Season 2 of Digital Citizen is coming out soon! In this article, we explore an episode from last season where we discuss the social and personal impact social media has on its users and how to stay conscious of its role in your life.


Do you ever feel stressed trying to “catch up” on the never-ending social media post feed on your devices? Have you looked up from scrolling through your email and realized that what you thought was just a couple of minutes was actually a half-hour? Or, maybe just one too many times you've been roped into an argument with your Uncle Ralph in the comments section? If you said yes to any of these questions, don't worry, you're not alone.

Our chat with Tom Webster in the second episode of Digital Citizen left us with a lot of thoughts about both the positive and negative impact that social media has on all of us. In this article, we're going to take a look at the role that social media plays in our day-to-day lives and how we can adjust our behavior to cultivate a happier, healthier, and more productive online presence.

What is social media?

Many people have different definitions of what “social media” is. Information sharing, instant connection, posting, and scrolling have become integrated into society and life as we know it. Yet, social media can be challenging to define.

Outside of the most prominent platforms - such as Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok - there are a lot of services that can still fall under the broad umbrella of social media. For example, email is a digital medium that is inherently social - but it isn't what most people think about when somebody says "social media". Even so, it's important to realize that email, group chats, and other communication platforms have a draw on our time whether we personally choose to define them to be social media or not.

Impact of social media

It would be too simple to say that the influence of social media is either primarily good or bad; it depends on how you use it. At this point, it is common knowledge that social media use has negative implications. People, especially younger users, have suffered serious self-image issues, politics have become more polarized, and anonymity seems to encourage mean behavior.

However, despite this, it's important to remember that a lot of positivity arises out of social media. Never before in history have we been able to communicate so quickly and efficiently, develop strong communities outside of our immediate surroundings, and financially support people and causes we care about directly through mutual aid.

If you want to be a good digital citizen and have social media play a positive role in your life, be mindful of the way that you use it. If you aren't conscious of the way that you operate within digital spaces your productivity and personal relationships might suffer. Furthermore, your approach to social media has an effect not just on your mental health, but on the well-being of others as well.

We have put together four questions you should ask yourself when using social media to help you assess whether social media is having a positive or negative impact on your mental health.

#1: Where am I getting my information from?

A significant percentage of people source their news from social media, and for many people the information they find online plays a huge role in developing their beliefs. As a good digital citizen, it's crucial to monitor what you are sharing to avoid contributing to the rampant spread of disinformation.

That process begins with auditing your own sources of information first: Webster suggests finding and following sources you trust and cutting the rest - especially opinion-based editorials. You can determine the credibility of a source by analyzing its content, ensuring the information provided is current, taking notice to any biased statements, researching the author’s or site’s credentials, and properly fact-checking by comparing multiple sources.

#2: How am I spending my time?

Your productivity and mental health can take a huge blow if you aren't intentional about how much time you spend online and what you do when you're logged on. There's nothing wrong with sharing memes or looking at your friends' vacation pictures, as long as that's actually how you want to spend your time. Anything you do over and over again becomes a habit, whether those behaviors elicit positive or negative emotions.

Establishing positive habits involves making active choices about how you can positively spend your time, rather than passively letting useless or negative habits form. Put some effort into bringing good digital citizenship to your social media use by making it a point to share uplifting content and focus on fostering real, human connections.

#3: What am I getting out of it?

It's easy to spend hours a day on social media and never take a step back and ask ourselves why we're there in the first place.

Once you evaluate what you personally gain from using social media, you can more easily prioritize what is good for you. Social media connects you to millions of people all over the world and abundant amounts of information, but not all of those connections are worthwhile. Make sure you are mindful of how you spend your time, then choose to devote that time to activities that actually enhance your life.

#4: How does this affect me?

Everybody's relationship with social media is personal and unique. For one person, an hour of aimlessly scrolling through their favorite social media app before bed can be a nice way to unwind and get in some laughs at the end of a stressful day. For somebody else, the same behavior could lead to lost sleep over a disagreement they had in the comments section.

Although there is plenty of good advice out there about how to take a healthier approach to social media, only you can control how you choose to behave online. Monitoring the content you consume, setting daily time limits for social media use, not contributing to misinformation and negativity, and many other practices can help you set boundaries that lead to a more positive, healthy relationship with social media.

Ultimately, it’s up to you

Social media is a double-sided coin: there's a lot of both the good and the bad. As we aspire to be better digital citizens, we must reflect on how we use social media to make the internet a happier, healthier place to be.

After reading this article, listen to our entire conversation with Tom Webster on Digital Citizen. If you want to change your social media habits, but don't know where to begin, you can check out our article about using Tiny Habits to become a better digital citizen.


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