Social media can be used to build communities, to inspire and motivate. It can equally be the cause of much anxiety, distress and that feeling that the grass is greener on the other side. In fact, a recent study carried out by the University of Pittsburgh has found that teenagers who use social media on a regular basis were 2.2 times at more risk of reporting an eating disorder or body image issues than peers who limited their use. However social media doesn’t need to be toxic, if you are willing to set some boundaries. If social media is the cause of angst, here are some tips on how to turn it into a source of inspiration and motivation instead. 

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Set healthy boundaries

How many of you have dared to look at your Instagram activity tab during the past week to see how much time you have spent online? For those brave enough to do so, your daily time limit is more than likely to leave you a little sweaty under the collar. According to statistics, out of the 400million registered Instagram users worldwide, the average amount of time spent on the app in 2018 was 53 –minutes a day. Now, for the sake of transparency, my own daily limit sits at a shocking 4.3 hours a day and whilst I have neatly compartmentalised this under the “work, research” banner, the trend is worrying to say the least. 
So what is the desirable time one should spend on their Instagram app? Well, suffice to say it’s definitely not within the 4-hour range. A study carried out by the University of Pennsylvania has found that limiting one’s social media use to 30 minutes a day significantly reduces chances risk of depression and loneliness. We challenge you to test the theory by limiting your Instagram use to half an hour for an entire month. Set daily reminders with these simple steps here.

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Mind your manners

When it comes to social media use, do remember to mind your manners. Limit your use of social media apps during dinner dates and coffee dates to allow yourself to be truly present in the moment. Make it a challenge for the entire group to place your phone in the middle of the table. The first one to cave and use their phone should pay for dessert.

Curate your following

We are the sum of the food we eat, the exercise we put in, the books we read, the music we listen to, the people we surround ourselves with and the images and quotes that we allow into our personal space. One of the first steps to forming a healthier relationship with social media and Instagram is cleaning up your feed and the people you follow.
Ultimately, whom you choose to follow on social media is your digital lense into the world. It can colour your day, open your world to a new opinion or new set of information, it can inspire and educate you. However, it can equally cause you anxiety, can incite feelings of loneliness, can set unhealthy perceptions of self worth and body image and can be the source of much angst.
When following an account, ask yourself, does this page inspire me, does it incite feelings of warmth, and does it teach me something new or challenge me to grow. If the answer is no, don’t be afraid to unfollow that account. Equally ask yourself, does it make you question your own self-worth. If the answer is yes, hit that unfollow button and make space for an account that inspires you.

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Be a conscious contributor

When it comes to building a healthy relationship with social media, what we put out is as equally important as what we take in and view. Being a voice of support and encouragement for others will induce more endorphins than posting about hating Mondays or a bad workday. Choosing to post positive and inspirational content will contribute to your mindfulness and will allow you to reflect on things that you are grateful for as opposed to the things you feel are lacking.

Consider your career in the process

Nothing will incite anxiety like a regretful Saturday night post on a business account or one that your boss follows. While different organisations will have different social media standards, it is important to know your following and know the standards of your workplace. A creative digital agency, which hires social media influencers, will have different social media standards than a law firm or government organisation. 
If your job requires you to have a business social media account, keep it separate from a personal account. This also means not misrepresenting yourself, embellishing your credentials and being reactive on your social media. Avoid being sucked into online arguments, which will not only make you feel regretful but may also have legal ramifications. This is especially true of leaving product reviews and opinions on celebrity accounts. For more work related social media etiquette, see here.

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Remember it’s a show reel 

Instagram and other forms of social media are a curated show reel of someone’s day and life. Most of us only post the things that we want others to see. The reality is that most images are edited, framed to show the best angle, the best moment and are not a true representation of one’s life. No matter the number of followers, or someone’s bank account, we all go through the same rollercoaster of emotions. It’s important to remember that we all face the same battle to work on our relationships, self esteem and career goals. Remember this next time you think the grass is greener on the other side.

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