Online Media and Mental Health

Do you engage with news and/or social media on a regular basis? If so, have you ever noticed yourself feeling angry or anxious after watching, reading or listening to the news? Or have you ever noticed yourself feeling inadequate, depressed or outraged after scrolling through your social media feed? If so, you are not alone.

In recent years, information technology experts, such as Tristan Harris, corporate whistleblowers, such as Frances Haugen, and documentaries such as The Social Dilemma have raised concerns that frequent, high consumption of news and social media is not good for our mental health. Furthermore, these sources point to evidence that shows that the algorithms that run many online media platforms are designed to manipulate users into staying engaged (i.e., to keep clicking, reading and watching) for the sake of profit, without consideration for the users’ mental health and well-being.

As such, it is probably a good idea for all consumers of news and social media to bring as much awareness and intention to these activities as they can. Following are a few simple tips to help keep your online activity from having a negative impact on your mental health:

1. Schedule specific times to engage with news and social media and specific times to step away.

2. Clarify your purpose or reason for opening a news or social media site, and stick to it.

3. Follow people, pages and sites online that bring you joy.

4. Use other people’s posts as inspiration rather than comparison.

5.  When you’re out and about, live in the moment (not on your phone!)

6.  Avoid engaging with news or social media before bed.

Lastly, if you notice that your use of news or social media has left you feeling anxious or depressed, it’s probably a good idea to take a break for a few days. Unplugging can help us recharge our batteries and refocus on what’s most important in life. 

For further information and advice about healthy online activity, please check out the links below.