How to make social media work for your wellbeing

Sure, social media has its harmful side – but apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat can have a really positive effect on your life, too. 

More than a third of Australians use Instagram, about 4.6 million Aussies regularly check their Twitter account, and there are reportedly more than 14.6 million of us on Facebook.

Social media is ingrained in our life, so what can we do to ensure it has a positive effect?

Recent research by the University of British Columbia Okanagan looked at how using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can impact happiness – and found some of the keys to making social media an enriching experience rather than depressing and deflating.

Here’s how to make social media a positive experience:

1. Don’t compare yourself to others

Avoid comparing your life to someone else’s Instagram life.

“Viewing images and updates that selectively portray others positively may lead social media users to underestimate how much others actually experience negative emotions and lead people to conclude that their own life – with its mix of positive and negative feelings – is, by comparison, not as good,” reported Derrick Wirtz, associate professor of psychology at UBC Okanagan.

2. Keep it real

“A lot of what is on social media from celebrities and influencers is not the real world,” says cyber safety expert Susan McLean.

“Some of the things they post are paid promotions or they are photoshopped images, but look at too much of that and you can feel like a failure.

“Follow celebrities and influencers whom you like and respect because of their music, their style, for their charitable works or their career.”

3. Find your tribe

“Social media can give people a voice and the anonymity can help people who are whistleblowers, or those who are exploring their sexuality online if they don’t have family and friends to confide in,” says eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

“You can also use social media to find an affinity with people, or to find groups with whom you can share mental health struggles or experiences of challenging medical conditions, for example.”

4. Don’t binge on news

Use news feeds to catch up on news that interests you – and that comes from credible sources. “Social media is a great way to get news from all over the world but get your news from reputable places,” says Susan.

“And don’t endlessly scroll because a lot of news is doom and gloom and you can get a skewed sense of the world.”

5. Build on existing relationships

Social media is a versatile tool to help you stay in touch with people you know.

If you use it to build existing connections, rather than as a new friend finder, it may be a more rewarding experience.

And don’t use social media instead of catching up with friends – use it to build on real-life meetings with people who matter to you.

“If you see drama happening online with a friend, pick up the phone or go and see them so they can hear your voice and see your intention,” says Julie.

Remember that nothing can compare to being in the same room as the important people in our life.

Written by Sarah Marinos.