By Amy Chau, FNP
Department of Family Practice
Social media has become a big part of almost everyone’s life these days. However, for some of us, it creates more harm than good. Excessive time on social media has been linked to poor mental health, including increased loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Whether you’ve made cutting back on TikTok and Twitter your New Year’s resolution or not, consider using the following tips to limit your social media time and combat the negative effects it can cause.
1. Limit When and Where You Use Social Media
Imagine you are on a dinner date with someone for the first time and they are constantly looking at their phone or texting someone. Would you want to go out with that person again? Don’t let excessive social media usage interrupt and interfere with your daily in-person communication. Consider turning off your social media notifications or putting your phone on “airplane mode” when you are in the midst of communicating with others during meals with family and friends, or at work or social events.
2. Be Aware of Social Media’s Addictive Power
Social media companies typically make their apps and websites as addictive as possible to keep you swiping and scrolling. The powerful algorithms they utilize are designed to keep you hooked by showing you more and more of what you are interested in. However, it’s not just social media content that is addictive. Research has shown that getting a lot of “likes” and “retweets” on your posts is also addictive because it releases dopamine in the brain (just like drugs and alcohol do). Understanding the addictive nature of social media is important because it can help you realize why you are using it so much and why it’s important to set limits on usage.
3. If an Account Stirs Up Negative Emotions, Unfollow It!
Always remember that you can control what shows up in your social media feeds. Why keep following someone’s posts if they make you feel negative about yourself or cause you anxiety? Eliminating accounts that you feel are toxic is a good idea because it can help you improve your mood, self-esteem, and anxiety levels. Try to be as pro-active as possible by taking control of what you see on social media whenever you can.
4. Be Mindful of Why You Use Social Media
Do you use social media to keep up with friends and relatives? As an easy way to capture your daily memories? Or is it more about getting positive reinforcement or validation about how you live your life? Each time you reach for your phone or tablet to go on social media, ask yourself why are you doing it. Try to be as honest as possible. Ultimately, you may find the reason is not that important to you, and your time could be better spent doing something more rewarding.
5. Try a Detox Period
If you find yourself mindlessly scrolling late at night or anxiously waiting to see how many likes or follows you’re getting, you may want to consider taking a break from social media for a while. This study showed that just a week-long break from social media improved individuals’ overall level of well-being, as well as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you can’t completely unplug from social media for a while, try cutting back significantly – such as only 30 minutes of social media a day. (Many apps will let you set a time limit on how long you can use social media per day.) It’s helpful to tell friends and family you are doing this before starting as they may want to take a break too.
About Amy Chau, FNP
Originally from California, Amy first started her career in medicine as a nurse before becoming an advanced practitioner. “I decided to become a nurse practitioner because I wanted to care for my patients on a different level,” she explains. “I want all my patients to feel heard, cared for, and know that I am on their side.”
What Amy loves the most about primary care and family medicine is the opportunity she gets to educate...View profile View posts by this doctor