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How to Develop Healthy Social Media Habits in 2024

When you see a beautiful sunset, feel lonely, or eat at a great restaurant, do you find yourself pulling out your phone to document your every emotion and experience on social media? While your deadlines loom closer, do you notice that you can spend hours scrolling as if you have all the time in the world?

Social media can have a pervasive influence on our lives. Its overbearing presence over time can lead to deteriorated relationships, work performance, and a lack of satisfaction with quality of life. So how can you develop healthy online habits that allow you to engage in all the positives of social media without falling into compulsive use? 

Setting the Foundation for Healthier Habits

Setting a solid foundation for your online goals will help you better achieve your desired internet habits. First, observe how you spend your time. A Gallup study found that teens spend an average of 4.8 hours per day on social media platforms. Does this look similar to your online habits?

  • Set specific time limits for daily social media use. Many phones have data metrics that demonstrate how much time you spend on particular apps, so create a customized goal based on your own usage statistics. For example, if you spend around 3 hours a day on social media, cut it down to two to begin, and then see if you can drop it farther. 
  • Americans check their phones 144 times a day. By disabling non-essential notifications, you’ll also remove an external pressure to compulsively hop into your online networks of choice any time someone makes a new comment or like. 
  • Find something to do instead. What can you do in real time to replace that hour of social media? Consider an activity that gives you quality time with yourself, like cooking, painting, exercising, journaling, or meditating. 

Curate Your Digital Space

Now when it comes to being online, assess your current connections across platforms. Be mindful of the kind of content you’re consuming. What kinds of platforms do you follow? What kind of digital space do you want to curate for yourself? 

  • Unfollow accounts that negatively impact your mental health. Perhaps a particular fitness inspiration account makes you feel more ashamed than motivated. Maybe you find yourself judging the posts of a high school acquaintance. These digital interactions aren’t adding anything to your day.
  • Follow accounts that leave you feeling inspired. There’s no harm in following a cooking account whose recipes you often try to recreate, or your local community farm whose posts about volunteer opportunities and fresh produce sales get you out in your neighborhood. 
  • Consider what you want your life to look like, and follow accounts that are living the life you want to live… as a jewelry business owner, an organic homesteader, a fiction author. Sometimes seeing other people living your dream can help you feel your goals aren’t impossible to achieve. 

Positive Interaction Strategies

When you’re engaging with others online, are they generally constructive interactions? Do you tend to lift others up or tear others down? When you create posts, are they met with vitriol or productive conversations? 

  • Social media has become a place where others are sharing their most vulnerable moments, critical thoughts, and political stances. All of these instances also lead to arguments that fall into name-calling and personal attacks. If you find yourself in these situations, it’s time to stop unnecessary conflicts. Unfollow accounts that engage in blatant trolling and hate. 
  • Instead, encourage positive conversations. If you notice a point of conflict on your posts, take the time to calmly and kindly explain your viewpoint while listening to other perspectives. Release the idea that you have to change someone’s mind, because there’s a chance you won’t. But by engaging in positive conversation instead of delving into negative arguments, you’ll leave the comment sections feeling calm instead of frustrated.

Take a Break

Every once in a while, take scheduled breaks from social media. Would you be able to keep your online usage down to a few minutes at a time? A study found that college students experienced a positive change in mood, reduced anxiety and improved sleep during and in the immediate aftermath of a social media detoxification period. Do you think you could set aside a week each month to take a total social media detox?

  • Set up notifications in your phone’s app settings that send you an alert when you’ve passed 10 or 15 minutes on a social media app. These can help you see exactly how much time has passed to encourage you to take a break. 
  • Try to take social media detoxes that last a few hours, a day, a week, or even a month. Define the goals of your detox. Do you want to stay off your phone for the first hour of the day to improve your focus? Do you want to quit social media altogether while you focus on starting your side-business? Your goals will help guide you for longer periods of time.
  • The key to making your breaks bearable is to find new things to fill your time. Read an interesting library book or call a friend on your work breaks. In longer periods of time, start (or finish!) a creative project, learn a new language, or take a pottery workshop. Take a weekend to totally disconnect by going camping or hiking, or renting a cabin to immerse yourself in nature.

Building Real-Life Connections

One of the best things about social media is that it connects us to friends and family across time and distance. Lowering your social media activity doesn’t mean all these connections will suddenly be severed. In fact, by focusing on enhancing all your relationships in life, you’ll be able to interact with social media in positive ways.

  • Prioritize face-to-face interactions. If you feel short on time, remember not every get-together has to be dinner at a restaurant. Maybe you can run errands with your mom, walk your dog in the park with a friend, or try a new exercise class as an interesting date. Sometimes doing the “mundane” daily activities suddenly becomes more interesting when you’re in the company of someone you genuinely love.
  • Social media in itself can enhance your real-life connections. Many organizations post about upcoming events that are an opportunity for real-life meetups. Now you can learn about bar trivia nights, local farmer’s markets, and political rallies that get you involved with your community through a variety of ways. Once you find events, send them to your friends to make future plans.

Stick to Your Goals

Now you’ve made all these goals for your social media habits: no internet usage after 9pm, a weekend immersed in nature once a month, finishing a book and meditating in the morning, no social media during work hours. So how do you hold yourself accountable to these goals? 

  • Download digital wellness apps. Apps like Freedom block distracting websites and applications for a period of time. Users are able to create customizable lists of sites and apps to block for a recurring period of time to better manage screen time and distractions. 
  • Customize the digital wellness apps to align with your desired schedule. With the Freedom app, creating a Morning Workout blocklist can prevent you from accessing your email, social media, everything except your fitness apps, for an hour. Your Workflow blocklist will knock off any news and entertainment site along with social media. 

Strategize Your Social Media Habits

This year, you’re taking back control of your time and setting healthier social media habits to take a break from digital information overstimulation. By acknowledging social media can still add to your life through inspiring accounts, positive interactions, and enhancing real-life relationships, you’ll be able to redefine the ways you interact with these platforms.
As you begin to lower your engagement with social media, implementing new time limits, disabling notifications, curating your feeds, and scheduling long and short-term breaks, any combination of these strategies will help you have a healthier relationship with social media. Downloading digital wellness apps like Freedom will create the scheduled blocks that eliminate distractions so you can focus on sticking with all your goals in 2024.

Written by Lorena Bally