Healthy Social Media Habits for 2021

After the year we’ve all had, there’s a bit of screen fatigue going around. Movies and television helped act as distractions through lockdowns, social interactions moved to FaceTime and Zoom, and our phones acted as a huge source of information through the most tumultuous year in memory. A new term was even coined — “doomscrolling” — which refers to the act of being tethered to social platforms, unable to stop consuming news updates, to the point of feeling overwhelmed. 

With this in mind, we are all looking to 2021 for a fresh start (for a variety of very valid reasons). Finding healthy ways to engage with social media is ultimately dependent on individual preferences, but here are a few good ways to start. 

The first suggestion could very well be the hardest: experts say it’s best to start the day not looking at our phones. According to psychiatrists, the information overload we experience by reaching for our phones first thing in the morning interferes with our ability to prioritize tasks throughout the day. People who start the day with a social scroll tend to get more easily distracted throughout the day. Trying to wake up with journaling or meditation is a better way to set ourselves up for success. 

Similarly, trying to designate set times for social media is a great way to maintain balance. Maybe mid-morning coffee breaks, afternoon scrolls, or evening refreshers are the best way for you to stay engaged. Ask yourself: why am I logging in? Are you hoping to catch up on breaking news, or connect with friends and loved ones? Identifying that purpose can help make the social landscape feel a little less overwhelming. 

In any year, social media can also be a vast void of comparison. Framing other people’s posts as inspiration rather than competition is much easier said than done, but try to remember that (especially right now) there’s no such thing as that “picture perfect” life. We all try to put our best selves forward on the internet — what kind of qualities would you love to bring with you into a new year? Identify them, and take steps to get there, instead of wishing you had the beachfront home or amazing marathon time. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a social media break! And, unless it can impact your job, it’s totally okay to do so unannounced. Delete the apps from your phone to remove the temptation and take a big deep breath. Try setting up Google news alerts for your area or subscribing to email alerts if you’re concerned about being out of the loop. 

The folks over at MIT add that it’s totally possible to stay healthy while also being very active online. Finding a community is a great way to build that positive safety net. Connecting with friends or people with shared interests naturally yields more fruitful interactions than arguing with strangers or spending time in negative corners of the internet. Follow things that bring you joy: do you love getting updates from your favorite actors or artists? Do puppies and kittens immediately put a smile on your face? Do travel accounts that show off the beauty of the world make the planet feel just a little smaller? Find those staples that make your day a little better and try not to get caught up in the topics or accounts that bring you down. 

Lastly, don’t struggle alone! If you’re having a hard time (which, again, is understandable all the time, but especially now), share it with the people you can count on IRL. We’re all sick of screens, and while 2021 is starting to slowly look a little brighter, it’s ok to dim our phones in the meantime.