Social media is a powerful tool in so many ways and has shaped the world as we know it today. It’s hard to imagine a world where Instagram, Facebook and Twitter don’t exist – even though Instagram only turned 10 this year! It’s not just for showcasing lifestyle bloggers and connecting with friends either – people have entire careers based around these platforms and 71% of people who use Twitter actually get their news from the site.

However, recently people have also established connections between social media and mental health, especially in younger people. In times like these, when screen time is rising and we’re encouraged to stay indoors, it’s important to make sure we use social media positively and responsibly, not only for our own wellbeing but for the wellbeing of our friends and followers. We’ve come up with some ideas to help do just that.

Set some intentions

We’ve all been guilty of mindlessly scrolling through our feeds from time to time; setting intentions for social media use can help you get what you want out of the platform and limit time spent online just for the sake of it. Your intentions can be anything, including:

  • Connecting with family and friends
  • Getting inspiration from artists you admire
  • Participating in an online community
  • Learning new skills
  • Expressing yourself
  • Researching for university
  • Building an audience to show them something you love or are working on

These are just examples, but they can help you focus and be more mindful online. Of course, if you also want to follow accounts to get your daily meme fix, you should – that is important, too.

Get rid of negativity

Lots of us start social media accounts and then, over the years, accumulate connections and friends and follow accounts that become irrelevant to our lives, which could impact our mental wellbeing. You may not even realise how much someone you follow is influencing how you feel about yourself until you take an active inventory of your emotions and reactions. Make sure your feelings are constructive and you should be good to go!

Social media should be a positive space that you can exist in safely and happily. It can sometimes be hard if the person is an old friend, but there are also options to mute connections, so you can opt-out of seeing content that doesn’t positively influence you, without completely disconnecting.

Try to engage

Limiting how often you use social media can be a good idea, but changing our behaviour while we are on it can also be a positive step. Researchers have actually found that people who comment and connect with friends are happier on social media than people who scroll without commenting. In these times, it’s particularly important to stay connected and engaging through social media can be a great way to do this.

It’s also very important to be considerate online, and although everyone loves a bit of healthy debate, it’s best to keep things positive. Try showing support and bear in mind that even though they may seem distant and untouchable, people can be vulnerable and you should try to be kind. You can also participate by sharing your own struggles and successes in Facebook groups or similar spaces. Communities online often feel very real and incredibly important and you may find that, by participating, you get a wonderful response back in return.