5 ways to practise mindful social media use

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Social media can put damaging pressure on teens. Elise Harrington talks to peer practitioner Quilesha Webber about ways to make it less stressful.

“My whole feed is just swamped with dog videos! Puppies, dogs, and animals, because they make me laugh,” says Quilesha Webber, a mental health peer practitioner.

“Pay attention to the emotions you feel when looking at [social media] accounts,” she says.

Quilesha, whose day is filled with helping and supporting young people with mental health issues, says her approach to social media reflects a mindful way of dealing with the damaging pressures it places on teenagers.

“It can be a really powerful tool or a really negative tool. I think if you use it in the right ways, you become more informed, keep up to date with things and get to connect,” she says.

“Social media isn’t a real thing. It’s a place where people post their best selves. It is also very toxic in the sense that people believe or observe others, thinking that it’s just their life.”

It can make you feel pretty crap about your own life. It’s a hard concept to believe sometimes.

Quilesha says it’s important to know that your mental health is being affected by what you look at and read every day.

“Because our phone is accessible to us 24/7, we’re not mindful and we can feel disempowered.”

5 ways to practise mindful social media use
Quilesha Webber. Picture by Elise Harrington.

5 ways to practice mindful social media use and to assist recovery

1. Follow verified accounts

“There are registered or verified accounts in terms of positive mental health. You have organisations in the mental health field, physical health, spiritual health, where they give you resources,” Quilesha says.

 “Following verified accounts is helpful but be very critical and aware of the information you are taking in.”

2. Set boundaries

Unfollowing accounts that don’t make you feel good is a great way to limit the amount of toxic content you see.

 “Just because you unfollow someone or block them, doesn’t mean you hate them, it just means their social media presence doesn’t help you or isn’t relevant – communicate this to them. It’s okay to not follow friends.”

3. Examine your emotions

 “It is important to take a step back and examine ‘how am I feeling today? What do I need?’,” Quilesha says. Taking a break can be helpful.

4. Know your privacy settings

Choose who follows you: privacy settings on apps such as Instagram allow you to choose who follows you, and this can be better than “being overwhelmed with random people” seeing your activity.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner revealed that only 68 per cent of people managed their online privacy.

5. Limit social media use

According to the 2021 study The digital lives of Aussie teens, also by the eSafety Commissioner, teens spent an average of 14.4 hours a week online, equating to just over two hours daily.

Quilesha says that, in her experience, it is helpful to set aside an hour or so a day dedicated to social media rather than being on and off it all day. Having a purpose is practicing mindful social media use.

5 ways to practise mindful social media use
Graphic source: www.esafety.gov.au