Over my eight years of running a business, I’ve seen some changes in my own mental health as I’ve become more and less addicted to social media. It may not seem too hard to take a step away from social media if you just use it for your personal life – but if you’re relying on it for your business and your livelihood, it might be a little harder to do so.
But staying engaged on social media takes a toll on our mental health as humans and especially as entrepreneurs. So why aren’t we decreasing our social media usage? Why aren’t we becoming less dependent on it? It’s tough. But before we can decrease our dependency on social media, we’ve gotta understand why and how it’s causing us to feel this way. Then, we can follow some best practices to make sure we’re using it in a healthy way.
We’re addicted to social media
You’ll hear a lot of people say that social media isn’t inherently bad – it’s how we choose to use it that denotes how it will affect us – either positively or negatively. But the thing is, social media and internet use can literally be classified as being addictive.
Back in 1996, the American Psychological Association began having conversations about whether or not there needed to be a new clinical disorder. You may hear it being called Internet Addiction Disorder – and this addiction has been compared to pathological gambling because the way our brains light up when we’re on social media is very similar to the way the brains of people with gambling addictions light up. Crazy, right?
Think about how often you’re on social media throughout the day. Think about how uneasy you feel if you don’t have your phone on you – or if someone else holds your phone – or, god forbid, you misplace your phone. Why do we feel this way? It’s because those notifications and the feedback that we’re getting from our phones give us dopamine (which is a neurotransmitter that our brains release when we feel good). And a lot of studies have shown that phone activity can cause the release of dopamine in our brains, which makes us feel motivated and happy. Those constant notifications keep bringing you back for more.
Anxiety, Depression, and Burnout – Oh my!
And what happens when we become addicted to social media? We become anxious, depressed, insecure, and burnt out. It’s funny (well, not actually funny. But you know what I mean) how these platforms were designed to make us feel good and happy – but in reality, they make us feel worse.
“Social media makes me anxious”
Even research shows that social media fuels our anxiety. But it’s just so hard to quit cold turkey.
Copywriter Sophy Dale stepped away from using social media as her main source of getting clients and she actually moved her community off of Facebook Groups onto a different platform because these platforms were giving her unnecessary anxiety.
If you use Instagram, you may agree with her on this one: Sophy thinks of Instagram as an “enormous, addictive rabbit hole” you could scroll for hours on. Sophy realized that this platform was taking up so much of her mental bandwidth – and for what? So she decided to leave Instagram, as she wanted to be more intentional about where she was spending her time and energy.
Sales Coach Leah Neaderthal removed Facebook and Instagram from her phone because it was giving her anxiety – and it’s actually improved her personal life and she’s been able to continue running a successful business without relying on these two platforms.
We can’t stop comparing ourselves
And one of the worst feelings social media can give us is the comparisonitis we feel when we’re constantly comparing ourselves, our lives, and our businesses to others. Therapist Maryellen Dance, LCSW talks about the dark side of social media – the side that makes us feel bad about ourselves, makes us feel the need to be present all the time online, and gives us a level of isolation like never before.
Social media platforms are just a breeding ground for insecurities. We see only the good parts of people’s lives and businesses (the only parts people truly want to share with the world) and we get lost in what’s real and what’s “performative”.
Here’s an episode where Maryellen Dance and I talk about how these social media platforms can bring out this sense of “comparisonitis”, and what we can do to decrease it.
Everyone’s feeling burnt out
And it’s just inevitable that after all of this anxiety and negativity we feel from being on social media all the time, we’re going to feel burnt out.
And when we’re talking about feeling burnt out from social media… when you use social media for your business – what are you supposed to do?
How to decrease dependency on social media
So we know that the way we’re using these platforms is nottttt the best for our mental health. So how can we decrease this comparisonitis? How can we stop feeling like we’re on a social media hamster wheel that never stops? How can we engage on social media without feeling anxious or depressed – if that’s even possible?
There are a few things we can do to make sure we’re using social media in a healthy way and make it manageable.
It may sound cliche, but seriously – setting boundaries for yourself around social media gives you a sort of guideline or rule book to keep you in check which makes it a lot easier to not get lost in the depths of social media.
- Don’t have your notifications turned on
I don’t know about you, but sometimes just hearing that “ding” when I get notifications can spark a sense of anxiety or feeling of “ugh”. Turning off push notifications is one of the most freeing feelings. You don’t get a notification every time someone likes an Instagram post. You don’t feel the need to respond immediately to someone who messages you. This will not only make you feel way less anxious, but it’s a good way to let people know that you are not available 24/7 – which will give them a glimpse of what it may be like to work with you!
Try turning off push notifications for a bit (it doesn’t have to be ALL notifications – just start off with the apps that you know are causing you anxiety, and see how you feel).
- Set boundaries for work time and personal time
For many of us, being an entrepreneur means you can pretty much work whenever – which oftentimes means you’re always on the clock. Try setting some boundaries for times of the day dedicated to work time and personal time. This could look like writing a reminder in your Google Calendar or Reclaim that after 8pm every weekday, you need to log out of work and stop answering all emails.
- Log off on weekends
Take time for yourself. Your business isn’t going anywhere if you take 48 hours to enjoy your weekend.
- Remove any apps from your phone that are making you anxious
If you know that there are some specific apps that are only bringing you anxiety or are just causing you to spend hours mindlessly – why do you still have them on your phone? It’s okay to delete them off your phone. If you ever need them back for some reason, you can redownload them or even log in on a desktop. It’s not permanent.
The Three Principles Of Stress Resilience
If you’re still feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you can learn how to manage stress so you can better navigate social media in a way that won’t make you feel so crappy.
Discharge, soothe, and nourish. These are the 3 principles of stress relief, according to Shulamit Ber Levtov – an expert in the anxieties and stresses of entrepreneurism.
Practice self-compassion and self-kindness
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Remember, not everything you see on social media is what it seems. Don’t beat yourself up for not doing all the things all the time. Slow down, and take some time to do something for yourself that will make you happy.
You’re spending less time on social – now what?
“I’m not as anxious all the time anymore”
When we’re not scrolling for hours on social media, taking in all of the content that’s made to make us feel like we’re not doing enough – guess what? We stop feeling so anxious. When there’s nothing to compare ourselves to, we stop comparing. When there are no notifications popping up on our phones, we don’t get sucked into the neverending vortex of social media.
When Leah Neaderthal stepped away from social media, she said that she found herself being so much happier, more content, and having a steadier mood throughout the day.
No more FOMO!
When we’re constantly “on”, we’re constantly thinking about what we could be doing, because we’re seeing what others are up to. And that leads to FOMO (fear of missing out).
When Sophy Dale left Instagram and Facebook, she no longer had that awareness of what other people were doing and found that it freed up a huge amount of mental space that gave her lots of new ideas about what she wanted for her business.
So if you take anything away from this, just know: there IS a way to use social media that won’t drain the life out of you. It’s all about setting boundaries and having self-compassion. If you have more questions about social media and mental health, ask me a question here!