When was the last time you heard that, if you truly care about your mental health, you should stay off social media? With Instagram alone commanding 1 Billion users per month, it is easier said than done, of course. And for some people, like content creators, journalists, and digital campaign managers, being ‘in the loop’ is an extension of their daily jobs – even over the weekends – and we all have bills to pay, one way or another.
Take Instagram, for example. Since its launch in 2010 its picture-perfect grids have been linked to anxiety and depression, and the popularity of social networks, as a whole, have been questioned even by those that have a digital DNA. Last year a study conducted by marketing agency Hill Holiday found that 41% of generation Z, the most socially savvy generation made of those born in 1994 and later, were quitting major social media platforms because it is actually making them unhappy.
As a journalist and content creator myself, I have been working with brands and publicationsfor a while now and I have seen how unbalanced that relationship with social media can be. So, I went out there and asked professionals who make a living from being constantly connected and informed, how they find the balance between the content-thirsty online world and staying sane – and how they manage to, eventually, switch off.
Get yourself organized
“I switch off by setting limits around how much time I am going to spend on my phone. That is not just for social media, but technology in general. I haven’t mindlessly scrolled in a while and I actually rarely engage with people’s accounts or follow them unless they are my closest friends. And yes, there have been times where it has been too much and I have forgotten to prioritize my mental health. That being said, I think social media has the potential to be an amazing platform to learn, to get information and be connected/inspired in ways I could not otherwise. I lacked role models growing up and many of the individuals I follow on social media have significantly impacted my life for the better. The key is just being mindful and aware of HOW and WHAT you engage with. I also switch off from social media and instead connect with REAL people; this will always be better than any online presence.
From a content creator’s perspective, the best thing to avoid social media burnout is to be efficient and produce many photos ahead of time, including shooting and editing, so that you don’t feel under pressure. I always have 25+ photos ready to go as backups so that way I can take breaks and still maintain a consistent presence on social media.”
Caleb Spiro – Influencer, Mental health advocate and creator of the #StrongerSelf podcast
Say bye to notifications
“I found myself getting too caught up in the numbers of likes, numbers, and followers. So sometimes I do take a little break. Right now, I’m not on Instagram too much on Fridays and Saturdays and I think a lot of people are starting to do the same! The weekend is usually centered around family and friends, so I want to be present rather than just staring at a screen. Of course, I have met so many wonderful people online and I love talking to them through IG — it can be such a great source to connect with like-minded people. However, you have to find that balance if you are finding yourself checking your notifications in your real-time.”
I switch off from social media by not allowing notifications to show on my phone — from Instagram to Facebook (which I actually deleted), and recently my email too! I used to have them on because I always felt the need to be “on” and respond right away, but I quickly got overwhelmed by the number of notifications and all the buzzing. The other major thing I do is that I set my phone to “do not disturb” starting at 10:30 pm and ending at 7:30 am! So, I take quite a few precautions because, over the years, I found myself just getting really distracted with my online life when there was an amazing real-life happening in front of me. It also kind of took my creativity and headspace away because I was so distracted.”
Hana Brannigan – Travel and mental health influencer
Put your phone away consciously
My Instagram account has been growing very fast since I started creating and posting content every day. Suddenly I got a lot of attention and, with it, external pressure increases. Because Instagram is almost like a full-time job, you always have to post and be active, so your numbers don’t drop. However, if you are not careful it can definitely influence you mentally. I found that taking time for yourself without your phone and putting it away consciously on a regular basis can be very helpful; enjoy moments with friends and family and have good conversations. The best thing to do is to not look at your phone in the morning, go for a workout and be productive offline first, instead.
Paul Pasytsch – Content creator and fitness model
Know your priorities
“When important deadlines approach academically, I naturally limit my time on social media however, never go cold turkey as I believe it will mess with the Instagram algorithm and stop your momentum. To find a balance I go to the gym and use that break as a time to be plugged only into my favorite music and focus on the present while going through my workout”.
Sergio Wynne – content creator
Be aware of who you follow
“My best tip to avoid social media burnout, especially if you use it as a platform for business growth and networking, is to make sure you set boundaries for when to be consuming and creating content, and to decide ahead of time how much time you will spend doing those activities. One rule I like to try to implement is to never spend more time consuming than I do create content. I also like to take one day off most weeks from creating and consuming content.
I have definitely had moments of feeling overwhelmed from social media. This past winter I deleted Instagram off of my phone for about a week and it was really refreshing. I honestly didn’t miss it and felt much more connected to my emotions and the people I was with. I think it’s an incredibly valuable platform, but it’s also addictive and it’s important to be conscious of that and take breaks when it becomes too much.
Another tip is to unfollow/mute anyone who is not adding positive value to your life. Once you “follow” someone, you really have very limited control of what and when they will pop up on your newsfeed and what emotions that might bring up for you. If you find yourself feeling bad, unhappy, upset, or like you are in a constant competition to someone you follow, it might be time to clean the house”.
Emily Louise – Online Entrepreneur, health and fitness expert.
Temporarily delete social apps
“To switch off from social media I just put my phone away and do something with my friends in the real world. I am studying to be a teacher and once when Instagram got to a point that became too much during my exams and it started to disrupt me, I made the decision to delete the app for a whole month. “
Florian Whitewalker – Model and content creator
Think before posting
“I don’t think I have ever got to a specific point where I have had to absolutely take a day or week off of Instagram or any social media channel. I realized I needed to make a change when I began attending events for bloggers/ influencers and I found myself scrolling through my own Instagram page to see how others were expecting me to be. This was a turning point for me. If I was having to look at my own social media pages to see how I should show up, I needed to make a change with how I used that platform.
So, rather than taking time off social media altogether, I decided to take more time to find myself. Instead of sitting on the couch scrolling, I would go for a walk or write. I needed to find a new way to show up online as myself – not with what would receive the most likes.
To most people’s surprise, I actually don’t spend much time on social media anymore. I always ask myself “why” every time I open an app. Am I posting something I am proud of? Am I getting on to look at content that will inspire and encourage me? If I find that I am only getting on because I am bored, or want to check the performance of a post, I step back.
I try not to check social media within the first hour of waking up. This helps to get my day started without distractions and to keep you focused on the tasks that are ahead. For me, spending that first hour planning out the day, connecting with myself, and easing into it all, truly helped my mental health for the better. And if social media is beginning to make me feel insecure, I immediately exit.”
Hannah Neese – Lifestyle Blogger
Conclusion: The key is to find a balance that works for you that helps clear up your headspace a bit for other things like being in the moment or being able to be creative.
Marcio Delgado is a Journalist, speaker and a Content Producer working with brands and publications in the UK and Latin America.