Social media probably makes you feel bad — here’s how to limit usage | Health | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Social media probably makes you feel bad — here’s how to limit usage

From turning the screen to grayscale to throwing your phone in the ocean, there are plenty of tools.

Social media can be bad for mental health. This is obvious to anyone who has ever looked at their phone immediately after waking and gone on to have a bad day or felt emotionally drained from looking at news and reactions on Twitter or felt like a gargoyle after looking at pictures of pretty people on Instagram.

Social media has positive outcomes, like friendship, education, and activism, but it's also a chaotic, omnipresent, and largely unregulated toxic waste dump, and there's science to prove it. A June study by the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health surveyed a sample of college students and found that negative social media interactions create stronger depressive symptoms. A recently published study from the University of Pennsylvania found that people who significantly reduced their social media usage for three weeks felt reduced depression and loneliness. 

The bad news is we're in too deep to let go of social media, even if there are proven unhealthy effects. The good news is, even tech companies are making tools to help.

Social media probably makes you feel bad — here’s how to limit usage
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Set Limits

Apple recently released an update that includes Screen Time, a section in settings that lets users set limits on certain apps and track which apps take up the most of your time. There are also several apps that can limit phone usage with varying degrees of intensity.

Browser extensions like StayFocusd allow users to limit time on certain websites, and when the clock runs out there's no way back in. There's even something called a "nuclear" option that, under no circumstances, allows users onto their specific website. We live in a healthy society! 

Make it Gray

Turning a phone into grayscale is a weird, but helpful way to reduce screen time. All the bright, enticing colors are suddenly drab. Why would I look at Instagram in this mode? Why would I do anything? Red notifications now blend in with everything else. For iPhones, go to setting, then general, then accessibility, then display accommodations, then color filters (on), and finally grayscale. You've made it. The world is colorless and easier. 

Turn Off Notifications

It's easy to forget that you don't actually have to get constant, distracting notifications. Turn off notifications on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and others, so you don't feel the need to respond immediately anytime a friend shares a meme. If, God forbid, you have Slack on your phone, then most definitely turn off notifications.

Delete the Apps

Deleting a social media app, even for just a few days, can be cleansing. Suddenly, there's no need to mindlessly scroll through Twitter every time you have a five-minute break. Sure, you could always access it through the internet browser, but dude, have some restraint. 

Throw Phone in the Ocean

Carrie Bradshaw did it. You can too.  

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