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Social media is a powerful tool, which, when used right, can bring tremendous good.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous lockdowns, for example, the ability to stay connected to loved ones has proved invaluable.

In addition, an increase in digital ad spend during the past year-and-a-half reveals how businesses have seen the value in using online platforms to market products and services.

However, despite its many benefits, social media has an ugly side that can seriously affect our mental health and wellbeing. One study has found that prolonged use of digital media platforms can trigger depression and loneliness.

Just think back. Does scrolling through your newsfeed give you that sense of FOMO, or make you feel envious or alone? Does your self-worth take a beating when you see peers seemingly living their lives to the fullest, while you’re stuck spinning your wheels at home?

Or maybe you’re in direct selling and feel deflated each time you come across posts disparaging what you do or judging your focus on attaining financial freedom.

If you’ve experienced any of the above, know that you’re not alone. You also don’t have to continue feeling this way. Here are a few ways to navigate this social media minefield and look after your mental health:

Choose to be positive

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Yes, it’s not easy to maintain a positive outlook all the time and exercise restraint, especially when faced by toxic netizens and what feels like a barrage of judgment and criticism over your career and life choices.

But while you can’t control what others do on social media, you do have a handle on your own actions. You can start by deciding to use social media to spread kindness, support and positivity.

Consider sharing supportive content and reaching out to others who you feel are in the same boat. You may not realise it, but you could be making a tremendous difference.

After all, it’s better to give than to receive.

Control what you see

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If you use more than one social media app, consider deactivating your accounts on platforms you find most toxic. If that’s too difficult, unfollow individual accounts or pages you find distressing.

It might also be worth tweaking account settings. Instagram, for example, allows users to block certain words or phrases or turn off comments on specific posts.

Following this, you can then also start subscribing to creators with uplifting content.

For example, Chief Pathman Senathirajah’s weekly Instagram Live sessions are incredibly inspiring for direct sellers and marketing professionals. Here are other social media accounts you could follow to fill your newsfeed with light and positivity.

Educate yourself

What’s just as important is recognising the different types of content on social media and how they trigger negative responses.

Social media has been accused of playing up unrealistic social, physical and lifestyle expectations, and rightly so.

But it makes things slightly more manageable when you can identify stress points and deal with them beforehand.

For example, does a particular post give you anxieties? Do you feel nauseous? Irrational anger or sadness? If so, these are the posts you need to block from your feeds, or perhaps even totally unfollow.

Stay connected in real life

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Have you ever felt like it’s been only a short while since you spoke with friends and family only to realise that your recent interactions have all been online?

The lines between the online and real worlds often blur for many of us.

So it’s vital to ensure you’re making tangible, real-life human connections. Remember that only living, breathing people can fulfil our need for belonging.

Detox and unplug

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When all else fails, it might be time to take a digital break.

Sure, it’s not easy to switch off from the online space, especially if your job depends on you being connected and using social media.

However, even short breaks have been found to boost self-esteem and mental health.

Consider powering off your electronic devices after a specific time. You can dedicate this “free” time to other hobbies like cooking or reading. It might also be worthwhile to dedicate time to meditation, which can greatly aid anxiety and depression.

Remember, life is more than just what’s happening on a screen.

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