Consume responsibly: staying sane on social 


by Jolyon Varley
Social Media

Social media platforms used to be seen as a benign way to share photos and provide strangers with unwarranted details of your personal interests (Chatroulette, anyone?). But after years of the world touting the potential of such activities, a deep moral panic has set in with many attributing a rise in stress, anxiety and depression among young people to more time spent on social media.


But the real picture is much more nuanced. New research points to social media comprising a healthy part of our brains’ daily information diet. In an experiment, Harvard’s School of Public Health measured how routine social media use is associated with three health outcomes – social well-being, positive mental health and self-rated health. According to the scientists who ran the study, social media use is positively associated with all three of these things. 

This leads us to believe that the best way to preserve our mental wellbeing isn’t to eschew social media altogether – but become better at using it. That is, more mindful, deliberate and conscious of what you want from the platform (and not play to what the platform and its designers want from you).

Purposeful distraction

This means getting distracted on purpose, not when a notification pops up on your phone or you accidentally read a spam email telling you about a new hospitality job opening up in Oslo. Distractions can be a useful means of recharging the brain when you’ve been working hard, but according to a study from the University of California-Irvine, it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to recover focus. Cut the notifications, unsubscribe from email spam and ask yourself: am I here because I want to be?

Edit the list

Social media is like food. There’s junk food that provides instant gratification but is vacuous and unenriching (drunk freshmen body-slamming tables, kids’ scooter accidents, Russians operating heavy machinery in inventive but ultimately irresponsible ways) and the wholesome stuff (thought-provoking content like art, photography, music and exceptional displays of raw talent). Edit your following list so the content in your feed informs and inspires you.

Talk less

This one is challenging, because social networks are built upon the satisfaction you get from posting something that draws attention, praise and approbation from peers. Meanwhile, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are becoming (in some corners) places of unending, unresolvable arguments that spiral into a spate of bilious tirades. Don’t feed it. Use social media as a place to learn, think and stimulate your mind, while gracefully sidestepping the cacophony of feuds and trolling. 

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