How regulating my social media usage benefitted my mental well-being
Despite the positive aspects of social media platforms, there are some overwhelming drawbacks to deal with.
Social media has been my constant companion in life for the past 11 years.
The first thing I do every morning is to check my phone for notifications from my social media platforms. Likewise, before I head to bed every night, I would scroll through Instagram, TikTok or watch videos on YouTube.
It certainly enriches my waking hours too – with just a few taps on my phone, I’m exposed to a world of information about my topics of interest, allows a platform for entertainment and helps me establish in-depth, personal connections with people.
On good days, social media is like a steaming cup of Milo on a cold day, a source of warmth and comfort that lets me know I’m not alone in my struggles.
But on bad days, it is akin to Milo that has gone stale. I’m unable to drink it anymore, yet I can’t find it in my heart to pour my favourite drink down the sink. Similarly, I’m unable to deal with social media at times, yet find it impossible to stay away from it.
There is no denying the positive aspects of social media. But it can really exhaust my social battery or even cause me to get sucked into a virtual world of my own, stuck in an endless filter bubble that’s progressively worsening my mental health.
Being aware of the toll social media takes on my mental health, however, led me on a journey to identify three issues I had with social media, and find ways to cope with them.
The pressure to conform to society’s standard of being ‘woke’
From a young age, I’ve always wanted to make a change in society in any way I can and I believe that being aware of what’s going on in society is the first step to achieve that.
Social media keeps me up to date with news that’s happening all around the world. It also educates me on social issues such as climate change, gender inequality and poverty, exposing me to the different perspectives of people from all walks of life.
But with the internet deeply divided on almost every crucial issue, it can be quite difficult to keep up especially if people expect you to ‘stay woke’ all the time.
Take the Black Lives Matter movement a few months ago for example. Plenty of people posted about it in Singapore, from those who truly supported the movement to those who were merely jumping on the bandwagon.
But online chatter took a negative turn when people were called out for not posting about it and accused of being ‘racist’.
This kind of internet culture not only takes away attention from the real issues at hand (racial inequality in this case), it also puts unnecessary pressure on people to conform to social causes and norms just because it is trending. When that happens, it’s hard to tell if people are being genuine when they show their support.
There is a fine line between wanting to be ‘woke’ and conforming to societal expectations of being ‘woke’. The former is a positive thing, while the latter just makes the Internet a much more stressful place to be.
Toxic comments sections
It isn’t wrong to disagree with each other. Only with disagreement can discourse take place to benefit everyone. Disagreements are evident in many posts I come across on social media platforms.
Unfortunately, the nature of social media which allows relative anonymity means there will always be people who leave insulting remarks, making the comment sections a very toxic place. I can’t help but feel downhearted that the Internet can also be such a merciless place and that affects me both mentally and emotionally.
It hits particularly close to home when I see personal attacks online, as I have been cyber-bullied before. My classmates left mean comments about me online and it affected me so much I couldn’t focus in class and failed multiple subjects in school.
While that happened years ago, there is a part of me that still wonders if people are secretly judging what I post on social media and talking bad about me.
Coming to terms with my need for time away from social media
I genuinely enjoy interacting with people, getting to know them as individuals and building a deep personal connection with them. However, the existence of social media gives an unsaid expectation of having to be contactable 24/7 that I find especially difficult, being an introvert.
For me, I put in a lot of effort in crafting a message but that means I may take some time to respond. During that time, though, I would have a nagging thought at the back that I have yet to reply to people and that stresses me out.
Coupled with assignments to complete and balancing other commitments, there are times I feel the need to disappear from Telegram and WhatsApp for days on end to recharge.
I’m blessed to have understanding friends who see where I’m coming from and give me the space I need to fill my social battery first.
On my part, I remind myself that self-care is important and I do that by spending time busking in my own company, such as watching a Netflix series or taking a walk in the park by myself.
Preventing the negative aspects of social media from having a foothold
While it is true that the world is a cruel place, it is also my oyster.
Each time I find myself consuming content that’s bad for my mental well-being, I found great relief in closing the browser and opening something else like Mobile Legends: Bang Bang instead. While it is difficult to delete social media applications entirely as I work in the media industry, I can break the chain of negativity that stems from jumping from angry content to angry content.
Beyond playing mobile games, I’ve realised that listening to uplifting music and reading a book also help break that cycle of negativity. Occasionally, I even go for a social media cleanse for a period of time.
Sometimes, I cope with the negative elements in social media by taking advantage of the benefits too, be it texting a close friend about the state of my mental health or watching some ASMR videos on YouTube.
Social media is important to get messages out, or gather like-minded people to contribute to society. It is beneficial to focus on heart-warming stories that encapsulate the essence of humanity – stories of how some youths in Singapore started a project to combat social isolation in the elderly or how an individual came up with an initiative to clean up beaches in Singapore.
There is no doubt social media holds great power, but it is my responsibility to yield it to my will. That is, to cushion its impact on my mental health, take advantage of its power and cultivate my empathy for others, allowing me to become a better person.