Social Media and Social Distancing: The Do’s and Don’ts

With the ever-increasing importance of self-isolation as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be tempting to stay on social media. All. Day. Long. However, this isn’t often the best thing for you. It can leave you feeling drained and stuck, especially if you’re mindlessly scrolling for hours on end. How do you strike a balance between using social media in a helpful way and being sucked into the void of mind-numbing posts? Check out these do’s and don’ts to learn how.

Do: Check in with your friends

It is so important to remember that the main purpose of social media is to be social! When you can’t see your friends in person, keeping in touch online becomes your main method of interaction, and maintaining your friendships is crucial for good mental health. Private message your friends, especially the ones you haven’t heard from in a while, to check in on how they’re doing. This also goes for family members that you don’t see outside of reunions, or for anyone you know who could use a check-in and a smile. Being isolated is scary for everybody, but keeping in touch with the people you care about can make it a little easier.

Don’t: Scroll literally all day

This is the number one mistake that people make on social media. When you have no obligations (at least, none that you’ve thought about – what online final projects?), it’s easy to waste your day away by scrolling and scrolling. With so many different platforms to look through, it’s impossible to run out of content. In other words, it’s up to you to know your limits and to respect them.

Often, anything over thirty minutes a day of social media time will negatively impact your mindset, so find ways to put a pause on it. Apps that block a website after a certain amount of time are a great tool for this, as is making plans for yourself at set times to give you things to look forward to and break up your day at the same time.

Do: Find ways to spread joy and calm amongst the chaos

The greatest gifts that you can give – for free – are kindness and love. Social media is an excellent tool for spreading happiness to the people in our lives. Do you have a special skill that you love teaching to others? This is the perfect chance to livestream a lesson on your platform of choice for an eagerly awaiting audience. Did a friend just change her profile picture? Leave her a kind comment. Social media gives us the opportunity to infuse our friends’ lives with kindness in a matter of moments.

Don’t: Add fuel to the fire of panic, confusion and negativity

No one needs to see another misinformed post, “news” article that clearly wasn’t fact-checked or rant about how miserable you are watching Netflix all day. The world needs to find solidarity and we can only do that by standing together in support of our healthcare workers, our vulnerable population and our friends. Before posting or sharing something, take a moment to stop and think. Is what you’re about to post important, kind and well-thought out? If not, take a step back to make sure that social media is the right place for it. Just like a virus, things online can spread much easier than we realize, especially negative thoughts. 

Do: Use your creativity

Creativity is our secret weapon when it comes to beating boredom, both on and off social media. Brainstorming a new social media challenge, like posting a new favourite song every day, is a great way to unite the community together. Put on your thinking cap and think of how you might inspire someone else online. If you’ve hit that thirty-minute social media limit, think of creative ways to spend your newfound time. Come out of your room and play a game with your family. Dive back into an old hobby that you haven’t made time for in a while. Listen to music that makes you smile and dance around in your pyjamas while you finally tackle cleaning your closet. Even in isolation, this is your life, so seize the day!

Don’t: Use social media for escapism

You know that feeling: when everyone around you is miserable, complaining or going stir-crazy, and you want a way out. Out comes your phone, and off goes your brain. Although this does sound easier than taking responsibility for your day, using social media as an escape isn’t the healthiest way to deal with your feelings (in fact, it often makes you feel worse). You get a rush of dopamine every time you see a new like on your post or a rush of comments flooding in, but those feelings don’t last forever. When you rely on social media as a source of positive emotion, you lose touch with yourself and your needs. Instead of escaping your feelings – because let’s be real, we’re all feeling a lot right now – you can use your newfound time offline to take care of yourself. Which brings me to the final point…

Do: Take care of yourself offline

Self-care is one of the most important things you can do during this pandemic. Yes, bubble baths and ice cream sundaes are important for this, but self-care also encompasses the less fun aspects. Getting up on time every morning, eating three healthy meals a day, drinking enough water and finding ways to exercise will help you keep a positive mindset and give you a break from the anxiety-provoking aspects of social media.

The next time you catch yourself hitting refresh for the third time in thirty seconds, take a moment, breathe and decide if social media is a good use of your time. Connect with others, but don’t forget to use this time to focus on yourself. Social media is all about balance, so use these do’s and don’ts to help find yours!