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The One Big Thing I Did To Improve My Mental Health

It's all about limits.

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illustration of woman successfully finding end of social media maze
Eva Bee
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When I first created social media accounts, I loved discovering all the benefits each platform had to offer. The worldwide connection of countless people and organizations was fascinating. As I learned how to navigate Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, I started actively engaging by pinning and posting content I found or created. Facebook gave me the opportunity to find old friends and it was exciting to reconnect. I made many new virtual friends by joining groups that focused on my interests and I devoted my time and energy to developing those relationships. I often used social media to promote my published work as a writer while also supporting other talented authors.

But what started as a positive and exciting endeavor several years ago became burdensome, stressful, tedious and time-consuming. I developed a perpetual need to keep up with everyone and everything, immersing myself in social media regularly for fear of missing out (FOMO). I placed a ton of pressure on myself to support my friends and actively engage in the groups I was in while also helping manage a large Facebook group. Despite my waning desire and dwindling motivation to keep up with all this work, I still found constructive connections and used the platforms for good reasons. However, I started feeling discouraged and even depressed, comparing my life to others who shared highlight reels of their achievements and success.

Then, with political and social dissent erupting in response to government elections, tragic events and the growing pandemic, social media exploded with inflammatory and controversial content. Misinformation, clickbait and everyone sharing their passionate views on what was transpiring around the country flooded my feeds. The social media world became a battleground full of rage-fueled rants and random rhetoric igniting fiery debates. Any time I scrolled, I’d find something that would draw my attention and I’d succumb to the temptation to read the outrage unfolding in the comments section. I would finally pull myself away, feeling stressed and emotionally drained. After years of getting caught up in social media, I realized I had grown increasingly consumed by it and needed to break free from my virtual habit to protect and preserve my mental health. I am not alone in experiencing the negative effects of social media. A National Poll done by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) found that "More than one in three adults (38 percent) see social media usage as harmful to mental health."

It was time to set strong limits. I lost so much valuable time on social media and I needed to get back to the life I was missing and cleanse my mind from the distracting and often damaging messages.

I pulled away from all social media, with the exception of Facebook, because I still found the connections and content on that platform worthwhile. Now, I spend my time on Facebook more productively by designing a strategy that works for me. First, I briefly scroll through my main feed for updates from friends and family. I check my notifications for important updates, then visit the few remaining groups I’m in. Next, I click on my search bar, which drops down to show a history of the top pages I love to follow. I'll pick a few to look at because I trust it will be positive, interesting, inspiring or funny (like The Girlfriend page!). My time is limited to around 15-20 minutes of Facebook activity a day. The need for privacy steadily intensified over the years, so now I rarely post updates about my personal life.

I know friends and family members continue to share the details of their lives and their opinions and perspectives on social media, actively engaging the way I used to. I think it’s wonderful they still enjoy the benefits. Mine was a personal decision that was best for me and I will never judge other people for how they manage their social media activity.

Although I miss regularly engaging on social media and many of my friendships have slowly deteriorated as a result, I feel so relieved. I’m less stressed and more content. I have more time and energy to focus on everything that matters most to me, like my health and well-being, my marriage and parenting, caring for my aging parents and pursuing offline interests. The virtual world will continue to develop and expand, and there are certainly incredible aspects that come with that. But I will keep setting limits and making wise decisions to protect and preserve my mental health and not lose myself again.

Have YOU ever tried to cut back on social media? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Health