Curating Social Media to Benefit Your Mental Health
Updated: Oct 6
In an age where social media is ever present, it can feel like you are constantly bombarded with videos, photos, and information that is not good for your mental health. Studies on the effects of social media show that excessive use of social media can increase loneliness, fear of missing out (FOMO), and decrease subjective well-being and life satisfaction (Zsila and Reyes, 2023). Whether it be the latest Tiktok trend, an influencer post on Instagram, or a comment you saw on Facebook, that makes you feel bad, there are ways you can tailor your accounts to make you feel better.
Here are five tips to help curate your social media feed to benefit your mental health.
1. Unfollow accounts that do not make you feel good.
We’ve all been there. Followed that influencer who promised our lives would get better by showing us their overly curated and perfectly decorated world. Or felt highly motivated (especially around New Years) and decided to follow a fitness guru that promised we could lose all the covid weight we gained (guilty!). We are all tempted to follow aspirational influencer accounts, and celebrity accounts that despite all their promises about improving our lives, can actually lead us to feel worse about ourselves. Make note of which specific accounts you follow that leave you feeling bad and click the unfollow button.
2. Follow accounts that contribute positively to your life.
Instead of spending time following countless accounts just because they are cool, focus your energy on quality rather than quantity. This can mean joining online communities that make you feel seen and represented or following funny accounts that help you destress after a long day at work. Curate your account and only follow accounts that contribute positively to your wellbeing.
3. Prioritize setting boundaries.
This is a hard one to swallow as it’s easier to mindlessly scroll through social media and to accept follow requests from just about anyone. Setting boundaries can include establishing strict time limits for the amount of time you spend on social media, making your profile private, and blocking and reporting accounts that cross a line. I know that it’s easy to ignore the time limit and ask for 15 more minutes on the app. But with some restraint and second thought you will notice that avoiding doom scrolling will greatly benefit you and your mood.
4. Take note of how social media makes you feel throughout the day.
Notice when you spend time on social media and how it affects you. The average American usually spends about 2.5 hours daily on social media (Howarth, 2023). Are you a first-thing-gets-up-and-looks-at-Instagram for 1 hour person? Do you spend time during your work mindlessly scrolling through Tiktok? Or maybe you lie in bed when you say you’re going to sleep only to spend 2 hours on social media and ruin the quality of sleep you obtain. Either way, make note of your patterns and how your habits make you feel so that you can try to implement new strategies for spending time on social media more mindfully and in a way where you are controlling the time you spend on the apps and not the other way around. Perhaps you will avoid looking at social media entirely in the mornings or maybe you will only allocate 1 hour of your day to social media.
5. Cultivate a small social media circle of close friends and acquaintances.
I know it can be tempting to accept requests from every acquaintance that you meet or get a request from. Although accepting that follower request from a “cool” person can give your brain some instant gratification and a dose of dopamine, creating a more intimate circle online will benefit your mental health in the long run. With this smaller and more intimate circle, you can be empowered to share things that bring you genuine joy.
Social media has become inescapable in this day and age. However, that does not mean that every social media interaction should be negative and leave you drained, feeling FOMO, insecure, or exhausted. By setting boundaries, noticing your feelings towards your social media, prioritizing quality over quantity, and cutting out what does not benefit you, you can curate your social media to benefit your mental health and to be a safe space that can empower you, make you feel connected, or simply make you laugh after a stressful day.
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Author: Dulce Rivera, Associate Psychotherapist