5 ways to use social media to improve our mental health

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Social media has all but destroyed our ability to work undisturbed. Constant notifications keep us hooked in a chorus of discordant noise while anxiety builds up in the back of your mind: time is running out! I’ll never get this done on time.

Yet, we obey the ringing and notifications like slaves do masters. Our phones have become like an indispensable limb we can’t be without even for a second. Even if our compulsive habit endangers our employment.

In this article, we’re going to first discuss the problem with being addicted to phones and social media, and then we’ll talk about 5 things we can do to inspire positivity in our lives from social media

Using our phones is like playing a slot machine

On the April 9 edition of 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper, former Google product manager Tristan Harris gave the best description of our interactions with our phones I have ever come across. He likened every time we check our phones to playing the slot machine. In this case the slot machine pay-out is the jolt of dopamine that rewards us when we do something worthy of an internal reward.

In a video on the Entrepreneur website Ben Angel says our behavior is due to operant conditioning.

In the 1930’s, B. F. Skinner developed the concept of operant conditioning. He used it to change the behavior of pigeons and rats by providing rewards and punishments – if they engaged in a certain activity, they were rewarded with food. Our reward is the ping that announces an email, a Facebook like or a new follower on Twitter.

The reward you got from the last time you checked social media influences the way you behave in the future. It’s like a continuous loop: check your Instagram or Twitter feed, get a shot for dopamine, repeat. Dopamine is of course also released every time you discover something new, so newsfeeds on websites play the same role are social media.

Angel some suggestions to get us off the constant let’s-see-what’s-happening treadmill and onto a more productive plane.

Our challenge is to find more constructive ways to produce dopamine in our brains while we are engaged in work, he says.

One of the best ways to do this is to reward yourself for your achievements.

“A great little mind-set hack for big tasks is to break them down into a series of smaller steps. You’ll feel the dopamine build up as you tick each step off the list in excited anticipation,” says Angel.

“Anticipation of just getting the job done can keep your brain focused and if you can promise yourself a reward at the end of it, then that’s a double hit.”

The trick is to replace the dopamine hit you get from social media with another stimulus.

To begin with, he suggests we may need some help. “So set up some social media app blockers to limit yourself to certain times of the day for catching up and then reward yourself every time you switch it off or switch back to the task at hand even if it is a special treat at the end of the week.”

For me that reward is usually another cup of coffee or a walk in the sun to the gate and back as soon as I’ve finished an article. What’s yours?

If you’re looking to use social media for positivity instead of negativity, then we’ve prepared some tips for you below.

How to Use Social Media to Spread Positivity and Improve Mental Health: 5 Tips

Nothing has changed the ways humans interact more than the introduction of social media.

The printing press is hailed as the greatest invention of all time because it made sharing knowledge possible at a grander scale than sharing stories in your small circle or family.

Social media has taken the sharing of knowledge to an entirely new level and the truth is that when the printing press came to be, people were ready for more information; at this point, we’re inundated with so much information we often don’t know what to do with it.

And it’s overwhelming in all the wrong ways.

If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired over social media, keep reading.

In this article, we’re going to cover some of the best ways to curb the impact of social media on your mental health and help you use social media to spread positivity instead.

1. Be intentional about using social media.

It’s no secret that you can get lost in a social media scroll for hours at a time. If you’re like most people, this has probably happened to you a time or two.

And you can’t help but start comparing yourself to people who seem to be living a wonderful life on social media.

But people live a fake life on social media, so don’t get caught up in it.

If you want to reduce the impact social media has on your mental health and you want to improve the positive aspects of it, it’s important to use social media intentionally.

When you show up to use a social media platform, such as Instagram, Tik Tok or any other platform, it’s important you understand the reason for being there.

If you don’t have any need to be on those platforms right now, ask yourself why you opened the app in the first place.

By being mindful and paying attention to what you’re even doing there, to begin with, you can start to change your behaviors and reduce the friction around social media in your life.

2. Don’t use it to fill time and space.

Humans crave stimulation. We look for entertainment on every corner and we can’t just be still with our thoughts anymore.

Standing in line at the bank used to be a thing you did without much thought, but now you have to pull out your phone and scroll through social media or check your email.

It’s an impulse and the truth is, if you paid attention to what you were looking at, you’d find that you’re not getting anything out of that engagement.

In fact, it’s not very “engaging” at all. Most people use social media as a way to fill time and take up space in their lives, but if you are using social media to kill time, you might want to ask yourself what that really means?

What’s wrong with being bored standing in the line at the bank? Why do we have to be entertained every second of the day?

Make a conscious choice to just be with your thoughts during certain situations and you might find that when you do come back to social media, it is more enjoyable.

3. Filter the noise.

There’s no shortage of loud, annoying, and downright ignorant people online.

Unfortunately, when you choose to engage with a social media platform, you accept that risk.

It’s not that their behavior is okay, but it is known to the majority of people that some will take a lot of liberties with their opinions and how they treat people online.

In order to be happier in your life and reduce your risk of mental health issues, it’s important to filter the noise on your social media platforms.

For example, if your cousin is always complaining about someone or something, nobody said you have to keep following that person – even if they are family.

You get to decide who to follow and what messages you want to see on a daily basis.

Go through your feeds and delete anyone who isn’t contributing to a positive environment.

You can’t change the way people act but you can change your experience using these platforms quite easily.

Unfortunately, a lot of people put up with more than they should online because they don’t want to make other people uncomfortable by blocking them or removing them from their friend lists.

4. Talk about how you use social media with others.

There’s a theory that we act, think and behave like the five people we spend most of our time with.

This means that if you hang around with people who are racist or who have a certain line of thinking, you are more likely to adopt that line of thinking – often without realizing it.

You’re ingrained in a certain type of culture and you might not see how it’s impacting your life and beliefs.

Take some time to talk to the people in your circle about how they use social media and especially talk to your family.

If you have children, talk to them about who they follow and why. We’re all influenced by our surroundings.

There’s no way around it. So if you can put in some effort to create an environment where people are using social media in a positive way, you are more likely to do the same.

5. Contribute to the good.

At the end of the day, the pull to be on social media and use it regularly is strong; but if you feel like you can’t handle it or it really is impacting your happiness in a negative way, it might be a better idea to remove yourself from it entirely.

While this seems extreme, the same logic applies in all areas of life: you wouldn’t stay in a job where someone was abusing you.

You wouldn’t live in a house that was condemned. You wouldn’t drive a car that got a flat tired every 5 miles.

If you have standards in your life for how you live, you should have a standard for using social media as well.

If you don’t get anything from it except negative connection, you can begin to create positive connections or you can remove yourself.

You might be surprised by how little you miss it after a while. You can always come back to social media when you feel like you are ready to be there again. Don’t forget. You get to decide.


Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Hack Spirit! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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