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How to Relieve Social Media Stress

Mindfulness is a key.

Oladimeji Ajegbile/Pexels
Source: Oladimeji Ajegbile/Pexels

One of the most frequently shared struggles among young adults is their relationship with digital media. Given you are likely reading this on a screen, you may be able to relate to this challenge.

Many of us have heard about studies and anecdotal evidence on the challenges of social media and the use of screens. Both are often designed to be addictive so that we stay on the platforms longer to consume the material that drives revenue. Sabrina, a student, shared, “I’ve noticed the effects of social media and technology in my life. My generation specifically appreciates and glorifies extremely, extremely skinny women to an unhealthy point. Every female I know has a thought disorder related to weight, eating, and body image. The 'ideal weight' is not healthy, but many girls take extreme measures to reach that goal."

Camille shared another challenge with the internet and social media, “We are bombarded with stimuli. It can also suck our time and energy. Finding a way to harness what is good about the internet and digital options, but leaving behind the noise and its excessive nature, is a huge challenge for young people.”

And yet, screens and social media have transformed society in positive ways as well. For example, people from Dubai, Brazil, Florida, and Rhode Island can all be together in the same video conference, have meaningful conversations with each other, and learn deeply in ways that a book can’t offer. Grandchildren can connect to grandparents across oceans. Stories and wisdom can be communicated powerfully through film. It’s clear that screens and social media can be tools that make life better. The challenge is avoiding the elements that make it worse.

As with all tools, we keep those that help us and let go of those that don’t. We can determine if a particular digital tool is helpful with mindful awareness of our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. We can ask in a curious nonjudgmental way, “Is this digital tool helping at this moment more than anything else I can do?” If so, great. Continue using it. If not, let it go, and move on to the next highest priority action to take care of yourself and others.

Our relationship with screens and social media echoes how we deal with other potentially addictive products, like alcohol, sugar, and caffeine. Some people completely swear off social media, while others try to be aware of how it makes them feel and respond accordingly. There is no single right approach; the best approach is whatever works for you.

While there hasn’t been much research on the effects of mindfulness training on social media addiction, one randomized controlled trial evaluated the effects of the mindfulness app, Headspace, along with self-monitoring of social media use and mood tracking. The study showed significant improvements in the smartphone distraction scale compared to the control group at the end of the 10-day intervention.

With these powerful digital tools, there are many opportunities to use self-awareness of our thoughts, emotions, and sensations, tapping into what our body and mind are telling us about a tool. We can then use our attention control to bring our mind to where it’s most useful to be in this moment, while caring for our emotional well-being, based on what the digital media is bringing into our mind and body.

This post also appears on FamilyMinded.

References

School-based Prevention for Adolescent Internet Addiction: Prevention Is the Key. A Systematic Literature Review.

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