Living in 2022 as a teenager is living in a world consumed by social media.
Fashion trends, new music, and new teenage slang are not only concocted on these social platforms but also spread to millions around the world via these apps. Our entire Gen-Z “culture” has been built on and off of these various platforms. However, although this new era of social media was intended to maximize connection and discovery, why do so many feel terrible after logging on?
A common thread seen among teens using social media is the negative effect on their mental health. Instagram, for example, was a platform created for the use of sharing images and videos of yourself with friends and family. This purpose is still honored today, but a new expectation to convey only the most fun and conventionally beautiful parts of your life have taken over. Instagram now breeds competition and comparison as users attempt to convey authenticity in the most inauthentic manner. Many spend hours perfectly crafting their posts and scrolling through the crafted posts of others. Who has the most exciting life? Who is the prettiest? Who is the happiest? There is no real way to know and no real answer, yet social media has developed the idea that one’s online presence can determine this. I myself have fallen down a spiral of comparison and have destroyed my self-esteem in the process. As I attempt to limit my use of social media and only reap its benefits, I have discovered a few strategies that make this mission a bit easier. If you feel yourself drowning in a sea of self-loathing or are just hoping to decrease your screen time to make room for productivity, read on for a few helpful tips.
1. Ask Yourself, “What are my intentions?”
It is possible to disrupt the vicious cycle of comparison and self-hatred before you even open the app. By asking yourself the question above, you give your actions purpose. Are you logging on to catch up on the lives of your loved ones? Do you want to see what new music is out? Are you hoping to spread information on a topic you care about? If you cannot answer why you are on the app, you may have caught yourself trying to “distract” yourself by mindlessly scrolling. Living purposefully and intentionally allows you to cope healthily and grow as well as helps you avoid feeding into the emptiness that mindless use causes.
2. Use Productivity Apps
An app that has helped me tremendously by controlling my use of social media and prioritizing productivity is Flora. Flora allows you to set aside a time in which you do not use your phone and requires you to commit to the action by growing a plant in your absence. Once you have set a timer for how long you will not use your phone, Flora begins growing a new virtual plant for your garden. If you use any apps besides Flora before the time runs out, your plant ceases growth and dies. This may sound a bit silly, but the emotional attachment you have to your garden and growing your plants can be enough to motivate you to stay off your phone. I have used this app to focus on my school work, to continue cleaning my room, or simply to give myself a break from social media. You can set the timer for as little or as much time as you want, so experiment with the app and grow some plants while being productive!
3. Replace Screen Time with a more fulfilling pastime
This last tip may be the most effective of the three. Fortunately, or unfortunately (however you may see it), Apple mobile devices can show you how long you spend using them. Your screen time is broken down into the categories of your app use including the time you spend on social media, messaging apps, and others. I have heard from many of my peers and have seen first-hand how significant our social media use can become. I am guilty of mindless scrolling and of distracting myself from my priorities and struggles with 15-second videos or TikToks. Over the past year, I have realized just how much of my life I have given to social media. The bulk of my screen time is on Instagram and Tiktok…I have spent hours on both each day. This use has become unhealthy and has stripped us from enjoying the beauty of real life, and real interaction. I began to replace the time I spent on social media with hobbies that I have wanted to try all of my life. I began writing more, reading more, running more, seeing more, and learning more. All the time I had spent comparing myself to unrealistic standards and feeding into meaningless consumption could be spent on activities that made me truly happy. Activities that allow me to express myself and cope healthily. I still struggle on committing to these new habits, but I haven’t given up. What is something you have always wanted to try? You have all the time in the world, you just need to acknowledge it.
Each journey to a healthier relationship with social media is different. You know yourself best-you know what works and what doesn’t. The tips above are merely suggestions meant to provide guidance if you need them. If you are struggling due to social media, make sure to take the steps necessary to help yourself.
You deserve to be happy.