Wellness·4 min read

How To Keep Your Social Media Use in Check

Social Media Side Effects
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Pexels
October 8, 2021

The Story 

Retweet if you spent most of 2021 refreshing your social media feeds. This might not be the healthiest move. 

Trying to pretend I’m shocked. 

We’ll go on. Social media can be addicting. And, in the midst of COVID-19, “doomscrolling” — absent-mindedly scrolling through your social feeds only to feel worse and worse — became a habit for lots of people. On top of that, Facebook and Twitter, have seen significant upticks in activity since the pandemic started. 

How much of an issue is this, really

Depends on what you’re scrolling (and trolling). One Pew study found that about two-thirds of Americans believe social media has a mostly negative effect on society, citing misinformation, hate, and harassment. Only 10% of Americans from that same study said it has a mostly positive effect, because of things like staying informed and community building. And Facebook’s own internal research on Instagram (which it owns) found that the app was particularly harmful to teen girls’ mental health, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But I’m hooked. How can I slow my roll...and my scroll?

People may feel that they need to stay engaged on social media for updates from friends and family — especially during a pandemic, when loved ones might still be socially distant. So we get it: You may not want to pull away entirely. Here are some steps you can take to curb your obsessive scrolling. 

  • For when you get anxious about the notifications on your phone…Turn them off. This might seem obvious, but some Skimm HQ’rs have found this to be the most helpful and straightforward fix. Don’t just take it from us. In the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, some of the former social media company employees interviewed recommend it too. To do this on an iPhone or Android, go to Settings>Notifications and choose which apps to turn off notifications from. Think: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok if you’re a teenager or an ambitious millennial. 

  • For when your Screen Time alert gives you hives…The limit does not exist...unless you put a limit on it. If you’re using an iPhone, go to Settings>Screen Time>App Limits. You can set individual time limits for particular apps or a blanket limit for an entire category of apps, like social networking. There isn’t one recommended time limit, but many HQ’rs try to spend no more than an hour on their most-used apps every day.

  • For when your Insta feed makes you feel insecure…Trim the follower fat. That influencer you rage-follow? Maybe time to stop. That guy you went to high school with who posts offensive memes? Bye. To figure out who’s worth an unfollow, notice the way your body and mind react when you’re looking at your feed. If an account or post makes you feel anxious or tense, it’s probably time to say 'adieu.' A good place to start: Click on the “Following” box at the top of your profile. Instagram now groups the people you follow into “least interacted with” and “most shown in feed.” If accounts in either category aren’t serving you, you know what to do. 

  • For when you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings by unfollowing them on Insta….Enter: the mute function. You may already use this, but if you don’t it’s a wonder. At the top of your Instagram feed, tap and hold the profile picture of the person’s story you want to stop seeing. Some HQ’rs like to go an even more undercover route and create an account that’s purposefully only for feeds that inspire them. Spoiler: You might end up spending wayyy more time on this inspo account than on your public-facing one. It’ll also save you from the pregnancy announcements of people you met once five years ago. 

How do I find Insta accounts I actually like? 

Try to...

  • Explore...Go to the “explore” page (the search microscope on the bottom of your feed). Then click one of the categories on the top of the page. These include well being, decor, art, style, music, travel, and more. You can also click hashtags that relate to categories you like. Once you’ve found a few new accounts you love, check to see who those accounts are following. Anddd your (social) circle just got bigger. 

  • Check yourself...It’s easy to see all the recent posts you’ve “liked” on your feed in one place, which may give you a good gauge of what you like and want more of (or what you “liked” and didn’t actually like, which you should probably stop doing). In the Instagram app, click the three bars on the top right of your profile page and hit Settings>Account>Posts You’ve Liked. Note that your feed can also feed you (we went there) with new voices and perspectives. Consider following some accounts that stretch you a bit.


With a little trimming, curation, and restraint, “social media” and “spark joy” can actually go in the same sentence. Double-tap. 

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