According to a 2019 report by Global Web Index, we spend an average of 142 minutes on social media every day. For many of us, it’s the first thing we look at when we wake up and the last thing we check before we go to bed.

It’s no secret that this intensive use of social media is having an effect on our mental health and wellbeing, but while some studies have linked prolonged social media and mobile phone use with symptoms of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, others suggest it can also provide significant benefits.

The positive and negative impacts of social media are very much determined by how individuals use and react to these platforms so, to coincide with World Mental Health Day, here are some key tips to help your relationship with social media be a positive one.

Limit screen time

As with most things in life, balance is key, so make sure you don’t let social media take over your life. There are apps, such as Offtime, that you can download to help you keep track of how much screen time you’re getting. As well as setting it to block access to social media at certain times or when you’ve reached a prescribed limit, you can also prevent text messages and other notifications from distracting you out of your ‘away time’.

Say no at meal and bed times

If you really don’t feel like you can limit your social media use to an allotted number of minutes per day then just try to keep it away from meals and bed time. Encourage discussion around the table and meal times instead of everyone being on their phone and it may also be helpful to use an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake up in the morning, so you can leave your phone in another room when it’s time to go to bed.

Stop comparing

When looking at other people’s posts it’s all too easy to look at what other people have that you might not and that can become a slippery slope to go down. It’s important to remember that the moments people capture on their social media are usually the good bits of their lives – people rarely post picture of something bad that has happened to them – and so it’s not a good representation of their whole life. Try to find inspiration in these posts rather than comparison and if you can’t do that then it’s a good time to consider unfriending or unfollowing that person.

Focus

Far too often we log on to social media to quickly check in with a friend or post a happy birthday message only to still be scrolling an hour or so later having forgotten what we’d logged on for in the first place. Try to be focused on the task in hand when using social media and don’t let what other people are posting distract you.

Think

Think about what you’re posting and remember it will be seen by the outside world. Before you hit send on a post, consider whether it’s spreading positivity. One way to gauge whether or not you’re posting something that might cause offence is to ask yourself if it’s something you would let your grandparent, school teacher or boss read.

Take a break

We all need holidays from time to time and the same applies to social media. Sometimes you just need to shut it off. It doesn’t have to be for long but a weekend or a couple of weeks off can help you gain perspective and realise the benefits social media can bring to your life.

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