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How to "Marie Kondo" Your Social Media to Support Emotional Health

harness social support Sep 06, 2022

Social media takes a lot of heat when it comes to impacts on mental health. For years we’ve been hearing that social media can be detrimental to emotional health and even exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety, not to mention lower self-esteem (Frost & Rickwood, 2017).

Because of this, for the longest time I resisted hosting support communities on platforms like Facebook. I didn’t want teachers going to FB to get support if it actually harmed their mental health; that’s the opposite of my mission and values at the Teacher Care Network.

How I Discovered the Benefits of Social Media

One of the values of the Teacher Care Network is that we offer evidence-based resources and strategies, so I’m always knee deep in the scientific literature reading and discovering new ways to help educators. During one of my deep dives last summer, I came across an article about the benefits of online support communities for teachers (Chung & Chen, 2018), and that took me down a trail of discovery regarding the strategic use of support communities on social media.

It turns out that when we go to social media platforms to engage in a support community, versus to scroll, it actually boosts mental health (Gilmour et al., 2019)! That’s why I created the Teacher Care Network Support Communities on Facebook over a year ago.

It’s easy to say, “Just go to support communities on social media and don’t scroll.” The reality of that is quite different. I, myself, scroll social media because it’s how I keep up with friends and keep track of the pulse of what’s going on around the country with educators.  

So the question is, “If we’re going to social media to scroll, what can we do to decrease the harmful impacts of social media on our mental health and wellness?”

Be Mindful of Your Thoughts

As you scroll through social media, be intentional about thinking about your thinking. If you read something and it takes you down a harmful or undesirable path of thoughts, consider the following:

  • Is this a person or account that regularly causes me to think harmful or undesirable thoughts?
  • Would unfollowing this person or account reduce those thoughts? If so, unfollow.
  • Caveat: Does this person or account bring value to my life? If so, you may want to continue following and monitor future thoughts related to their content. (See the upcoming section on consuming upsetting information.)

Be Mindful of Your Emotions & Sensations

As you scroll through social media, be aware of your emotions and the sensations you feel throughout your body. If you view or read something that causes you to become sad, angry, or fearful, or to feel sensations in your body that are unpleasant, like tightness in your chest or heat traveling down your limbs, consider the following:

  • Is this a person or account that regularly causes me to feel unpleasant emotions or sensations I’d prefer not to feel while scrolling social media?
  • Would unfollowing this person or account reduce my unpleasant emotions and sensations? If so, unfollow.
  • Caveat: Does this person or account bring value to my life? If so, you may want to continue following and be mindful of any patterns that occur related to their content. (See the upcoming section on consuming upsetting information.)

Be Mindful of What Content is Helpful

There are a lot of really entertaining and helpful accounts on social media related to teaching and learning. You probably follow them because they resonate with you. They make you think things like, “I can relate to that.” Or they make you feel seen, which can foster experiences of safety and hope.

However, just because something resonates doesn’t mean it’s helpful for our overall mental health or our personal goals.

Ask yourself, “Does this content make me feel better or worse?” “Does this content support my goal or make me feel hopeless about reaching my goal?”

For example, if you’re an educator who is leaning into burnout recovery because you want to stay in the profession, following accounts of teachers who have left the profession due to burnout and create content around celebrating that is probably not going to help you emotionally or align with your goals. Following accounts of educators who are struggling and trying new strategies to try and stay in the profession might be a better fit.

Think About How You Choose to Consume Potentially Upsetting Information

When we discussed how content impacts our thoughts and emotions, I mentioned a caveat: “Does this person or account bring value to my life?”

I mentioned this caveat because sometimes we follow advocacy or news organizations that make us think critically about harm or events happening in the world, and we want to follow them to be informed.

We don’t need to isolate ourselves from everything that is upsetting, but we can think critically about the best way to receive this kind of information. If I care about an advocacy issue, one option is to unfollow organizations so it doesn’t show up in my feed when scrolling, but then go to that organization’s social media purposefully, on my own terms, when I have the bandwidth to have the thoughts and emotions that might be upsetting.

I started doing this a couple of months ago because I wanted to take back my emotional autonomy as it related to child abuse prevention. I care deeply about child abuse prevention, but I want to be in control of when I allow that information to enter my thoughts, so I unfollowed all the advocacy organizations in my feed and instead made a list of links to their social media pages that I keep in a Note on my phone.

Once a week or so, when I have the emotional bandwidth, I look at the latest news in this area and check my favorite advocacy organizations for information and opportunities to participate in prevention. 

Marie Kondo Your Feed

My last bit of advice related to social media is to curate it into a space that brings you joy. A few years ago, I watched Marie Kondo on Netflix and took a stab at the Marie Kondo Method. The gist of it is that you simplify and organize the belongings in your life by asking yourself, “Does this item bring me joy?” If the answer is no, you thank it and get rid of it.

As I was writing the blog today, it occurred to me that what we really need to be doing with our social media feeds is Marie Kondo-ing them. If social media is a place we go to connect and relax, let’s curate spaces that bring us joy by following people and accounts that give us life, rather than suck the life out of us.

If you decide to “Marie Kondo” your socials, I’d love to hear about it in the Teacher Care Network Support Communities! Hop on in and create a post to share your process and journey with us.

-Dr. Jen Johnson

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