Social media has fast become part of our lives in this digital age. Most of us, especially the youths, now connect, network and receive information on social media platforms. Whether we like it or not, society is zooming towards an increasingly digital world, and we must be prepared for the changes.
But as we hop on board the social media bandwagon, we should also be aware of the dangers it might bring. From cyberbullying to seeking social validation on social media – studies have shown that these threats can pose real and significant implications for users, especially with regard to their self-esteem, mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Yet, the focus should not be on how to avoid social media entirely, but how to use it positively to reap the benefits without falling into its traps. In this article, Head of TOUCH Cyber Wellness, Joanne Wong shares her tips on how to do just that.
Seeing should not always be believing
It’s easy to get caught up in the pretty pictures of others’ glamorous trips, fun hangouts, and seemingly perfect selfies. But it is important to bear in mind that usually, what you see on social media has been carefully crafted to be viewed in a desirable light.
There is a tendency to compare our lives to the lives of others as shown online, says Ms Wong. Such comparisons can make us think that we are not enough – be it successful enough, popular enough or attractive enough. This can have a significant impact on our self-esteem, thereby making us more vulnerable to developing depression and other psychological disorders.
So, before you start having FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) over posts from friends or influencers, remember: ‘Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes with everybody else’s highlight reel.’
Filter out content that doesn’t benefit you
If you find yourself feeling emotionally drained after using social media, it’s time to look through the accounts that you are following and get rid of those that are not promoting your wellbeing or growth.
The content you consume can influence your mood and thought patterns. Being bombarded with bad news, complaints or offensive posts might result in unnecessary frustration and anxiety.
However, you have the power to prevent this negativity from seeping into your life. Be careful of what you let into your digital circle. Try to fill your social media feeds with positive and empowering content, and if you need to block out or unfollow some accounts or pages, so be it! Don’t feel guilty for wanting to create a positive digital environment for yourself.
Have a healthy balance
Finally, it is important that you don’t spend too much time on social media, says Ms Wong.
We all know that social media has a great way of sucking us into its vortex of attention. Though we might tell ourselves that we’re only going to spend 15 minutes online, minutes can easily slip into hours if we are not careful.
Many of these social networking sites are designed to get users to spend as much time on it as possible, and unfortunately, their tactics are working. According to studies, the average person spends almost two hours on social media every day – that’s almost a month spent on social media in a year!
“You need to make sure you have a balance,” says Ms Wong. “It would be good to have a digital detox once in a while. Use it to spend some time with friends and family or go outside and do something.”
Switch off your social media notifications and be more present in the moment. By focusing on fulfilling your emotional needs offline, you will gradually be less dependent on social media for that quick dopamine hit that comes with every ‘like’ or ‘follow’.
Social media – like any other technological tool – has both its pros and cons. Contrary to popular belief, social media is not the cause of our social problems. Rather, it is the way we use it that might be problematic. It is therefore up to us to use it intentionally and positively.
TOUCH Cyber Wellness (TCW) is a pioneer and leading non-profit agency that champions cyber wellness and media literacy education in Singapore. Since 2001, TCW has reached more than 320 schools and one million youths, parents, educators and counsellors through its education, advocacy and intervention efforts.
Want to know more on the latest online trends that may be affecting your child? Need to speak with an expert on your child’s mobile device usage habits? Get in touch with TOUCH Cyber Wellness here!
 Sowislo, J., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin
 Price, C. (2019, February 21). Trapped - the secret ways social media is built to be addictive (and what you can do to fight back). Retrieved from https://www.sciencefocus.com/future-technology/trapped-the-secret-ways-social-media-is-built-to-be-addictive-and-what-you-can-do-to-fight-back/
 How Much Time Do We Spend On Social Media? [Infographic]. (2019, July 28). Retrieved from https://mediakix.com/blog/how-much-time-is-spent-on-social-media-lifetime/