or have enough. Furthermore, the curated realities we portray on social media (I am guilty of this, too) are merely a form of self-marketing. We pick and choose what we want to show the world, so nothing is 100% accurate. So, how do we keep our addiction to it in check so it enhances – rather than harms – our psyche?
1. Streamline your timeline. Hit the “Unfollow” button for any person, group, or organization that leaves you feeling more anxious than fulfilled after you see their posts. Full disclosure: I actively follow groups like the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center and their posts these days really fill me with dread and fear for the future. I try to find ways to channel these feelings toward a healthy outlet, such as donating to worthy causes and talking it out with loved ones.
2. By the same token, hit “Follow” for people and posts that are uplifting and inspiring. You know best what your values and beliefs are, so if someone aligns with them, go ahead and follow them! Just remember to put a time limit on your scrolling.
3. Know that the “sparkly” pictures only tell half the story. While Pinterest and Instagram stories are fun and enticing to look at (for hours!), know that these posts have taken hours, sometimes days, to put together. There’s no need to feel envious because you know the people in the pictures are dealing with the same daily drudges – diapers, messy spills, mean bosses, or angry clients – as the rest of us.
4. Set time limits. “But the organizing tips are really useful!” If unfollowing isn’t an option, train yourself to stick to designated “social media times” throughout the day, such as a nightly Facebook check. I know it’s SO hard to resist checking your updates if you’re standing in line or at the doctor’s office, but the rewards far outweigh the drawbacks. By spending less time on social media, you’re not as invested in every update, and you'll free up time to do… anything! Talking face to face with your friends, kids, husband, or mailman! Watching birds fly! Reading that book that’s catching dust on your shelf! Learning to knit!
5. Anytime you reach for your phone, stop and think “What am I checking my phone for?” Unless it needs to be done at that moment, wait until your nightly Facebook check.
6. Remind yourself of what you can be doing instead. Paul Bonea writes about setting time limits to be more productive, and the same can be applied to mitigating anxiety from social media, as well. For each extra minute you spend online, think about what you’re missing out on, instead.
7. Get curious about your social media addiction. This TED Talk breaks down the powerful cycles we train our brains to go through for feeding our various addiction. He uses smoking as an example, but the same can be applied to scrolling through our phones and social media constantly. If you break the pattern by becoming mindful and curious about why you want to check your updates, you’re overcoming half the battle right there.
Social media isn’t inherently bad and can even be a remarkably powerful tool. Facebook’s original mission of “making the world more open and connected” has been carried out pretty effectively. Social media has sparked massive movements for social change like the Arab Spring, March for Our Lives, Women’s March, and over $20 million raised for reuniting separated migrant children from their families just this past week! However, if left unchecked, our addiction to social media can become dangerous. If you can make an extra effort to be mindful of how you use it and when, it’ll help decrease your anxiety and FOMO by a long shot.