by Erica Garza
Let’s be real: For every Instagram post that inspires us to add a new destination to our bucket list or try out a new recipe, there’s another that leaves us feeling down. In fact, social media use has been linked to depression and anxiety, with one study showing that those effects are worse for girls. However, there are several ways to combat the many dangers of social media and resist getting sucked into a world of endless comparison. Here’s how to make your social media scrolling kinder and even embrace the positive effects of social media.
Unfollow Accounts That Make You Feel Bad
Steer clear of social media accounts that always seem to make you feel miserable, whether their posts are too negative or their picture-perfect lives fill you with envy. If you think it’s too drastic to straight up unfriend every annoying acquaintance or filtered celeb, simply mute their posts (and Stories!) and they won’t dominate your feed anymore. Think of your social media feeds as carefully curated museums — how can you make them beautiful and inspiring places?
Try to avoid jumping in when your social media feed starts resembling the UFC Octagon. Even if your intention is to enlighten someone or change their mind about something, you may be setting yourself up for a barrage of nasty comments from people you don’t even know. Instead, only engage with posts where you can bring kindness and compassion to the conversation. Drop a positive comment onto your co-worker’s latest selfie or add a thoughtful question to the discussion happening in the comments of your favorite Influencer’s most recent post — you may just make an IRL friend from doing so. And if a memory pops up about a moment you shared with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, share it to show you’re thinking about them and potentially rekindle your relationship.
Don’t Forget That Social Media Is Rarely #RealLife
Whenever you catch yourself feeling bad because you’re caught up comparing yourself to everyone you see online, remember that you are perfect just the way you are. Remind yourself that what you see online is rarely real life. Most people are reluctant to share candid photos of their unmade beds, under-eye bags, credit-card balances or kids in the midst of a raging tantrum. So next time you start comparing your life to what you see in your feed, remember that even Victoria’s Secret models edit their posts and give yourself room to embrace your imperfections. Once you truly love yourself for who you uniquely are the urge to compare (and the bad vibes comparison brings) will start to disappear.
If you find yourself still struggling to place the posts you see into this context, considering following people who do a better job of showing life’s less-than-perfect moments. Swapping out that uber-polished celeb or influencer for one that champions kindness or keeps it ultra-real on their feed can work wonders.
Use Your Social Media Like a Gratitude Journal
One of the good things about social media being curated is that when you share more positive posts than negative ones, you’ll have a diary of positive memories to look back on. Aside from Facebook and Instagram’s “On This Day” functionality, you can think of your social media accounts like photo albums or gratitude journals you can click through any time you want to remember your happiest moments and some of your kindest interactions with others.
Take a Break
If you find yourself depressed or anxious regardless of the kind of posts you interact with online, you may be in need of a social media or digital detox. American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or merely interacting with media, according to a new study by market-research group Nielsen. Not only is that probably bad for your eyes, but research shows that too much social media can affect your mental health and make you lonely no matter how many friends or followers you’ve amassed. While you may love taking photos of your favorite places or tagging your BFFs at your favorite brunch spot, don’t forget to put down your phone once in a while to enjoy the experience fully. It’s the only #RealLife you have.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in Time, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and Vice.