Social Media Use Boundaries 101: Take Back Control and Improve Well-Being

social media use

Social media has been normalized as a means of connection among millennials, Gen Z, and Generation Alpha. With the rising number of hours time spent online (Ortiz-Ospina, 2019), one must ask themselves what kind of impact are these apps having on the collective mental health and what boundaries should be considered?

Recent research names YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat as the most/increasingly popular social media platforms among youth in 2022 (Zsila & Reyes, 2023); platforms that people on average spend approximately 2.3 hours daily consuming (Statista, 2022; Zsila & Reyes, 2023). Anything that is consumed on this scale warrants further examination on how it impacts our well-being.

Topics Covered:

  • Positive Impact of Social Media Use
  • Negative Impact of Social Media Use
  • Boundaries for Consideration

Positive Impact of Social Media Use

It's no surprise that research indicates an association of excessive social media use with lower psychological well-being (Boer et al., 2020). However, research also suggests that it is the quality of consumption over quantity that influences whether mental health is positively or negatively impacted. A simple black and white statement, such as “Social media use is bad,” will not suffice. After all, it has to have some kind of benefit if it is used to the degree that it is.

Potential Positive Effects of Social Media Use According to Research (Zsila & Reyes, 2023):

  • Facilitate social connections
  • Peer support
  • Informative discussions on health conditions, adverse life events, everyday challenges that may serve to de-stigmatize issues and improve sense of belonging and emotional support
  • Use of humour contributes to stress reduction
  • Rewarding social interactions

Negative Impact of Social Media Use

Before the potential negative effects of social media use are highlighted below, try closing your eyes and naming a few of your own that you've noticed personally. Do you have any you would add to the list below?

Potential Negative Effects of Social Media Use According to Research (Zsila & Reyes, 2023):

  • Body image dissatisfaction
  • Increased risk of addiction and cyberbullying
  • Isolation or ignoring behaviours
  • Low mood
  • Increased loneliness
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO)
  • Decreased self-reported well being and life satisfaction
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Lower self-esteem

 

Social Media Boundaries for Consideration 

Both pros and cons for social media consumption exist. Rather than applying judgment or shame to your social media use, you’d likely be better off to introspect on your personal relationship with it and have an honest conversation with yourself about what needs to be changed and it’s place in your life.

Adults get free rein of how they spend their time. The responsibility of making life choices creeps up on us in a way that can easily spin out of control. Adults need boundaries and structure too for optimal psychological wellbeing. If you think you might be addicted to your phone, or you feel imprisoned by social media use, then you might benefit from some self-reflection.

Contact us to get connected with one of our therapists today.

Self-Reflection Questions to Facilitate Insight

  • How much of my time am I spending on social media? Am I okay with this amount of time?
  • How do I typically feel after spending time online?
    • Are there times where I feel better or worse? What makes the difference?
  • In what ways is social media helpful or positive for me?
  • In what ways is social media unhelpful or negative for me? What boundaries could I be mindful of moving forwards?
  • What would I like to use social media for from now on?

Boundary Setting

  • Permit social media use only during certain windows in the day (personal rules can be helpful for adults too!)
  • Be extra mindful when you’re already feeling down and evaluate whether it is helping or making things worse
  • Observe how you feel as you are on the app
  • Reaffirm that social media is a highlight reel
  • Set a timer or app blocker especially when you need to focus on other tasks
  • Remind yourself that [excessive] comparison is the thief of joy
  • Experiment with X amount of time fully off of social media. See how you feel.

References

  1. Akram, W., & Kumar, R. (2017). A study on positive and negative effects of social media on society. International journal of computer sciences and engineering5(10), 351-354.
  2. Boer, M., Van Den Eijnden, R. J., Boniel-Nissim, M., Wong, S. L., Inchley, J. C., Badura, P., ... & Stevens, G. W. (2020). Adolescents' intense and problematic social media use and their well-being in 29 countries. Journal of adolescent health66(6), S89-S99.
  3. Marciano, L., Ostroumova, M., Schulz, P. J., & Camerini, A. L. (2022). Digital media use and adolescents' mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in public health9, 793868.
  4. Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2019, September 18). The rise of social media. Our World in Data. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/rise-of-social-media
  5. (2022). Time spent on social media [Chart]. Accessed June 14, 2023, from https://www.statista.com/chart/18983/time-spent-on-social-media/.
  6. Zsila, Á., & Reyes, M. E. S. (2023). Pros & cons: impacts of social media on mental health. BMC psychology11(1), 201.