Me, thinking to myself early last week: “I can’t believe that May is coming to an end soon – and so is Mental Health Awareness Month here in the US. I think the Ask Trish community would really love some tips on how to support mental health on social media!”
Hi there, Ask Trish readers! I hope you’re all well, and having a safe, healthy, and happy May.
As I’m sure many of you know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health Awareness Month is a time to raise awareness about mental health and the challenges millions of Americans – and many more global citizens – face with their mental health. It’s also a time to combat stigma around mental health by educating the public, bringing relevant voices to the fore, and advocating for policy changes.
Our mental health is shaped by many things in our lives, and research and other evidence suggests that social media may be one of those things. You may have, for instance, seen news stories from late last year about research that suggests that Instagram use can be associated with negative psychological effects in youth, especially teen women. This (and other, similar findings) reflect a deeply important and complicated issue – certainly not one that can be comprehensively explored in a short blog post. I’m also not a doctor, so that limits the advice I can give you/the extent to which it can be applicable. So instead, I thought I’d do something simple for Mental Health Awareness Month: briefly share three easy ways I think you can support your and your fellow digital citizens’ mental health on social media. So here goes:
Tip 1 is to be a bit more transparent on social media. Social media is often characterized by tons of curation: whether it’s on Instagram or TikTok, filters abound; it’s also uncommon to see social media posts about failure or challenges. I want to encourage you to rebuff this curation and be a little less filtered on social media. Of course, always think carefully about what you share – what’s safe to put out there publicly, for instance – but by acknowledging that you’re using filter, starting to do a #NoMakeUpMonday selfie, or, if you find it helpful, posting to solicit support during a difficult time, you can remind those around you that life isn’t as picture-perfect as social media can make it seem. It can also feel great for you when social media affirms you for who you are – not a curated version of yourself. As a student once told me, “Posting pics that weren’t edited or touched up – and getting so many kind comments – finally made me feel so beautiful.” Put simply: let’s make social media feel a little more honest.
Tip 2 is to find creators, pages, and content on social media that make you happy, help you learn, and/or inspire you. Speaking for myself personally, if my Feed was dominated by just my friends’ formal pictures, vacation selfies, and birthday parties, I’d probably start to feel a little overwhelmed, especially on days when I was feeling down. That’s why I’ve tried to find creators and content that resonate with me in a number of ways: some of these creators, for instance, share important stories from underrepresented groups; others explore difficult topics in our national dialogue, and educate their followers on those topics. Other content is more lighthearted: I follow a ton of dog-focused accounts, for example (they are just SO cute)! <3 Put simply, don’t forget to use social media for what it was originally intended to do: find resonant communities, make new friends, and hopefully, be inspired and learn.
Finally, Tip 3 is one I’ve mentioned on Ask Trish before: put some distance between you and your social media. Countless friends have told me that they are the most anxious or “obsessed” with social media when they’re thoughtlessly spending a lot of time on it. By comparison, when they intentionally put their phone down/away, over time, those thoughts recede, and they all report the same thing – “I just feel better.” Over the pandemic, a good handful of my friends also tried temporarily shutting off some of their social media accounts. (And yes, that’s something you can do! Instagram, for instance, allows you to “turn off” your account for as long as you’d like, and then reactivate it – with the same profile, content, etc. – when you’re ready.) Think of it as “a social media detox.” It can be a great way to put things in perspective and remember the things that bring you joy outside of the digital sphere – so you stay happy and grounded when you are online.
I hope you found these tips helpful and will put them into practice sometime soon! (When you do, please share on social media and tag Ask Trish! I can’t wait to see all the positivity you spread.) Before I sign off for this week, just one last thing – you know the drill: do me a huge favor and take 30 seconds to share any of your Internet-related questions and thoughts here. I would absolutely love to cover your topic in next week’s TikTok/blog post! And don’t forget: you have my full support of interpreting “Internet-related” as broadly as you’d like: whatever’s on your mind that’s about or even somewhat connected to the Internet, I want to hear about it (and I promise the Ask Trish community does too!). I can’t wait to hear from you and hopefully provide some helpful advice.
See you all next Tuesday for our last Ask Trish of May! Until then,