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As we reflect on Mental Health Awareness throughout the month of May, identifying different social environments that contribute to the state of our mental health is impactful. Technology, and subsequently social media, have rapidly grown over the course of the last decade, becoming an integral part of many people’s daily lives. From information gathering to idea sharing, or even connecting with others that are facing similar challenges, social media has become an effective, global resource for relaying information.

With ever-changing platforms and apps, now more than ever, there is a constant ability to interact with one another, as today, around 69% of American adults and 81% of adolescents are considered social media users. These impressive numbers show just how much social media use has become woven into our global culture. While the seemingly positive nature of reconnecting with an old friend on Facebook or creating a beautiful aesthetic on Instagram fosters new connections, unfortunately there are also unwavering negative impacts of increased use of social media, typically rooted in increased comparison with others.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by social media and are experiencing feelings of burnout, comparison, or even jealousy, this can serve as an indication that your experience with social media may need to be reevaluated. While removing oneself completely from social media engagement can be a challenging concept, in many cases, limiting social media use or reducing viewership of accounts that result in negative feelings, can be quite beneficial. When negative feelings about yourself or your life compared to others arise, it may be a clear sign that a break from social media is needed. For this reason, it is valuable to recognize the why and how behind one’s social media engagement in order to better prevent burnout.

Here are a few ways to be more purposeful in your social media use:

  • Reduce or turn off notifications limiting your distractions and inclination to constantly check in
  • Unfollow or avoid viewing accounts that trigger negative emotions, feelings, or comparison
  • Avoid “passive scrolling” or create parameters surrounding social media engagement
  • Follow accounts that provide confidence, inspiration, and increase your creativity
  • Share what is important to you, but don’t feel the need to share your entire life

As we continue to reflect on the importance of mental health and the ways in which we can support those around us, identifying potential triggers or sources of distress is beneficial. To be sure that social media and the internet is playing a positive role in your life, it’s important to be aware of how you are using it. It has been found that social media users often feel pressure to find validation through likes and comments, with negative implications when expectations aren’t met. Unsurprisingly, this experience leads to increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and isolation. Implementing some of the above solutions can have an immediate and positive effect, shifting the perspective of engagement. In continuing to use and adapt the ways in which we engage with one another, reflecting and creating boundaries to protect health and happiness is an excellent tool. While we are often quick to point the finger at social media and its pitfalls, we must also remember the positivity, support, and connections it provides.