7 Tips for Using Social Media for Mental Well-being
Social wellness, a measure of connectedness with family, friends and community, is key in influencing happiness and positive mental health.(1,2) Research has shown social connection to be a protective factor against a host of mental health disorders, from depression to anxiety.(2) The quality and quantity of our social relationships can also impact our physical health.(3)
The elements of our social wellness, including the networks and connections we forge in our neighborhoods and communities, are increasingly built and maintained within our social media landscape. These online spaces are where many of us interact and connect with one another and have become the primary means of communication for youth.(4) At the same time that this online connection has grown, Americans report declining trends of civic engagement and a decrease in the number of trusted confidants in their social circles.(2)
While much has been said about both positive and negative associations of mental health and social media use, the research is unclear.(2,5) Some studies suggest the difference hinges on how users interact with these platforms and whether they engage with them in a mindful manner.(1,2) For example, researchers have found loneliness increases when people use social media to escape from social interactions or when people use social media when they are around friends or family.
However, when social media is used to enhance existing relationships and forge new social connections it can help reduce loneliness.(1) Some research has found social media especially helpful for reducing loneliness among older adults.(2) These platforms can be used to share information and resources without limits of distance and time. They can also maintain social connections when face-to-face interaction isn’t possible, as happened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conflicting science is still “sparse and controversial,”(2) and even public opinion is torn. Respondents to a January 2022 ) Healthy Minds Monthly poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) reported feeling positive emotions while using social media. Four in five reported (80%) reported feeling “interested,” and 72% feeling “connected and happy” when they use social media.(6) Conversely, nearly two-thirds of respondents said (63%) overall social media does more harm than good. In addition, among diverse populations, Hispanic adults were more likely than Black or white adults to feel stressed, worried and depressed while using social media.
For many of us, it is undeniable that social media and the networks we build through it are a significant part of our lives. It is increasingly important to curate these spaces to enhance optimism, positive self-image, connectedness, and the reduction of stigmas. Cultivating positive social media habits can prime us for social wellness, enhance belonging and potentially strengthen protective factors against mental health disorders.
Tips for Positive Social Media Use for Mental Wellness
- Follow hashtags of topics, places, activities, nutrition, art and music or other things that motivate and ground you such as #mindfulness #selfcare #bodypositivity, #dailypoet etc.
- Repost, share and engage with posts that are uplifting, rooted in gratitude or celebration.
- Research among Facebook users has shown evidence of emotional contagion, meaning that emotions expressed by others on Facebook can influence our own, whether in a positive or a negative direction.(3)
- Utilize social media as an outlet for creativity and self-expression. Follow accounts and hashtags for communities of artistic endeavors that inspire you or help you grow as an artist.
- Focus on your real friends and maintaining connections, versus voyeurism which can increase feelings of loneliness and inadequacy.
- Live your life. Remember that internet use should not displace offline activities, only enhance your social connections.
- Be analytical and selective about the information you consume and share. Evaluate the source, content and credibility of research or reporting and investigate information before you share. It is vital to be a smart consumer and understand and verify what we see online before we react to it and spread it.
- Conduct a privacy checkup on your social media platforms so you are aware of what information is being shared with whom. Most applications and sites have privacy and security settings in their preferences or account menus.
- Social Wellness Toolkit – National Institutes of Health
- 6 Tips to Help Take Control of Your Social Media Use and Improve Well-being - APA
By Fatima Reynolds, M.P.H.
Division of Diversity and Health Equity,
American Psychiatric Association
- Nowland, R., Necka, E. A., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2017). Loneliness and social internet use: Pathways to reconnection in a Digital World? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(1), 70–87. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691617713052
- Bekalu, M. A., McCloud, R. F., Minsky, S., & Viswanath, K. (2021). Association of social participation, perception of neighborhood social cohesion, and social media use with happiness: Evidence of trade-off (JCOP-20-277). Journal of community psychology, 49(2), 432–446. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22469
- Umberson, D., & Montez, J. K. (2010). Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. Journal of health and social behavior, 51 Suppl(Suppl), S54–S66. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146510383501
- Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8788–8790. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1320040111
- Orben, A., Dienlin, T., & Przybylski, A. K. (2019). Social Media’s enduring effect on Adolescent life satisfaction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(21), 10226–10228. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1902058116
- Healthy minds Monthly - American Psychiatric Association. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://www.psychiatry.org/File%20Library/Unassigned/APA_Feb-Social-Media_ANALYSIS.pdf