6 Reasons Why Setting Limits to Social Media is Good for Your Mental Health (and How To Do It)
6 min read
It’s refreshing to know we can discuss mental health in the public arena, since our mental health is as important as our physical health.
But are there ways to improve our mental wellbeing, or to take steps to ensure it isn’t unintentionally jeopardized?
Social media is often cited as a negative influence on mental health, from impacting self esteem to hindering a proper sleep. While we aren’t suggesting a complete break from social media (although there are proponents of such an approach), it doesn’t hurt to consider a pause to social media use, or limits to its daily impact.
If you’re feeling like your days are filled with too much scrolling, here are 6 reasons why setting limits to social media is good for your mental health, and how to do it.
1. It Can Actually Be Bad For You
Studies continue to show that too much time on social media is actually bad for mental health. In fact, Facebook was “aware of mental health risks linked to the use of its Instagram app but kept those findings secret,” with research showing it worsened body image and increased experiences of anxiety and depression.
Other studies show that excessive use can increase the risk of mental health problems. Social media has also been criticized for being “addictive by design” and for its role in spreading misinformation.
On the flipside, social media can help build connections to others, create social networks, and share information of interest.
That’s when understanding the impact of social media, and creating limits to its use, can help ensure you’re enjoying the good aspects of it.
2. Improved Ability to Focus
All the time spent on our gadgets has impacted our attention spans, meaning we are less able to focus.
A recent study showed that since the time of the “mobile revolution,” around the year 2000, the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.
By taking some time away from our smartphones, our ability to focus may improve. The next time you’re sitting with nothing to do, instead of reaching for your phone, simply sit. Let your mind wander, or practice meditation. You may find an improved focus that carries over into other areas of your life.
3. More Time to Read
If you spend a lot of time reading social media scrolls, you likely have less time for actual reading. As in, reading a book.
By setting limits on the amount of time you spend on social media, you can set aside more time each day to read for enjoyment, or for education. Fiction, non-fiction, self-help, career advancement, inspirational, or daily readings are all healthy additions to an everyday routine.
Reading is good for you, too, as studies show it helps with brain development and strengthens language processing. It’s also been cited as a way to reduce stress, promote wellness, combat dementia, help with sleep, decrease feelings of isolation and inspire success.
Anyone who’s lost themselves in a book knows that even 30 minutes a day will provide benefits.
4. More Free Time for Other Pursuits
Besides reading, what else could you do with the time spent on social media? In the morning, spending five minutes of quiet time is a powerful way to start the day. In the afternoon, you could go for a walk outside, where the fresh air is sure to invigorate. In the evening, you could read a story to your child or play a game of cards with your spouse.
If you do love your technology, how about trying some different uses for your smartphone. Download an app like Duolingo and learn a new language. Solve a crossword puzzle every day. Write a nice email to a friend once a day, or create a digital diary and write something nice to yourself.
There are plenty of ways to spend your time, including doing nothing. The act of not being busy is frowned upon in our “to-do list” society, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with simply resting.
5. Less Concern About Likes and Follows
Ever post on social media and then return several times a day to see who has liked it or commented on it? We all do. That’s part of what’s fun about being social.
But be mindful of your reactions. If you find yourself checking all day long, or you notice your mood change based on a “lack of likes,” then it might be time to consider a break from social media.
6. Greater Opportunity to Curate Joy
Ever wish you had more time for things you enjoy? Make a list of those and then make a point to set aside time every day to do what you love instead of picking up your phone and scrolling through social.
For instance, if you’re like me, you probably have a lot of photos on your phone that feels like a disorganized mess. When I need to find something specific, it’s a different kind of scrolling to get what I need! Instead, I could spend a bit of time every day or every week organizing them into a memory book, similar to a photo album. I could journal with my memories, ensuring those special moments and big events get protected.
Or, instead of posting those photos from a birthday party or other special times to social media, organize them into a private story-telling app like memoryKPR.
Utilize memoryKPR in addition to social media, using it to back up what’s online and ensure all your photos are protected and in one place. You can share to social media from memoryKPR, or share with select friends and family using a QR code or a link sent by email.
How to Set Limits on Social Media
If you’re ready for a bit of a break, you may be asking: How do I set limits on social media use?
Your mobile device can help you do that. It’s possible to create limits on Apple's iPhone setting, on Android products including the Family Time app, or on the Google Wellbeing product for the Pixel phone. You can even simply set a timer and when it sounds, you close the social media app and go on to something else.
There are other tools available to you as well. The Center for Humane Technology, for instance, is a non-profit with technology toolkits that will support your desire to “increase your well being and regain control.” From turning off notifications to fully disconnecting one day a week, this resource can help you find what’s best for you and your family.
Some people go as far as removing the app completely, but there are still some good reasons to enjoy social media. So find what’s right for you, even if that’s simply cutting back a bit every day.
Our mental health continues to receive the attention it deserves, since it’s an important component of our overall wellbeing. Social media can play a part in negatively impacting mental health, depending how it’s used.
By setting some limits to social media, and finding other activities you enjoy, you can have the best of both worlds, with social media being part of your life in a healthy way.
Ardith Stephanson is a freelance writer and journalist who shares some of her own stories at theardizan.com