MindWell team member Gillian thinks about how she uses social media and whether it’s good for her.

A person texting on a mobile phone. They have a mid skin tone and pink hair in an asymmetrical cut.

Social media can be fun, entertaining, help us stay in touch with different groups of people and encourage us to make new connections.

Unfortunately, we all know there can be a more troubled side to it, with trolls and bullies, people talking about self-harm or pictures that seem to promote negative body image. It can be upsetting, hurtful and damaging.

I like social media to help me find out about events, activities, people, books and places that I might not have heard of otherwise. I enjoy following accounts featuring dogs and cats and the occasional penguin. There can be amazing photos of nature or art that I’d never get to see in person. You can even follow space exploration on Mars or astronauts on the International Space Station.

But I still see negativity and nastiness online, despite who and what I follow. I have to remind myself that I don’t need to read the comments sent to a woman caring for dogs with special needs. I don’t have to follow a thread of people standing up to bullies. I have a choice on how and when I engage with social media.

We all can make a choice about how often we pick up our mobiles and start scrolling. We don’t have to take photos to share, choosing instead to be in the moment and enjoy what’s in front of us. We don’t have to keep up with influencers and stars or follow the latest gossip.

I need to remind myself that social media sites are communication, information and entertainment tools. If I’m not communicating, being informed or entertained by what I engage with, maybe it’s time to make a different choice.

If, like me, you’d like to keep an eye on how, when and why you use social media, you could try asking yourself:

  • What do you use social media for?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Are there times when you’re scrolling on your phone and you don’t know why? What else could you be doing in those minutes or hours?
  • What can you take from social media into your real world life?
  • And what can you give back?

I think it’s important for myself and for all of us to look after our wellbeing and mental health. Sometimes that means unfollowing, blocking or muting toxic accounts, but I know that this is a way to show myself some love and self-care. I hope you can look after yourself online too.