It’s been a few months since I talked about social media and how to cope with triggering content, comparisons, and the constant stream of information- so I figured it was time to talk about it again. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that my time on social media has majorly increased during quarantine. My classes are now online, I have more downtime, my job has moved to online only and Siri can get me on Instagram so easily!
I’ve made a mindful decision to keep both my personal account and @recovroad as beneficial to my mental health as possible. I continuously try to be intentional about who and what I’m following as well as what I’m posting- but that doesn’t always guarantee I’ll never be overwhelmed or fall into the comparison trap.
There are a lot of things online that bother me. Some of it is actually so upsetting it makes me strive to be a better ally and human. As a journalism major, watching the news is usually something I enjoy but with the current news of the pandemic and political atmosphere it can get overwhelming. Other content that I find upsetting is diet culture and influencer BS like jokes about the quarantine 15, any type of diet products being sold/advertised, extreme photo editing, and the glamorization about eating disorders/disordered eating. The latter is what partially inspired me to create my corner of the internet, but it is still disheartening to see nonetheless.
Although just taking a break from social media would be a good option for some people it could be very difficult and isolating at this time of social distancing. Plus, social media isn’t just a space for connection. It can be used for expression, learning, killing time, finding inspiration, and even finding resources.
It’s the delicate line between inspiration and comparison as well as the boundaries between expression and perfectionism that need to be kept drawn firm, however, and this can be difficult! My last article on social media was specifically geared towards recovery, but this one will be a broader look on how social media right now can affect you and expand on what you can do to make your feed a safer, more positive space. Here are a few additional tips for protecting your mental health while using social media, specifically during social distancing and the intense news cycle:
Have specific times you do (and don’t) go on social media
By having set times you both go on and log off social media, you allow yourself to still feel engaged and connected without allowing what’s online to take up too much of your time and emotional energy. An example would be checking social media after breakfast or while you drink your coffee and again in the evening. If you’re a night owl and wake up later, maybe check yours in the late afternoon and again a few hours before bed. Checking social media first thing in the morning is something I’m definitely guilty of, but some people prefer not to do this because it can be overwhelming and clutter your mental space with the opinions and happenings of others, instead of starting your morning off focused on yourself and your day/plans. Another time you may want to avoid is right before bed, mostly because the light can make it hard to fall asleep. If you struggle with keeping yourself from scrolling all day, try downloading an app that limits/tracks social media time, setting alarms for yourself, and/or finding other activities to fill your time.
Know that what you see isn’t always what’s really there
In case nobody has told you or you just need to hear it again- social media is a highlight reel filled with photoshopped bodies, people’s best moments, clever advertising, and algorithms. This doesn’t mean everyone is lying and everybody is awful, but it does mean that you should take what you see with a grain of salt. This can be easier said than done to understand and acknowledge as you scroll past perfectly posed photos, but it’s important to remind yourself that nobody is perfect and nobody’s life is Insta-worthy 24/7. If an account constantly makes you want to compare yourself or is triggering, unfollow and/or mute it! This brings me into my next suggestion.
Go through your “following” list and clear out accounts that aren’t serving you
Changing your environment to fit your growth can feel really cleansing and powerful- this includes your environment on your phone! Periodically scrolling through what accounts you’re following and unfollowing/muting accounts that no longer serve you is an easy way to clear up your feed and, often in turn, your mind. If it’s an account you usually love but is posting content you’d just rather not see at the moment, you can always follow or unmute them later.
Post things you’d like to see
Want your feed to be a magical corner of self-love and self-care? Or do you want to see more DIY ideas, travel photos, or encouraging words? Post it yourself! If you have a hobby or something you’re into and feel comfortable/confident posting about, start with your own feed. Even sharing positive quotes or cool content from other accounts on your story is a great way to fill your socials with things you actually enjoy and want to see.
Take a break
The only cleanse I can get behind is a social media cleanse! Sometimes we need to take a step back and focus on ourselves completely, meaning that we log off entirely, and that’s okay! Taking a social media break for a day, a week, a month, or more can be beneficial if your feed has been causing you increased anxiety, FOMO/comparison, negative body image, food guilt/judgement, ED thoughts, disordered eating- or if you’re just not getting anything positive out of it.
Don’t forget about Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube
Instagram isn’t the only social media platform- and this means that it isn’t the only one that can affect you and your mental health. Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube are also socials you may use. For me and my recovery, I had to delete Pinterest entirely. I only recently got a new Pinterest to pin things for dorm decor, things to do for (now postponed) vacations, and to pin RecovRoad articles. It was Pinterest that I misused when I was sick and got deep into “healthy” recipes and workout challenges- so I had to delete it for a while and I still limit my time on there. As far as Facebook, feel free to unfriend or unfollow people that post about their diets, viewpoints that make your blood run hot, or anything else that makes you uncomfortable. Follow suit with Snapchat and YouTube! Instagram isn’t the only app out there, so it shouldn’t be treated that way when you’re looking for ways to clean up your feed.
These tips aren’t the only things you can try to keep your time on social media beneficial and empowering, but they are all tips I’ve tried and find really helpful! For ideas specific to recovery, check out my previous article here.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.
All content on RecovRoad is based on personal experiences, research, and ideas. Please do not repost/share without credit and be aware that nothing on this blog takes the place of professional help. This is also a formal trigger warning: content about and relating to eating disorders may be triggering to survivors. Please see the “RESOURCES” tab, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 800-931-2237, and remember to take care of yourself.