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Mindful Media is all about reintegrating mental health into our modern lifestyle, and we’ve got some tips to help you discover how the summer break offers a great opportunity to do just that. Social media is synonymous with overreaching advertising. From a business perspective, it’s an extremely efficient marketing tool. But from the mental health standpoint, social media has morphed into a behemoth of toxic addiction that causes depression and anxiety. So where is the middle ground in all of this?

In 2022, there were over 4.59 billion (that’s billion with a B) social media users worldwide, yet 33% of adults reported experiencing loneliness. Studies expect there to be 4.89 billion (yes, billion with a B) social media users worldwide in 2023, which is about a 6.5% increase from last year. Social media is not a human connection; it’s a tool to get eyeballs. And the goal of big companies pulling the strings is for those nearly five billion sets of eyeballs to stay glued to screens and focused on spending resources (money, time, energy) on specifically targeted merchandise, goods, and services. 

Spending on social media advertising surpassed $226 billion (again, that’s billion with a B) in 2022. In a recent survey, 59% of Americans reported being influenced by social media to make a purchase, and a daunting 45% reported having gone into debt to purchase something they saw on social media. It appears the schemes are working, but to the detriment of people.

Even some of the mental health ecosystem has succumbed to the prospect of financial gain in social media apps. Recent headlines have exposed therapy apps like Cerebral, Headway, BetterHelp, and Talkspace for various breaches in legal regulations and compliance standards. The use of data from some of these tech startups has been collected and sold to social media platforms and marketing conglomerates, leading to targeted ads directed towards the app users. 

We call on mental health ecosystem leaders to step up and ensure privacy and safety are paramount when using apps. And they shouldn’t stop there; we must be more mindful of these apps’ effects. Otherwise, the outcome is dire: social media will continue to dominate our minds and resources, spreading misinformation and disinformation, and targeting people to go into debt.

Of high concern, the youth of our modern technology-dependent world are growing up in an unprecedented time where social media is ingrained into our lives. Recently, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning that social media poses a threat to kids’ mental health, escalating calls for new safeguards aimed at minors.

Summertime poses an interesting situation in which kids are typically much more free as compared to the school year. The summer is often dreaded by parents as they believe they have to find some way to keep their children entertained and occupied (they don’t). Media is usually the seemingly foolproof universal solution, which – as mentioned – can be detrimental. 

However, this reprieve from scholastic endeavors also offers the perfect time to establish mindful media habits in the lives of kids and parents alike. Kids blossom with boundaries and bloom with boredom. Setting clear boundaries for the kids in your life to limit their time staring at screens in favor of using their creative minds to experience the world around them is a fantastic way to start incorporating mindful media into your modern lives.

Media usage can certainly be a tool for maintaining social connection during the summer break, as well as offer educational content. The trick is to find and prioritize these types of resources and help kids use them instead of mindlessly scrolling on TikTok for hours or playing video games in a dark room for eight hours straight. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a great resource on building a Family Media Plan. Decide together what will work best for your family.

Communication is vital here, as kids are usually unaware of the complex jargon and concepts within media literacy. Heck, adults are not always on top of it either. Take time to talk with your kids about digital ads and their data usage, the ramifications of their online footprint (if it’s anywhere on the Internet, it will live in perpetuity), and how to identify red flags of inappropriate content online. Awareness of these things will promote more mindful action in the moment. 

With 35% of teenagers reported using social media “almost constantly” in 2022, there’s plenty of room to start building more mindful habits. The sooner the better, too, as the mental health crisis is affecting youth at such an intense scale. Different situations call for different measures to be taken, but there are some general guidelines that will help.

The biggest tip to combat the negative effects of social media is by limiting its use. The average person spent 147 minutes on social media per day in 2022, which is the highest it’s ever been. But breaks from social media have been proven to improve well-being and decrease depression and anxiety. Incorporating consistent time away from screens boosts our mental health. 

No matter how you use social media, remember what is so enticing about the concept in the first place: connection. The digital, scripted, polished versions of interactions and relationships found on apps cannot provide what real, face-to-face communication can offer. It can serve a purpose and be part of the bigger picture, but as you integrate mental health more into your life, mindful media is a make-or-break piece of the puzzle. 

We hate social media. So follow us. 😎 We are invested in integrating mental health into all aspects of life, including on social media. We call it Mindful Media, and there must be more of it thrown into the mix of all the rest. The world will continue to utilize social media, so the time to push for healthier habits and uplifting edutainment is now. #MindfulMedia

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