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A Therapist's Guide To Balance: Social Media & Mental Health

Personal Growth, Coping Skills
6 min read

Did you know that an average American spends close to 4 hours per day scrolling through social media platforms such as Instagram and close to 3.5 hours per day watching television? As the rate of depression and anxiety continues to rise annually, our world continues to expand the digitization of everything. Even digital art is quickly growing! During the pandemic, we all went as far as speaking to our therapists online because it was convenient, and we needed it.

However, scrolling through social media doesn’t always cultivate the sense of community, connection, and meaning that we all tend to desire. It is confusing, mostly because – momentarily – social media creates a dopamine bump, pushing our brains to think and say “yes, I’m feeling pleased with the content I’m being exposed to, it feels like a reward.

This seems great for a moment, but then we realized that we haven’t truly created a meaningful connection. This sense of community isn’t creating purpose, but rather creating comparison and contrast to how others are living their lives vs. how we live our own. A shared social purpose can give us strength at our core, but sometimes it’s healthier to have that experience in person.

Here are a few tips on how to limit your consumption of social media:

  1. Try to limit your daily social media intake to an hour and see how your mood elevates. Just give it a shot. If you can’t do it, that’s okay. 
  2. Connect with others for an early morning meet-up group where you can grab a coffee or soak in the sun to stimulate your natural hormones that are involved in connection. We live in sunny California so why not?
  3. Don’t have much time in the morning before work? How about an after work happy hour meetup to socialize with friends you know and/or make some new connections? You never know who you may meet!
  4. Take a regular weekly fitness class to find a healthy way to stimulate your hormones that makes you feel good while socializing as well. People often gather and chat before or after a workout class to encourage connection.

Social media has been a successful platform to engage with others, even I met my partner of 7 years on a dating app! However, social platforms can also lead to our fear of missing out. We start to distract ourselves with the sense of not wanting to be left out and we resort to pulling up social media and scrolling through certain apps upon having these thoughts. We become addicted to the swiping, the matching, and the “ding” of being messaged. It has even become a numbers game. How many inside jokes are we a part of amongst friends? How many likes did we gain on a post? Is it as many as my co-worker received on his/her post? We can start to recognize, “wow I’ve been scrolling through this platform for hours I did not accomplish anything besides an unhealthy upward comparison.” All these behaviors can lead to increased anxiety, depression and stress. This can create added overwhelm with our already busy schedules. When we are heads down in our phones or computers, we also risk missing beautiful moments with friends, significant others, or anyone who desires your genuine attention.

Let’s refocus and discover how to continue creating meaningful connections with a partner or friend. Here are some ideas:

  1. Create a once-a-day check-in time with your partner or friend. Not just the typical, “how was work today” kind of talk, but something a bit deeper such as “what do you love about life?” 
  2. Plan a weekend hike where you leave your phones in the car and just be in nature with one another, so you promote active awareness along with connection.
  3. Read a book together with a partner so that you can stimulate each other intellectually with a mutual discussion topic or join a book club. 
  4. Head to the California desert like Palm Springs, Joshua Tree or Pioneertown to reset and focus in on one another. Listen to some music in the car or simply talk. Try to put your phones away and leave the computers behind. Work can wait until Monday!

We, as human beings, strive to search for meaning in life. What is my purpose? How am I making a difference? Am I satisfied with my career path? We all ask ourselves these kinds of questions at some point in time, but social media can strongly influence a narrative surrounding meaning. We can follow social media accounts that promote a positive mindset. We can ask ourselves, how does this information I consume contribute to my life narrative? We get to choose how and what we let influence us. It’s about tapping into the awareness surrounding our behavior. We can use social media for personal growth, but we must cultivate consciousness around what we absorb from it. 

How to gain insight of what you desire:

  1. Meditate on “what do I want in life” in a quiet space to see if clarity comes to you free of other outside stimuli. 
  2. Take a close look at who you surround yourself with. Does my social group promote my well-being and growth? Are my passions being encouraged in a healthy way?
  3. Clear your mind, free yourself of toxins including alcohol, and then see how you feel with a cleansed mind and body. 
  4. Travel as much as you can and soak in the wonders of the world.

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About the Author: Casey Strenski, MA, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist based in Los Angeles, CA. Learn more about Casey and her approach to therapy by visiting her Frame profile here.