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A Step by Step Social Media Check In

We all have a general idea of how social media can be harmful to our mental health. We all know this, and yet still engage in these platforms that are causing us harm. In my years working in Children's Mental Health, and in my subsequent work in Perinatal Mental Health, I have found this topic to be consistently important.

I have created this "check in" with the knowledge I have gained through research, lived experience, and multiple conversations with clients, on what has been helpful to reduce the negative mental health impacts of their social media use. I hope that this helpful to some of you. I also want to name that social media use and the psychology of the attention economy is so complicated so please take what is helpful, and leave what isn't.

Step 1) Integrate Intentionality with your Social Media Use (Ask "Why?")

Do you ever check In With Yourself Before and After Social Media Use?

Here are some questions to ask before you open your social apps:

Why am I picking up my phone right now? (Am I looking for a laugh? To connect? To find a recipe?)

Is this experience going to fulfill my need?

Why do I reach for this, and not something else?

What are some of the direct impacts of social media that I enjoy/like?

What are some of the direct impacts of social media use on me that are unwanted?

How do I feel about myself after using social media?

How do I feel about the world after using social media?

How do I feel about others after using social media?

Do these feelings align with the person I want to be or with my values?

The top 2 reasons I see people reach for social media is

1) To socially connect

2) To manage my stress/feelings

What we find when we look at the data and mental health research out there is that social media is actually making us feel more alone, and increasing our stress.

Step 2) Consider Replacing Social Media Use With Something That is Actually Going to Fulfill Your Need

Once you intentionally think about your "WHY" of social media use, we can be intentional about tending to ourselves and what we actually need!

What might you need to do to tend to a need for connection, a need for stress management? I could list out options here, but I'm not that kind of therapist. I trust that you know what is best for yourself, and that you can do the exploration to find what works for you.

3) Don’t Have Social Media Be Your “Space Filler”

Take a second and go to your phone's screen time monitoring section. Most people find it surprising that they are spending 1-8 hours of screen time a day on their phones!

Having social media so accessible means that when we have any "empty space" in our day we automatically land in our phones.

We have become conditioned to fill empty moments in our day with scrolling. What might you do with that 1-6 hours if you weren't scrolling? It's kind of a fun thing to dream about. Maybe it's spending time playing with your child, maybe it's time connecting with your partner, or eating, or

sleeping, or literally just day dreaming! Maybe... it's ok to just have "empty space" in our day, and maybe we need to relearn how to become comfortable with this again (because we probably were really good at being in empty space as a child pre-screen era). Let's create time to intentionally spend it with ourselves, we might just learn something, or re-access something in ourselves that we thought we had lost.

4) Make Social Media Less Addictive and Take Back Control

Set boundaries around your use that work for you, and CALL IN BACK UP because this is hard work, and our brains literally sometimes cannot do it without support!

Here are some things that you might want to try...

  • Reduce accessibility and increase intentionality by removing social media from your phone and only accessing on your computer

  • Turn off notifications

  • Have screen free spaces, and times in your home

  • Create a family culture that involves screen free time

  • Make your phone "grayscale" to reduce stimulation

  • Consciously track your screen time

  • Try "habit stacking" make a rule that you have to do something BEFORE you engage in social media use (deep breathe 3x, practice a meditation, tick something off your to do list, have a snack, get outside, engage in an actual conversation with a real person, etc.)

You can find more fantastic ideas and resources here

A Special Note for Parents:

I have attached a resource below for those of you who are parents and you are interested in learning more about what the recommendations and resources are for children and managing screen time. I am super passionate about this topic, and so happy to connect with any parents if they want to learn more, or talk about how to edit make these near impossible to follow recommendations to make them work for you.

Download PDF • 97KB

I offer virtual Psychotherapy throughout Ontario to clients as a Registered Psychotherapist.

If you are interested in journeying with me in your therapy work you can book a session here. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Take care and always be gentle with yourself,

Michelle Green MA, RP, CCC, CC-PMH


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