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Creating healthy social media habits in a digital world


Kevin Russell, Natasha Larivee, Cameron Ashe, and Matt Stewart, LIC Clerks, Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, Horizon's Miramichi Regional Hospital

Hey everyone!

School may be out for the summer, but thanks to something called social media, we have never been more connected to our friends and family than we are today.

As you may or may not know, social media is a term that describes apps and websites that connect us with people in our communities and around the world.

Most people use social media extensively every day -- some of the best-known examples are platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

In today's day and age, social media enables us to see daily updates from our friends, see what's new with our favourite celebrities and see vacation photos from our coworkers, all within seconds. The possibilities of social media and its potential to keep us connected are truly limitless.

Social connection is very important for general well-being and social media can help facilitate this. However, it can become problematic when social media use replaces interpersonal connections and relationships.

This is especially true when we start comparing our lives to our friends based on what they post on social media; it's important to remember that things aren't always as they appear on Facebook.

To be clear, here are some take-away tips that all of us should consider the next time we use social media.

  • Set time limits. Moderation is key, so only allow a certain amount of time for social media use per day.
  • Use social media apps with a goal. Stop mindless scrolling by disabling app notifications and log-in to a site only when you have something to do.
  • Be aware of when you're using social media. Resist the urge to check your phone often when you're with your friends or family.
  • Pause before you hit 'post.' Instead of posting, snapping or tweeting everything that comes to mind, stop and reflect for a few minutes on what you're about to share on social media.
  • Get inspired, not jealous. If you see an update about someone getting married, landing a great job or going on an expensive trip, don't waste your time comparing your life with theirs! You have a great life, too!

An excellent resource on social media and mental health is the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). They recently started a campaign on Addiction and Problematic Internet Use.

"According to a recent survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 86 per cent of students in Ontario visit social media sites daily and about 16 per cent spend five hours a day or more on social media." - Findings from the CMHA's Addiction and Problematic Internet Use campaign

Patterns of continued use can be linked with changes in mood, concentration and can even result in addiction. There are also risk factors that increase the risk of problematic social media use some of which are low self-esteem, loneliness or depression.

Some interesting resources highlighted by this campaign include Time Well Spent, a website that explains how some social media sites and apps are created to have addictive qualities, and 99 Days of Freedom, a site that challenges users to log off from Facebook for 99 days; researchers would test the corresponding impact on mood through a set of surveys at 33, 66 and 99 days.

A study published in the Lancet in January 2019 titled Social Media Use and Adolescent Mental Health: Findings From the UK Millennium Cohort Study" showed, "Greater social media use related to online harassment, poor sleep, low self-esteem and poor body image; in turn these related to higher depressive symptom scores. Many interesting links were identified, for example: greater hours social media use related to body weight dissatisfaction (≥5 h = 31% more likely to be dissatisfied), which in turn linked to depressive symptom scores directly (body dissatisfaction 15% higher depressive symptom scores) and indirectly via self-esteem."

Here's another list, from Forbes, of useful and applicable tips to be smart while using social media.

We encourage you to practice healthy social media habits this summer (and, wear sunscreen)!

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