Madissyn Fredericks, Licensed Professional Counselor, Symmetry Counseling

We are all guilty of it. Many of us overuse Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to fill most of our free time. If there is some extra down time at the office, on the commute home, or on our days off it feels basically automatic to pull out our phones scroll through social media. According to Social Media Today, the average person is spending approximately 2 hours per day on social media alone. Over time this averages out to about 5 years and 4 months of our life that we will spend scrolling on these websites and applications.

As you may guess, this amount of time spent on social media isn’t all that great for our mental health as it impacts self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and more. A recent study conducted by Melissa Hunt at Penn State University suggests that limiting social media use can help reduce loneliness and depression. In this study researchers monitored 143 students’ use of Instagram for three weeks. They were either asked to limit their social media use to 10 minutes per day (30 min per day total), per app, or to continue using it as they normally would. The group that limited their use reported significant reductions in loneliness and depression than the other group. This finding suggests that spending less time on social media will benefit your mental health today and in the years to come. Below are a few ways you can limit social media use in your day to day life to reduce the negative effects social media can have on your mental health.

Time Yourself

Nowadays many cell phones will display a breakdown of amount of time or battery use spent on certain applications. It can be helpful to display this feature on your phone where you can see it or check it frequently to monitor your own use. You may also time yourself to ensure you are dedicating less than an hour per day to applications such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Timing yourself helps you self-monitor and dedicate more time to other things important to you.

Engage With Others

When we are always on social media we tend to not be as present with those around us. We are less approachable, we look distracted, and we aren’t as engaged with others when our focus is on getting the perfect picture for Instagram. Try scheduling more activities with friends, family, and coworkers. While you are with them practice putting your phone away, on silent, or in another room as you are less likely to check social media.

Be Mindful Of How It Makes You Feel

As you are using these applications make sure you check in with yourself mentally. You may ask yourself, “Am I comparing myself to others?”, “Do I feel lonely?”, “Am I feeling bad about myself?”. These questions improve mindfulness as you use social media to help you stop before you feel the negative effects of it. The more mindful you are the less you will use it or let it affect you.

If you are finding that social media use is impacting your mental health and would like some support, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!