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I’m a social media manager and I have deleted all social media apps off my phone. What is more, I’ve even banned all Facebook and Instagram sites on my mobile browser and permanently blocked the Facebook newsfeed from my laptop.
Because social media isn’t good for my mental health, and most definitely doesn’t help reconnecting with my inner child.
It doesn’t mean I’m generally condemning social media. I am part of many wonderful communities, have received many helpful tips on Facebook groups, and also enjoy sharing personal thoughts and photos.
The problem is that I’m not particularly self-disciplined. I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to others. I know what other people say about me on social media isn’t necessarily what they’d say to my face. I also know it doesn’t serve anyone to stare at images of dead animals or natural disasters on this planet.
And yet I always fall into the trap again. Social media creates more feelings of tension, envy and edginess than it creates actual feelings of joy.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s scrolling through my Facebook feed or watching Instagram stories.
It’s obvious that social media is designed to do exactly that. It’s meant to make us addicted on the one hand, and unfulfilled on the other. Facebook doesn’t want you to say “Heck yeah, now that I’m all caught up and inspired, I can leave Facebook for the day”. We always receive just enough information to keep us hooked and the brain whispering, “Just one more time, and there will be something even better. Just one more time. Just one more time.”
I recently read an article that described this in a way that was pretty accurate: The internet has moved from horizontal to vertical. In the past we engaged in smaller, more protected communities (going in and out of forums, opening and closing blog sites etc.), while we are now spending most of our time on the same site (by endlessly scrolling).
Facts and figures about social media and mental health
It looks like I’m not the only who thinks social media is negatively impacting mental health.
A study from the University of Michigan divided students into two groups. The first group was asked to just read Facebook posts. The second was asked to write posts on Facebook and engage with others. The students that had only passively consumed posts reported a significantly worse mood than those who were actively engaging in social media. The interesting part: it was only 10 minutes of time the study had did the experiment on. 10 minutes of passive consumption of social media content can significantly lower your mood.
A different study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who click more links and like more posts than other people on social media tend to have poorer mental health.
And there are also studies, like one of the University of Pittsburgh that prove that there’s a direct correlation between social media use and depression. The more negative experiences a person has with social media, the more likely they are to develop symptoms of depression. In more precise terms, a 10% increase in negative experiences with social media results in a 20% increase in symptoms of depression.
Interestingly, this doesn’t work the same in reverse. A 10% improvement in experiences with social media only translated to a 4% improvement in mental health. Social media therefore does not have the potential to make us overall happier.
Mental health as a social media manager
Compared to most people who spend an average of 2 hours on social media per day a social media manager spends about 6-8 hours a day on social networks.
I could quote entire paragraphs from this excellent article:
Social media managers read and reply to all comments. We deal with the trolls. Every insult. Every bashing.
Moreover, our skills always have to be up to date with all the new functions on all the channels. Our own social media is like a walking advertisement. And being absent on your own private socials for a while is not very well-received either.
Deleting our accounts entirely? Impossible. Unthinkable. Without a private Facebook profile you can’t create ads for clients, can’t pre-test features, can’t monitor comments etc.)
So, now what?
Because I make a living from creating Facebook Ads for businesses, I also don’t want to inspire everyone to shut down all their socials all of a sudden. Also, because I know how many good things can come from social media accounts.
But I do know for sure that I can’t keep using social media the way I’ve done in the last few years.
That’s why I’ve had all social media apps deleted off my phone for two months now; and recently also added a few bans on my laptop.
If you use social media and it makes you wholesome and happy: awesome! Please keep doing you.
If you have a creeping feeling that you’re using social media in a way that’s not really serving you, I have a few tips to help you stay sane in this day and age of the “social internet”.
Change your habits
Before you frantically start uninstalling apps, there’s something important to note: If you want to let go of a bad habit (in my case feeding my need for connection and inspiration with social media), it’s important that you replace it with healthy habit.
Simply banning a bad habit from your life won’t make you content in the long term. You will probably feel restless and start looking for a new unhealthy habit.
For example, I replaced my Facebook consumption with consumption of the medium app. And even though medium is more substantial and pleasant, I noticed that many articles left me in a negative vibe nonetheless. And like a little lab rat I kept clicking on the same type of articles despite knowing they wouldn’t do me any good.
Therefore, I’d like to invite you to write a note on a post-it with the exact thing you’d like to do with your new found time:
- Write 400 words
- Read a book for an hour
- Journal for 30 minutes
- Go for a 5km walk
Make sure you pick something that you can do in the exact same time that you normally spend on social media.
Turn notifications off
No matter whether you have an iPhone or Android, or whether you remove social media completely or just temporarily: You should definitely change your settings so your phone doesn’t keep sending you notifications. Here’s a great in-depth article that explains step by step how you can configure your iPhone. (To all Android users: I’m sure it works similarly on your phone!)
I wholeheartedly recommend that you take a half day and implement the most important tips from the article.
Turn colours off
I admit it’s a little funny to buy a phone that costs 1000€ and then configuring it in a way that it appears like a phone from 10 years ago.
But it may still make sense to do it at times, e.g. switching all the colours on your phone to grey. As humans we like colourful things, and our brain keeps suggesting: give me more please! Here’s an explanation why, and how you can easily switch your phone to a grey range display so you’ll feel less of an urge to grab your phone during your day.
How to keep using social media whilst keeping your mental health in check
Listed below you’ll find a number of instructions and tools that I recommend or use myself, and which will help you continue using social media but in a way that feels enriching and healthy.
iOS and Android: Deleting apps, disabling sites and setting time limits
On my phone I was radical: I deleted all social media apps.
And as you now, due to my lack of self-discipline I also had to completely ban Facebook on my mobile browser Safari. Here’s a full description of how to do this for Safari on iPhone.
If you are using an Android phone, you’ll need a special app like “BlockSite” to disable sites on your browser.
If you prefer to limit yourself to a certain amount of time you want to spend in each social network per day without having to block everything from the get-go, you can do this using screen time on iPhone and the digital wellbeing app on Android (for me this isn’t really an option because the “ignore limit” button is too tempting).
Another alternative to continue healthy social media use on your iPhone is by installing the app Feedless. Feedless blocks newsfeeds for all mobile sites for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (not the apps; you’ll have to uninstall those before).
That way you can still look at important stuff on Facebook but won’t get distracted through the newsfeed.
(For Android I don’t know an app yet that has the same feature.)
Mac and Windows: Blocking sites during specific hours
If you’d like to block certain sites during particular time frames there are different tools, like freedom for example. You can define which pages to be blocked for how long and at which hours during the day. Tools like that are great to increase your daily productivity; however I find they lack flexibility.
Mac and Windows: How to disable the Facebook newsfeed (Safari, Chrome, Firefox)
Even though Facebook is generally a big source of distraction for me, I still want to be able to access specific Facebook pages or groups. A tool that bans all of Facebook would definitely be best for me in terms of boosting creativity, but if I have a client that calls me with an urgent problem and I can’t access their Facebook page that would be a big problem.
It’s free, easy to set up and works for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. What it does is super-simple: it doesn’t show your Facebook feed anymore. All Facebook pages, groups and profiles are still accessible, just the feed remains empty. Sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it?
It seems like it’s only available for the Facebook newsfeed so far, and not for Instagram.
How to block comments on Mac, Windows and iOS (e.g. Youtube)
Social media posts are one thing. Comments another. Especially on Youtube I want to be able to watch a video in peace without being sucked into a world of hate comments.
The tool “Shut up” enables you to hide entire columns of comments on websites so that you simply can’t see them anymore.
Another interesting tool is the so-called extension “Youtube Rabbit Hole” for Chrome, which helps you block out comments (as well as suggested videos).
What do you think?
I’m curious to hear your opinion on this topic. How do you feel about navigating today’s social media? Is it adding to your life or is it leaving you hanging with negative emotions? Are you using any tools already that help you improve your social media experience? Feel free to leave a comment for me below.