How COVID-19 Has Intensified the Negative Effects of Social Media and How You Can Mitigate Them

As we quickly approach the anniversary of living in a world turned on its head due to COVID-19, former MEDIAGIRLS Editorial Intern Emma Silva provides insights and strategies into how we can continue to adapt our media usage to support us in navigating our ever-changing reality.

Since March 2020, the world as we all know it has turned on its head due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us are home from work and school, forced to spend more hours in front of the computer than normal. Social contact is extremely limited, so we have all been forced to get creative. Many of these barriers to normal life have pushed us to turn to social media to get the interactions we crave. 

Social media is intended to be social. At its best, social media is a place for us to follow friends and family and stay connected with them through their daily lives. At its worst, social media is a breeding ground for toxic comparisons and jealous fears of missing out—otherwise known as FOMO. 

The isolation and quarantine periods brought on by COVID have left all of us with much more time on our own, away from friends. For many of us, more time on our own means more time spent on our phones. Our relationships with our friends and family help to form our identities. When these relationships are forced to go online and we are separated from our loved ones by a screen, it is especially difficult to maintain a sense of connection. COVID-19 has forced this new way of life upon us rapidly. 

It is easy to attempt to fill this social void by scrolling away on social media. Social media provides temporary occupation and entertainment, and can be a fun way to take a break for a few minutes. But, if you notice yourself spending more time mindlessly on TikTok and Instagram than actually connecting with your loved ones, it may be time to change. 

Increased time on social media can lead to stress, anxiety and loneliness. Social media is a highlight reel of peoples’ best moments, and it is easy to compare ourselves to someone else’s curated, manufactured, and edited version of themselves. This comparison can create feelings of inadequacy, FOMO, and low self-esteem. 

These feelings, and the negative effects of social media that cause them, can be mitigated with a little rethinking. Setting boundaries and guidelines for ourselves surrounding social media usage can help to lessen its harmful impacts. One boundary you can set for yourself is avoiding checking your phone right when you wake up. This helps you to focus more on yourself and what you want to accomplish for the day, rather than everyone else’s curated (pre-)COVID photos.  

Avoiding checking your social media for at least 30 minutes before you go to bed can also help you get a better night’s rest. We’ve all experienced the dread that comes with going to bed long after we intended after wasting hours watching TikToks in bed. Disconnecting yourself from your phone before hitting the hay allows you to reflect on the day and check in with yourself. It also helps you to fall asleep quicker and easier. 

Another way to improve your relationship with social media is to unfollow any accounts that make you feel negatively about yourself. If you follow any accounts that make you question your self-worth, your hobbies, or your body, it’s time to hit that “unfollow” button. Social media should be a place to connect with friends and people who make you feel good, not those who tear you down or make you feel bad about yourself. Doing these social media clean-outs regularly can help ensure that your feed makes you feel confident and empowered. 

One final way to improve your relationship with social media is to understand that your usage of it is typically habitual. We reach for our phones when we are bored, distracted, or simply have nothing else to do. Next time you feel this way, try picking a different thing to do. Whether that be painting your nails, going for a quick walk, or reading a book, choosing an alternate form of entertainment that doesn’t involve a screen gives your mind a break. 

2020 has been a year that no one expected and 2021 continues to keep us on our toes. We’ve all had to adapt to the new normal, and find ways to cope with the challenges that have resulted. Finding an attainable way to keep social media usage in check may alleviate some of the stress and anxiety this year has caused, and even improve your relationship with yourself.

A native to the Boston area, Emma is a senior at Boston University majoring in public relations. She is passionate about writing, social media management, and media outreach. Emma hopes to use her degree to connect people and share the meaningful stories of everyday life.


Featured Image by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.

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