With the arrival of the holiday season, the general sense of inertia that comes at the end of a year and more time to relax, it’s easy to get caught in the hypnotic effect of scrolling through our social media channels.
For many, hours spent scrolling through social media apps leave them feeling restless, unsatisfied, and discontented. Social media is an integral part of our lives, so it isn’t a question of staying off our social media feeds; rather, it is a more nuanced question of is this healthy for me?
How do we use social media in a way that promotes our well-being?
To answer this question, we must first understand the factors that make up our well-being.
How do we define our well-being?
Well-being is a multi-faceted concept that includes more than our mental health, although our mental health is an essential component of well-being.
Generally, well-being is defined as a sense of health and vitality that comes from our thoughts, emotions, actions and experiences that lead us to feel happy, healthy, socially connected and having a purpose, most of the time.
Given this definition, our well-being is the complex interplay of mental, emotional, social, and physical health. Let’s consider each of these four in some more detail.
While there is a strong link between our mental and emotional well-being, mental well-being is our ability to handle the ups and downs of our lives. It is the sense that we are separate from the problems and challenges we face and can manage them as they arise.
Our emotional well-being refers to our ability to manage the stressors within our lives, boost self-love and generate positive emotions that lead to good feelings. For example, mindfulness and relaxation practices can increase our emotional well-being.
Relates to our physical health and how we use nutrition and exercise to live healthily in ways that keep our bodies functioning and pain-free.
It is the ability to develop meaningful relationships with others and maintain a support network that helps us overcome loneliness and participate in cultural and community life.
There is one other aspect of well-being that is often included, which is workplace well-being. This refers to things like maintaining a work-life balance, enjoying our work, and feeling fulfilled. However, given that many people experience unemployment or under-employment, it is essential to broaden this from just workplace well-being to living according to our values and making a meaningful contribution to society in whatever way we can.
Given this description of well-being, how do we use social media to enhance and build our sense of well-being?
1. PROMOTING keep it real, rather than perfect.
One of the things with comparison is that we think the person we are comparing ourselves to has a better life or is more perfect than we are.
Rather than scrolling through photo-shopped images of perfection, find people to follow whom you respect because of their creative ability, career, or the impact they are having in the world. Follow people you know are real and are not afraid of allowing that reality to come through on their social media feeds.
b) Check your doomsday scrolling.
The way social media algorithms are set up, the more doomsday scrolling you do, the more they will feed doomsday information into your feed. This can lead to a skewed view of the world as unsafe, dangerous, and scary.
When we lose our sense of safety and perceive threats, our sense of mental well-being is negatively impacted. This is not to suggest that we have some ‘sugar-coated’ view of the world. Bad things do happen. However, we need to balance the negative with the beauty and the generosity of people that still exist.
2. pROMOTING OUR EMOTIONAL WELLBEING
The steps that promote our mental well-being will also enable our emotional well-being. We are happier when we are not spending energy comparing ourselves and judging ourselves. We will feel more positive and secure when we limit any doomsday scrolling and instead get news from credible media outlets.
There are other ways we can improve our emotional well-being on social media.
a) Use social media as an outlet for your creativity and self-expression. If we are scrolling through social media, comparing and judging ourselves, we will unlikely use social media for self-expression.
However, even if we currently do not feel confident enough to express ourselves on social media, we can follow those people who we respect and who will build our sense of confidence.
b) Engage with kindness and generosity and avoid social media “pile-on”. Social media is built around encouraging people to engage with each other. When we engage with and comment with kindness and generosity of spirit, one benefit is improving our emotional well-being.
When we get involved in social media commentary that is angry and vindictive, it has a detrimental effect on our emotional well-being. The more we check our feed to see how people respond, the angrier or more anxious we become and the more significant the impact on our emotional well-being.
3. pROMOTING OUR SOCIAL WELLBEING
Use social media to find and follow “your tribe”. One of the advantages of social media is it allows people who have similar interests to find and follow each other.
Much has been written about the isolating impact of social media. It can lead to an increased sense of loneliness and isolation. For example, when a person is experiencing cyberbullying or is the target of an attack or pile-on, there is an increased sense of loneliness and isolation.
However, social media can also enhance existing relationships and create new social connections, thus reducing loneliness. It is more about how social media is used. It is a valuable tool for reducing loneliness if it is used as a waystation to enhance existing relationships and forge new social connections. But when social technologies are used to escape the social world and withdraw from the “social pain” of interaction, feelings of loneliness increase.
Social media is a significant part of our lives, and usually, during holiday times, it becomes even more significant because we have more time to scroll through. Given this, it is essential to use social media mindfully and curate our social media feeds to build optimism, positive self-image, and connectedness and reduce stigma. Cultivating positive social media habits can improve our well-being over the holiday season and into 2024.