Latalia White, AMFT

There’s no doubt that social media has been one of the most life-changing technological innovations that we’ve ever had access to — it enables us to feel connected to people all over the world. However, social media is not just a magical online space in which people enjoy greater access to their loved ones far away. Social media has also brought with it upticks in anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues; young people, who are developmentally primed to simultaneously seek approval and exude individuality in their self-expression, are particularly prone to experiencing these issues. People feel less connected than ever, despite how easy it is to get in touch with someone. Many feel as if they have become addicted to their devices and all the offerings of the Internet. It’s become apparent that our society could stand to engage with social media and modern technology in a healthier, more intentional way. Try the following tips to reduce the time you spend on social media and improve your mental health:

Remove social media apps from your smartphone.

By removing the actual apps for your social media accounts from your phone, you’re making it harder to access them. One of the worst things about smartphones today is how easy it is to mindlessly scroll through apps and the Internet, so you’re giving yourself the gift of another step to take to spend time on Facebook or Instagram — you’re making more of an active decision in how you spend your time. Instead, when you have your phone out, you’ll have to login on your Internet browser to access your account. On your laptop, you could choose not to store your password on the site to make yourself take the extra step before you browse.

Designate times of the day or week to be social media-free.

Pick a certain time each day – or chunks of time each week – to be social media-free. If that feels hard, think of the time you’re least likely to be on Twitter, and start there. Meals are another great place to eliminate social media, as is the hour before you go to bed and the first hour of your day. Additionally, make a pact with yourself that you will stay off social media when you are in the presence of other people when you are spending quality time with them.

Cut out at least one social media site from your life.

A higher-stakes reduction method is to start by either shutting down one social media account you have or deactivating it indefinitely. You can make this decision by evaluating various factors: which site do I visit the least? Which site do I spend too much time on? Which site provides me the least amount of useful information about the world and my friends? Which site makes me feel the worst about myself and my life when I’m using my account?

Switch out regular social media time for in-person meetups or phone calls.

Get in the habit of regularly scheduling in-person hangouts with loved ones who live close by or scheduling phone calls with faraway friends and family. You’ll still feel connected to your friends and family without the negative effects of mindlessly scrolling through a mishmash of content related to people you may or may not be that close with. Try to prioritize meetups with others who will not spend any large chunk of time on their own social media accounts while they are with you – you don’t want to feel tempted while your friend is zoned out on their phone.

Seek out activities that make you feel good about yourself.

This may be the most important step you can take in reducing your social media usage. Why? Social media sites work by using information based on positive and negative feedback from other users to generate and organize content. Social media sites also promote others’ “highlight reels” — you get to see the happy or pretty parts of other people’s lives on sites like Instagram and Facebook, and it’s incredibly easy to compare the hard or mundane parts of your own life to the highlights of someone else’s life. The best way to fight against the urge to overindulge with social media is to find outlets in your real life that leave you feeling happy about yourself and your choices – outlets that do not depend on others’ feedback to validate your choices.