For many people, social media is an important part of their lives. It can help us stay connected, explore our interests, and can also be a space for self-expression.
Sometimes though, spending time on social media can leave us feeling down, overwhelmed, or unable to switch off. We might compare ourselves to others, spend less time doing the things that keep us healthy, or experience cyberbullying. So, we've put together some tips that can help you have a healthier relationship with social media.
Comparing ourselves to others
We’re often bombarded with images of unrealistic body ideals, heavily curated representations of people’s lifestyles, and everyone can seem like they’re having a better time than us. It’s normal to end up comparing how we look, how we feel and what we do. Unfortunately, these comparisons are likely to have an impact on how we view ourselves and our lives.
So what can we do?
Remind yourself social media isn’t real life – many influencers and celebrities are paid to look a certain way or promote a certain lifestyle. Think critically about what you see.
- The images you're viewing might not be realistic. They might be:
- photoshopped (filtered or retouched)
- highly staged (e.g., using lighting and poses)
- selected from 100s of other photos taken from different angles.
- People might post things to make their life look good. This:
- doesn’t always show the full picture
- might not reflect reality.
Taking a step back and reminding ourselves that other people’s posts aren’t always accurate can help free us from any pressure we put on ourselves.
There's no right or wrong way to look, feel or be – everyone is different. Focus on what your body can do, and value your qualities, achievements and strengths! Write them down and read them often. Ask a trusted family member or friend if you’re unsure.
Our inner critic can give us a really hard time when it’s comparing us to others. These thoughts often start with something like, ‘I’m not good enough’, and it’s normal to have them. Acknowledge that you’re having these thoughts and practise allowing them to come and go without getting caught up in them. Try taking some deep, calming breaths, then imagine that thought on a cloud and watch it float away. Check out our other tips in the Unhelpful thoughts interactive activity.
No-one feels great about themselves all the time. It’s important to accept, love and be kind to ourselves. It can help us cope better with life’s challenges and help build our confidence. One thing you could try is to think about how you’d talk to your friend if they were giving themselves a hard time, then talk to yourself in the same way. Check out our other tips in our Self-compassion interactive activity.
Clean your feed
Go through your feed and explore what’s making you feel good and not-so-good. Some questions to think about:
- Do the accounts you follow make you feel good about yourself and your life?
- Do they annoy or upset you?
- Do you experience unhelpful thoughts or feelings when you’re scrolling through?
If you do, try unfollowing or muting those accounts. Take a break from them and see how that makes you feel.
You could also spend time building a positive feed:
- Find online communities that make you feel good
- Follow accounts that inspire you (in non-appearance-based ways)
- Follow accounts that help you explore your interests/passions.
If you see anything you find disturbing or distressing on social media, report and block and talk to someone you trust - you don’t have to go through anything alone.
We’re often on our phones these days, checking, replying or posting. It can get overwhelming trying to keep up and FOMO (fear of missing out) can be a real challenge for many people. We might log on for a moment, to check one thing, then hours go by and we’re still there. These platforms are designed to keep us there, wanting more.
While we can ‘lose time’ on social media, it's not just the experience of being online that can impact our wellbeing. The more time we spend online, the less time there is available to do the things that can keep us healthy and well, or the things we need to do. It’s about finding balance. To learn more about the things that help keep us well check out our 7 tips for a healthy headspace.
If your alcohol or other drug use has increased, or you're not getting enough good quality sleep, keeping up with work or studies, spending as much time with family and friends, staying active, or doing the other things you enjoy – then it’s a good idea to take some time to re-evaluate. Some things to consider:
- notice and track how much time you’re spending on social media
- set limits for yourself (Apple and Android have built-in tools that can help)
- unfollow accounts that take up too much of your time or are making you feel bad about yourself
- turn off notifications
- limit the time you spend on social media before you go to sleep
- leave your phone outside your bedroom so you’re not tempted to check
- use an alarm that isn’t on your phone
- tell your family and friends you’re slowing down/taking a break.
It can be really hard to change behaviour, and you might miss the time you’re on social media. So start slowly, with something easy and build up from there. The more you practise, the easier it can get. Check out our other tips in our How to balance screen time fact sheet.
Unfortunately, in an online world, lots of people experience cyberbullying. This can include mean and hurtful posts, people spreading nasty rumours or sharing photos to make fun of or humiliate people. If the posts are based on someone’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientations, disability or gender, it’s discriminatory and this is unlawful in Australia.
Bullying is not OK and it’s NEVER the fault of the person being bullied.
Anyone who has experienced cyberbullying knows how hurtful it can be. If it’s happening to you, know you’re not alone: there are things you can do and ways to get support.
- don’t respond – responding can make things worse
- screenshot the evidence in case you want to report it to eSafety/have a record for later
- report and block to the site it’s happening on
- consider changing your privacy settings
- if you’re under 18, and you’re having trouble getting the content removed, report it to the team at eSafety.
Check out more information about cyberbullying.
Youth support services
- headspace: find your nearest centre or contact eheadspace, our phone and online service (12-25 years)
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (5-25 years)
- ReachOut: (under 25s)
- SANE Australia: 1800 187 263 (18+ years)
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 (all ages)
Talk to your local doctor/General Practitioner (GP) or you can search for a health service and GP at HeadtoHealth.
Other helpful resources
- headspace interactive activities learn how to build your skills to improve your mental health
- Tips for reducing screen time
- The Butterfly Foundation for information on body image