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Social Media: Useful Tool, or Harmful Habit?

When we talk about social media usage in 2023, it is more unusual to find someone who doesn’t engage with it at all than someone for whom it is a major part of their daily life. People in the U.S. have an average of 7.1 social media accounts and spend an average of 2 hours and 7 minutes on social media daily.

Social media serves many purposes. This includes communicating with friends and family, connecting with others who share similar interests, raising awareness or joining worthwhile causes, finding information on a variety of topics, and providing an outlet for creative expression. Despite these potential upsides, however, studies have shown many harmful effects of social media usage which encompasses greater social isolation, lowered self-esteem, depressed mood, poor sleep quality, and even lowered immunity.

Being Mindful of Social Media Use with Check-Ups

The good news is that it does not have to be an all-or-nothing decision; by being more mindful of the way you utilize social media, you can ensure that you reap the benefits without suffering from its potentially harmful effects. To perform a social media usage “check-up” on yourself, ask yourself the following questions:

Are you using it actively – with a purpose – or passively scrolling?

Studies have shown that passive, mindless time on social media lowers mood and leaves one vulnerable to harmful content, without the benefit of active connection or engagement.

How much time are you spending on social media?

Spend a few days tracking your social media usage: how much total time do you spend, how much on each platform, how frequently do you check, at what times of day, and who are you with at the time? Then, do a little math. For instance, if you spend two hours a day on social media like the average American, then over a year, you will have spent over 30 full days on social media!

Consider that studies have found that reducing your time on social media to 30 minutes a day can lead to significantly improved mental health outcomes. If that kind of reduction feels like too much, consider stretching the interval between going on the platforms. You can create “no-phone” times and zones (such as no phones at mealtimes, while with family or friends, or in bed), disable social media notifications so that you can better control when to engage with the platforms and remove the apps from your phone so that they are not so easily accessible and tempting.

Are you using it as a substitute for “real-world” engagement?

Social media can help facilitate connection, but it should not be replacing face-to-face contact. If you find that most of your interpersonal contact has become virtual, make a point of connecting in person, with phones off.

How do you feel after spending time on social media?

Become a curious observer of your moods. If you find yourself feeling sad, anxious, or dissatisfied with yourself or your life after spending time on social media, consider making changes to the content you consume and the sites you frequent. Cutting down on how much time you spend on social media might uplift your moods.

What is drawing you to spend time on social media?

If you find yourself feeling “addicted” – it is estimated that 7% of social media users can be considered addicted – it is important to examine what the underlying causes might be. Depression, social anxiety, loneliness and isolation, and unmanaged stress can all contribute to excessive or unhealthy social media usage. That usage can in turn exacerbate the underlying causes, leading to a vicious cycle. Uncovering the underlying drivers with the help of a mental health professional can enable you to fill those needs in healthier ways and establish more constructive habits around social media usage.

At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ we have a team of licensed professionals available day, evening, and weekend hours. Please visit us at, FaceBook, or Instagram.  Call us at 908-322-0112 for further information.



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