Hi. I’m Carolyn. I’m the editor in chief of SELF and the host of our brand new wellness advice podcast, Checking In. In our most recent episode we’re talking all about how to have a healthy relationship with social media. Or at least a healthier one.
This week’s episode is presented by LEGO.
In this week’s episode, a social media editor named Alexa calls in to tell us that she’s having a really hard time disconnecting from social media when she’s not at work. She works from home, thanks to the pandemic, and it’s led to her having really fuzzy, blurry lines between her work life and her home life. She’s basically always online. Which, you might be shocked to hear, doesn’t make her feel awesome. It’s really starting to get to her, emotionally.
“I think finally, like the past couple months, I hit this wall,” Alexa says. “I worked myself into the ground. I actually started getting headaches. And then I also noticed that I started clenching my teeth.” (Coincidentally, the physical manifestation of stress—such as with teeth grinding—was the subject of our first episode, if that’s something of interest to you.)
New episodes of Checking In come out every Monday. Listen to this week’s episode above, and get more episodes of Checking In on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
But back to doomscrolling.
Most of us aren’t social media editors by trade, although I think a lot of us can probably relate to the feeling of having blurred lines between work life and home life. I also think that it’s super relatable to feel that your social media use is getting out of hand.
Look, sometimes being so connected can be a good thing—especially in the middle of a pandemic when we’re all still social distancing and maybe not seeing our people as much as we normally do. And social media can be super helpful at keeping us informed about things that are important to know about in the world. But there’s a fine line between being an informed citizen and doomscrolling. So for this week’s episode, I talk to some people who can help us strike a healthier work-slash-life balance.
First up, I reached out to my friend and former colleague, Rachel Wilkerson Miller, the deputy editor of VICE Life, blogger at Just Good Shit, and author of two books, Dot Journaling, and The Art of Showing Up. I’ve known Rachel for about six years now, since we were both editors at BuzzFeed. And I’ve always thought of Rachel as one of the most practical, thoughtful people I know. She’s a service journalist, which means that she does reporting that helps people learn how to take care of themselves and others. And her advice is really, really good. She’s written a lot about how to have a healthier relationship with social media. She also knows a lot about hobbies, which I also thought would be pertinent to today’s discussion—because, for me at least, the issue isn’t just about how to stop mindlessly scrolling. It’s also about how to find things to fill my time with instead. I knew that Rachel would have good suggestions for both.
On the subject of developing a good relationship with social media, Rachel has a ton of tips, which she shares in the first part of the episode. She also has some thoughts about why we are so compelled to mindlessly scroll in the first place. “I think that there is a sense of control from consuming it, that there’s a feeling of like, if I just have all the information, then I will be safer, I’ll be more prepared because I’ll know what’s coming,” she says. “And that’s not totally wrong. Like, sometimes you really do need to know this stuff. And I think that is why we can’t look away, because it’s like, well, what if the next thing I read is like the thing, the most important thing or the thing everyone’s going to be talking about or the thing that I needed to know?”
On the subject of hobbies, something she says that really resonates with me (and that I found to be a huge relief!) is that you shouldn’t feel pressure to become a “hobby” person—no need to learn to knit or cross-stitch or speak a new language or do anything remotely productive with your time. You can think of yourself as an “activity person” instead—someone who reads books, or watches stand-up comedy on Netflix, or whatever. This reframing of the problem can go a long way. (I am now planning to consider myself a “reading person.” Someone who reads, instead of scrolls. Generally a lot of romance novels, to be honest. And I’m happy with that. It helps me to stay off Twitter, which has done wonders for my stress levels. Shout out to the r/RomanceBooks subreddit for some great recommendations!)
To round out the episode, we also hear from Neda Gould, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She works with adult patients with anxiety and depression and spends a lot of her time helping people be more mindful. And grounded in the present moment. We told Dr. Gould about Alexa’s struggles and asked her if she had any advice for someone who can’t get off of social media because it’s her job. She has some tips that Alexa could follow to help make her screen time just a little bit more bearable. Tips like, set an intention with your social media use. Before you start scrolling, pause and take a few deep breaths and check in with your body and emotions. Practical mindfulness-based tips that help you get away from the mindlessness of doomscrolling.
All really great to know. I hope you give it a listen, and find this advice as lovely and helpful as I do.
If you’re interested in learning more about any of these topics—tips for avoiding doomscrolling, the emotional impact of social media, being more mindful, developing hobbies—here are some articles from SELF you might enjoy:
9 Things to Try If You Hate Social Media But Don’t Actually Want to Quit
Here’s How to Know If You Need a Social Media Break
9 Mental Health Tips for Anyone Feeling Emotionally Pummeled By 2020
9 Emotional Regulation Tips for Anyone Who’s Struggling Right Now
There’s Never Been a Better Time to Try Guided Meditation
How to Meditate If You Have No Idea Where to Start
I Implore You to Distract Yourself
Letter of Recommendation: Don’t Turn Your Hobby Into a Side Hustle
Letter of Recommendation: Find Joy in Movement During the Pandemic
If You’re Bad at Meditating, Can I Suggest Knot-Tying?
21 Adult Coloring Books That Will Help You Unplug and Unwind