It’s time to face the facts. Social media isn’t great for our mental health. Tons of studies have been done recently—all pointing to the same fact: social media can be toxic. A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that limiting social media use by 30 minutes a day led to participants feeling significantly happier, and a study at York University found that young women felt more dissatisfied with their bodies after interacting with social media posts by women who were perceived to be more attractive than them. These are just a few examples among countless studies.

But there’s a flip side to the coin. We are all equally aware of the benefits of social media.  It gives us tools to grow our businesses, share our ideas, and stay current on what’s happening around us.

Is there a better way to communicate online?

It’s possible to reap the benefits of social media while also protecting your mental health. The key is to be proactive. You don’t have to go cold turkey. Just find boundaries that work for you.

Here are some tips:

  1. Be more selective about which platforms you use. Pay attention to how you feel after spending 15 minutes on a certain platform. With all the options for social media, you’re no longer obligated to use the ones that leave you feeling worse more often than the make you feel better. For example, I love the new platform uSync, which emphasizes creativity and promotes a healthy sharing environment.
  1. Protect yourself from toxic content. While it’s important to be exposed to a wide variety of ideas and opinions, it’s smart to draw a line when your mental health is being negatively impacted. Scrolling through political rants and polarizing arguments for hours each day won’t make you happier, and will probably distort your sense of current events. Read trustworthy news sources instead. Use filters on platforms like uSync to view content that reflects your hobbies and passions. This will allow you to tune out of some of the noise and be more mindful of what you’re scrolling through.
  1. Remember that the people you are interacting with online are human beings. Don’t reduce someone to their online presence. If you were actually interacting with your crazy Aunt Susan in real life, you’d be seeing her as a whole person—not just a series of ill-advised political posts on Facebook. It’d be much easier to have an honest conversation, and even kindly encourage her to think a little differently. Never let social media permanently damage a relationship. You’ll go to sleep happier each night if you can avoid other people’s dramatic online arguments. Finding like-minded crowds (link) and communities (link) on platforms like uSync will drastically decrease the stress of dealing with unhealthy people online.
  1. Be more selective about which platforms you use. Similar to the concept that you can “vote with your dollar”, you can vote with your social media clicks. Don’t look at content on platforms that have corrupt privacy policies or steal your content. If you feel that a social media platform is doing damage to the world, simply stop using it. You won’t be alone. In 2018, Facebook use dropped by 8%.
  1. Be intentional about why and how you are using social media. Set goals and stay focused. Structure your time online around your goals. If it’s important to you to stay close with your family, use uSync’s Share a Story within your Crowd (link) to create a photo gallery that everyone in your family can upload to. If you’re using social media in hope of bringing in more clients at work, use Survey feature (link) or Recommend (link) feature on uSync to get a conversation going with people in your industry. Being mindful of what you value in your online experience will help you avoid the traps that we so frequently fall into while using platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

If we are all a little more conscious about the ways we use social media, we can reclaim it as a tool that helps us connect our ideas with the outside world. As users, we have the capability to define what social media should be, and the power to make thoughtful choices about the role it plays in our lives.