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What is Social Media Hygiene?

By Daniela Canas Baena

We’re all both overly connected and lacking connection with each other. Social media can make us feel connected, inspired, isolated, lacking in some areas, amused, anxious and a range of other feelings. It can add to our health and wellbeing and it can also be detrimental to it. Insert social media hygiene!

Social media hygiene is simply developing social media practices that are conducive to our health. It’s about how we use social media and whether we are intentional with the time we spend on it. Everyone is different, but here are 4 social media hygiene strategies to test out to boost your wellbeing. 

Strategy 1: Put your phone away 30 minutes before bed. 

I’ve talked to so many people (and I must admit that I am also guilty of this myself) who utilize social media right before attempting to fall asleep. Those Tik Toks and Reels are super engaging! How many of us have said, I’m only going to go on for 10 minutes and end up engrossed for an hour or more? 

The blue light from our screens suppresses melatonin which means we’re more prone to insomnia, irritability, and tiredness during the day. You’re probably thinking, “but Daniela, I put the night shift on to take care of that”. Well, consuming content before bed also means that we’re activating the brain -- literally the opposite of winding us down for bed. The brain will remain stimulated even after you’re finally able to doze off.  

In short, putting our phone away 30 minutes before bed will not only add to the number of hours of sleep we get but will also add to the quality of sleep we receive. This will contribute positively to our ability to be focused, engaged, and active during the day. 

Strategy 2: Put away your phone while hanging out with friends.

While social media used wisely can be a tool for connection -- particularly for marginalized communities, it can also hinder our wellbeing. The comparison game is real and our self-esteem can take a hit. We often feel more comfortable and safe scrolling through our phones than talking to someone new. As we transition back to in-person classes and group activities, this is a great time to put the phone down and connect with those physically around you. 

This one is HARD because when you don’t have your phone out, you realize how often we focus our attention on our phones rather than on the people around us. It can be tempting to just slip it back out and connect with content versus those around you. I challenge and encourage you to talk to your friends and intentionally create no-phone times -- even if it’s just 30 minutes when you’re hanging out. Watch your relationships deepen. Instead of sharing content, you can share your joys, worries, and cares. You can practice being fully present for yourself and others. Building your relationships at UD is crucial to advancing your well-being in a new environment. 

Strategy 3: Set limits on your social media intake.

At this point, we all know that social media is addictive. We all want likes, we all want stimulating content, we’re all prone to FOMO when we see friends hanging out without us (even when we were the ones who declined the invite). 

According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, a healthy amount of social media per day is 30 minutes. You can limit the amount by setting limits on application use, putting your phone on airplane mode, changing the layout of your phone, and setting up apps that block websites/apps. 

If you don’t know whether you need to set some healthy boundaries with social media, ask yourself these questions: 

  1. Does social media distract me from doing my homework? 
  2. Does social media keep me from paying attention in class?
  3. Does social media keep me up past my ideal bedtime?
  4. Does social media keep me from developing deeper relationships with the people around me?
  5. Does scrolling through my social media feed make me feel like I’m not good enough in any way?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider creating a healthier relationship with social media and setting limits on how often you interact with it. 

Where you place your attention matters. Social media companies know this and invest lots of resources to keep you engaged! Take ownership of your attention, be intentional with your time, and develop social media hygiene practices that are going to add to your wellbeing. All this said, everyone is different and the strategies you use to support your health and wellbeing have to make sense for you.

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