A guide to protecting your mental health on social media
Updated: May 22
The world of social media can inspire many people, with a constant stream of creative and inspiring content uploaded at all times. Additionally, it can be filled with vile and harmful comments, making many apps the exact opposite of a safe space.
If you’re a pop culture aficionado like me or have any social media app downloaded on your device, it would be difficult to miss the drama unfolding between three of social media’s most popular it-girls. The vicious attacks from each fanbase have rekindled that feeling of "ick" in me about social media.
Let's look at the stats for cyberbullying. According to BroadbandSearch.net, in 2023:
Close to 37% of people feel they've been cyberbullied in their lifetime
60% of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying
70% of teenagers have reported rumors being spread about them online
69% of people report doing something abusive to another online
15% admit to cyberbullying
Hateful comments targeting someone's appearance, personality, relationship, or likeability are not an act of defense- they are bullying. What is it about the internet that an intention to defend is met with malice and hatred in the first place? It might be the illusion of protection an anonymous account provides or the (literal) distance between you and the celebrity in question. Despite the bullying, many users might also cheer you on, thanking you for expressing what was on their minds. This toxic mentality needs to stop.
We live in a society where we are always connected and plugged in. Many of our jobs even require us to be on social media, so how do we silence the noise? Some might find it easier to uninstall all apps than to remove themselves altogether. However, that's not the case for everyone.
The first step is acknowledging what is in and out of our control. This might look like this:
Decide how much time you’d like to spend on an app in a day/week/month.
How much time would you really want to spend on social media apps? Does more consistent usage prevent you from being present or distract you more often than not from completing an assignment or task?
Ask yourself what apps give you energy vs. which ones are more draining.
Take note of how you feel before, during, and after social media consumption. Has the content inspired you or taught you another skill? Are you left feeling anxious or entering a cycle of self-criticism from comparing yourself to other people on your feed? Our bodies always give us clues, so be open to any messages they send.
Determine what content and creators you’d like to see more of.
Many apps, such as TikTok and Pinterest, utilize algorithms to display content it thinks you might interact with. Platforms also allow you to follow users, trends, and hashtags to make your feed as personal as possible. If it's not bringing you joy, re-evaluate who or what you are interacting with.
Unfollow any content or accounts that impact you negatively.
Remember, you are not obliged to follow anyone. This includes family members, coworkers, and your old chemistry partner in high school (you get my point). It should be up to you to decide how to interact with someone in a digital landscape. A boundary is a boundary; if someone refuses to accept it, it's on them.
Block, Restrict, or Deactivate your accounts.
If you have tried all of the above and still are not enjoying your experience on social media, it might be time to consider restricting and/or blocking certain accounts. The best thing to do is block and report accounts that make you feel unsafe or threaten you.
Bullying is NEVER the answer. A bully's actions should be stopped immediately, whether they occur in person or online. Comments made out of hatred are usually reflections of how the person feels about themselves. The ease with which we can express our anger is just as accessible as the ease with which we can express our positivity and uplift one another. If you have been impacted by cyberbullying, you don't have to go through the experience alone. Inform friends and loved ones, and consider seeing a trained mental health professional to help you navigate a kinder form of social media.
About the Author:
Brianna Paruolo is a provisionally licensed therapist in NYC who works with models, athletes, influencers, students, and young professionals in New York City. Together they work to overcome burnout and negative self-talk so her clients can thrive academically, athletically, professionally, and in their relationships. Send her an email at Brianna@goldtherapynyc.com to connect today!
Legal Notice: The content presented in this blog post/Instagram post is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide mental health treatment. It is crucial to consult with a qualified mental health professional for personalized advice or treatment regarding your specific circumstances. Reading or engaging with this content does not establish a client-counselor relationship, and the author is not liable for any actions taken based on the information provided. It is recommended to seek up-to-date information and consult professionals for the latest advancements in mental health research and practice. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact your local emergency services or helpline immediately.