According to a new report by the Office of National Statistics in the United Kingdom, children who spend more than three hours on social media per day are more likely than others to suffer from mental illness.
While this new statistic is telling, for years studies have been suggesting that social media has a direct impact on our mood–and not for good.
In a TIME article appropriately titled “Why Facebook Makes You Feel Bad About Yourself,” Alexandra Sifferlin refers to a German study of 600 social media users. Not surprising (except to the study’s author Hanna Krasnova) was its discovery that one-third of users were sadder after browsing their Facebook feeds, “especially if they viewed vacation photos.”
The most common cause of their diminished emotional state, Sifferlin writes, was determined to be social comparison, (think Instagram stalking your ex-mates new lover, and don’t you dare pretend that you haven’t) followed by “‘lack of attention’ from having fewer comments, likes, and general feedback compared to friends.”
But most of us don’t need statistics to tell us that our social media use is a bit out of control, or that it’s actually bumming us out. So, how do we fix it?
1. Strengthen real relationships.
According to a New York Times article by Brent Staples, “only 18 percent of students reported spending 16 hours per week socializing with friends — an all-time low.” He adds that students have replaced social interaction with social media.
But if the number of Facebook friends we had were reflective of the individuals we spoke to and spent time with on a regular basis, few of us would break 10. In fact, it’s habits like social media that prevent us from building more substantial relationships and allow us to neglect the relationships we already have.
If one of your friends posts a status about getting a new job, make a point to text or call them with congratulations instead of merely “liking” the post. Better yet, make them a card or write them a note, and make a point to see them in the near future to catch up.
When you spend time with your friends or family, turn your phones off. Some social groups even have a rule that they will all put their phones out of reach when they go out to eat to make sure that they’re actually communicating with one another.
Make sure that the amount of time that you’re spending on each activity is proportional to how much you care about that activity. If your friends and family matter to you more than your Instagram account, you should be seeing them more than last night’s prom pictures.
2. Find hobbies just for you.
In a world where we’re constantly connected, doing something completely alone can be a difficult practice to perfect. It is easy to become lonely when you’re not engaging with (or Facebook stalking) others.
The key is to keep your mind or body active, while keeping your devices far away. Leave your phone at home when you go for a run or do a Sudoku puzzle by hand instead of online. Become comfortable indulging in the heavy plot line of a Netflix series or unwinding to a mindless marathon of Say Yes to the Dress without tweeting about it. Find ways to genuinely entertain yourself and genuinely do them alone.
3. Unfriend, unfollow, and unsubscribe.
Not all social media is bad. However, without filter, our Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines can become an endless sea of updates that eat up both our time and positivity.
We all have them–“friends” or followers that we don’t actually like or who don’t like us that we keep anyway. And, we all know that we gain nothing but sadness from seeing the cool destinations they’re going to or beautiful selfies that they’re posting.
So stop that.
Make your social media accounts are a positive place by filtering your friends and the posts that you see. Understand that it’s perfectly okay to dismiss someone’s friend request, or merely unsubscribe to their posts if they do not make you happy.
There are all kinds of ways to keep the people you don’t like out of your timeline. Check out this method for blocking people from showing up in Facebook’s ‘On this Day’ feature.
4. Let your phone die.
For many of us, our smartphones are an extra appendage to our body, a natural extension of our arm. So, it’s not unsurprising that the world is rampant with car chargers and portable chargers and all kinds of methods of making sure that we’re not out of touch.
And those of us that use social media extensively know that nothing quite kills your battery life like sending too many snapchats.
To prevent yourself from compulsively checking all sites, prevent yourself from charging your phone more than once (or twice) per day. In an effort to conserve energy for the things that are important–like texts or phone calls–you may just end up leaving a few notifications unseen.
5. Block yourself from social media sites.
Checking Facebook and Twitter is never quite as sweet as when you’re procrastinating a research paper or putting off an online assignment. And with social media just a tab away from the research you’re doing on Google, it’s nearly impossible to prevent yourself from taking a peek.
Fortunately, several sites and applications exist to solve just this. These websites and programs are designed to block you from certain websites, whether it be Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, for a specific amount of time.
6. Delete social media applications.
This may sound drastic, but you can do it. For sites such as Twitter and Facebook that are not mobile exclusive, take the plunge and delete the applications–your monthly data usage and storage will thank you too. You can still easily check these sites via Safari or at a computer, but without frequent notifications or the button right at your fingertips, you’ll certainly look less often.
This will also allow you to designate specific parts of your day to checking social media. If you’re at school, practice, or out and about, you’ll have to wait until you get home to your laptop. You’ll be forced to spend the active parts of your day actually being active and engaged, so look out the window and bring a book on long car rides, and actually talk to your parents and siblings when you’re eating out. It will be okay.
Adolescent Programs at GenPsych
Growing up can be difficult and coping with mental illness can add even more stress to that process. At GenPsych, we offer a comprehensive adolescent program designed to address both the issues facing teens today and the individualized needs of the teens we treat.
Upon calling our admissions office at (855) 436-7792, we will schedule your teen for an assessment, which will identify the best program track for them. We offer a variety of program options as well as on-site schooling to keep your teen from falling behind on class work. To learn more about our adolescent program, click here, or request an appointment.