How to Use Social Media in a Healthy Way for Your Mental Wellness

Theodora, put down your damn phone.

Hello hello! I kind of miss when I used to blog more frequently and off the cuff…when my life was simpler. It seems I only write these days when I have things I so need to get off my chest and onto the “page.” One of the side effects of all this therapy and becoming more self-aware is questioning my own motives of why I’m doing things, why I’m sharing what I’m sharing—and then it all feels pointless.

ANYWAY. Today is International Self Care Day, an initiative started by the Crisis Text Line, a resource you can use if you’re in the middle of a mental health crisis. A resource I’ve admittedly used a handful of times to prevent said crisis from turning into a real emergency.

I only really started practicing actual self-care this year. Sure, I got manicures and shit, but painting some chemicals onto fingernails doesn’t really nourish my soul. (Unless we’re talking candy cane nails at Christmas.)

The Crisis Text Line has identified these nine areas of self-care, but today I wanted to talk about self-care on social media.

I’ve been working in the online space for 10 years now, and social media has only become more pervasive, and we’ve all only become more always-on.

While in treatment, I was off all social media, and it was pretty damn glorious. I got so much writing, reading and quality socializing done without searching for that elusive hit of dopamine you so rarely get when you’re refreshing your feeds. Here’s some of the ways I’ve learned to care for myself on social media that might help you:

Know Your Triggers

The unfollow button is your friend. I’m pretty sure we’ve all got something on social media that makes us feel less than. Figure out what that is for you. Is it the high school friend with the huge house while you’re living in an apartment? Is it the former coworker who’s jet-setting all over the world while you’re stuck at home? Is it someone whose “healthy” behaviors make you feel like you’re not measuring up? Unfollow that shit. (Also maybe examine why this triggers you, but start with getting rid of what blatantly triggers you.)

And if you know holidays will trigger you, stay off of social media on them. On Mother’s Day weekend, I delete Instagram from my phone. To be honest, I just can’t stomach seeing happy (or “happy,” I know) mother-daughter photos when I can’t hug my mom. Algorithms are awful, and you may see said triggering content for several more days, so keep that in mind.

The Instagram Effect is Real

I wrote a post on the Instagram effect a few years ago and what was going on behind the scenes of a few “happy” photos I’d posted on Instagram.

I am pretty open and honest on Instagram, and I post plenty of my ups and downs, but most people aren’t like me. (And that’s fine. You do you—but I love seeing when people are super open and honest.)

They’re presenting a finely edited version of themselves that they want the world to see. They may be facing foreclosure on that gorgeous house. They may have just found out their husband had an affair. Those mother-daughter photos that trigger me now? Those mothers and daughters may have incredibly toxic relationships. My point being: you never know what’s going on behind the photo and nobody’s life is as perfect as it looks.

Curate, Curate, Curate

The converse to knowing what triggers you: fill your feed with what nourishes you. For me, these days, that’s lots of therapists, mental health/self care accounts, following the #stillirun hashtag. DOGS. FOLLOW DOGS, you won’t regret it. As much as I bitch about algorithms, I will say that the Instagram Explore tab has gotten pretty damn good at knowing the kind of content I will interact with (mental health memes and puppies.) To see more of what you like, be sure to like or comment on it.

On Facebook, same is true: like or comment the stuff that energizes you so you see more of that. Hide the shit you don’t like.

Know When to Step Away

Personal and professional blur for me on social media—I do some client work on Instagram, I’m in networking groups on FB that post job opps, and I follow lots of other freelance writers on Twitter.

If these posts start making me feel like I’m not pitching enough or not writing enough, I put down my phone or step away from my computer. I’m just over here doing me, and as a freelancer, there’s always that one more thing you could be doing to help your bottom line—but not at the cost of your mental health.

And sometimes you need a longer break. It was so much easier for me to take a break when I was in treatment because I was removed from my regular world and I was surrounded by people to talk to all the time, but I want to start more meaningfully disengaging when I’m not in a forced situation.

Set Timers

If you have an iPhone, you can set screen time allowances for certain apps (cough cough Instagram.) You have to put in a secondary password once you’ve hit your allotted time. I’ll admit that I’ve gotten real good at just ignoring those and extending all day, lying to myself that it’s professional. I’m also kind of thinking of removing my personal account for a bit and just having this client account on there.

What do you do to care for yourself regarding social media use?

5 comments on “How to Use Social Media in a Healthy Way for Your Mental Wellness

  1. April

    This post is exactly me at this exact moment. I deactivated FB a year ago but have reactivated for a couple of running groups and I also have that timer on my iPhone set, but it’s like a damn drug… I am thinking of retaining some contacts in real life from said running groups and deactivating again for my own sanity, but we’ll see.

    It’s also hard when I want to get a blog going – how do I disappear from most social media while trying to establish something online that’s always been a goal of mine?

    I could probably yap about this all day, lol. Have a good one, and thank you for this timely (to me) post!

    1. Theodora Blanchfield Post author

      I removed the FB app from my phone just after the election, and I still haven’t added it back—back then they used to have a separate groups app. Groups are really the only thing I care about on FB these days.

      And…yup. Part of me wants to grow this space back up again and increase my different audiences…and also balance that with self-care. I had a podcast go up when I was in treatment and it was weird to me to not be on social to promote it.

  2. Courtney

    This is all so helpful! Wondering if you’d be willing to share some of your favourite feeds to follow on insta for self-care and mental health. I’m sure lots of people would love to find a place to start with this. I follow Positively Present, but wouldn’t have a clue where to go from there.

    Thanks for always being so open and honest! I’ve been following your blog for years and while it’s certainly changed a lot, it remains one of my favourite corners of cyberspace!

  3. Heidi

    I used to be so confused about why there was a need to be all “real” on IG. For me, the whole platform is about posting & looking at pretty pictures and (of course) cute dogs. I don’t need to be “real” on a social media platform because I’m not an influencer. To me, it’s just social media, it isn’t my whole life, it’s the highlights, and that’s kind of the whole point. It’s so upsetting that social media has such a negative effect on people, it’s meant to be a way of staying connected but it’s obviously doing the opposite for a lot of people. So sad.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.