What was the first thing you did this morning? You probably checked your phone, right?
No, that wasn't a lucky guess — we start checking our phones from the moment we wake up, and a lot of the reasoning behind that comes down to social media. In fact, a whopping 74 percent of Facebook users check the site daily, and 60 percent of Instagram users do the same. Most people use social media for about 45 minutes a day!
There's no denying that social media and mental health are linked. These sites have become such a big part of our daily lives that they have begun impacting our emotions. If you find yourself feeling less than stellar after browsing Twitter or Snapchat, ask yourself these five questions to see how social media is affecting your well-being.
1. Am I comparing myself to people I follow?
It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing your life to the carefully curated experiences you see on social media, edited into the most perfect-looking version of what life could be. Whether they're from old friends on Facebook or "influencers" on Instagram, seeing posts scrubbed of any heartbreak, stress or failure creates an impossible standard that can leave you feeling disheartened about your own accomplishments.
If you ever find yourself in this rut, remember that people tend to post positive things online even when their lives aren't so picture-perfect. To give yourself some perspective, try writing down a list of all the things you have to be grateful for. You don't need to post this for the world to see — it can just be a personal reminder!
2. Have I actually been connecting with people?
Social media is supposed to help you connect with others and build relationships. In reality, it can often leave you feeling isolated and lonely. A lot of people experience this.
Instead of browsing aimlessly, try reaching out to an old friend, complimenting an acquaintance's new photo or joining an online interest group to find like-minded people in your area. Using these sites to actually create real connections can help you put the "social" back in social media.
3. Does this content encourage me to be a better version of myself?
Self-confidence can improve your relationships and work performance, help you overcome challenges and boost your mental health overall. But it can be hard (and sometimes feel impossible) to feel confident if social media is consistently telling you that you're less than perfect.
That's not to say that social media can't help you reach your goals! But if the people you follow make you feel bad about your body, family, job or passions — even unintentionally — it might be time to block them. Too extreme? Try muting or unfollowing them instead. They'll never know you're not seeing their posts.
It's not healthy to expose yourself to negative messages. Instead, seek out people and accounts that encourage you to be the best version of yourself and embrace your unique qualities.
4. Am I browsing when I should be sleeping?
Tell us if this sounds familiar: You go to bed but can't fall asleep, so you open your phone and start scrolling through Twitter or Instagram.
When you use social media at bedtime, it can negatively affect your quality of sleep. This leaves you tired and groggy the next day — not a great foundation for your mental health. The next time you're in bed and find yourself reaching for your phone, consider picking up a book instead!
5. How hard would it be to take a hiatus?
Ever reach for your phone after hearing it vibrate just to realize the buzz was all in your head? If you compulsively check for notifications and get anxious when you can't view your accounts, it might be time to take a step back. Social media "detoxes" can improve your mental health by forcing you to seek connections in the real world.
Taking a break and staying offline for a while can help you prioritize what's important and properly balance social media and mental health. It may take some practice, but you're likely to notice a difference in your general outlook and overall happiness after making a few new connections face to face!