March 19, 2023

Jennifer Hanford

Comeback Corner: Healthy Social Media Use for Generation X

Generation X

Although Generation Xers (those born between 1965 and 1980, like me) did not grow up glued to social media, we have done a pretty good job making up for the lost time. As avid researchers, savers, and independence seekers, many Gen Xers enjoy spending time online. We use social media to find company information, make purchasing decisions, and communicate with family and friends.

Social media has altered the way we communicate and interact with one another, and its impact on mental health has become a growing concern, even among our laid-back generation. Social media can foster feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem by encouraging comparison and competition with the lives of others. It's important to remember that what we see on social media isn't always an accurate representation of reality and comparing ourselves to others can be detrimental to our self-esteem. Below, I’ve shared some of my observations about using social media.

Studies indicate using social media can trigger feelings of anxiety and depression.

Gen Xers should strive to develop a healthy relationship with social media and set boundaries for how much time they spend scrolling. They should also be aware of their sources’ credibility and the accuracy of the information they consume. I am personally guilty of “doomscrolling” and going down rabbit holes on Twitter. The FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is real!

Increased use of social media has been linked to lower levels of happiness, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. On top of that, some people may struggle to differentiate between legitimate news and information and false rumors and gossip, which can lead to feelings of overwhelm. Gen Xers should be aware of the potential mental health consequences of overusing social media and take precautions to ensure their online use does not jeopardize their mental health.

Taking breaks from social media and practicing self-care is essential for maintaining good mental health.

Several years ago, I realized that, while I enjoyed managing social media for others, it had become overwhelming and time-consuming to stay connected nearly 24/7/365. I was concerned about burning out because I live with anxiety and depression. I've discovered the importance — no, necessity — of taking regular breaks from social media and engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, leisure reading, and spending time with friends and family to reduce stress and improve my overall mental health.

Setting boundaries and prioritizing my time are also effective ways to keep social media from taking over my life. Setting aside specific time slots for social media engagement and sticking to them helps me a lot. I found it beneficial to choose social media and websites relevant to my interests so that I do not feel obligated to be active on all platforms. Instead of aimlessly scrolling, this helps me focus.

Social media and websites can also help promote mental health and provide resources for Gen Xers. 

Fortunately, many social media accounts and other online communities exist to help us improve our mental health. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Psychology Today: This website offers a wealth of resources for mental health, including articles, blogs, and a therapist directory.
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness): NAMI is a non-profit organization that provides advocacy, education, and support for individuals with mental illness and their families. They also have a strong social media presence on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
  • The Mighty: The Mighty is a community-based website that features stories and resources for individuals with mental health challenges.
  • Instagram accounts like @therapyforwomen and @lizlistens offer helpful tips and resources for mental health.

Overall, there are a lot of great resources online to help Gen Xers improve their mental health and well-being. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, it's a good idea to carefully research and identify the platforms and resources best suited to your specific needs and preferences.

It's worth noting that Generation Z has had social media and technology since birth.

Generation Z is the first generation to have grown up with the internet and social media from birth. As such, their mental health may be affected in the same way as that of their elders, so monitoring their online activity can also be helpful for them. As Gen Xers, we are uniquely positioned to guide this younger generation in their digital journeys since they are our children, grandchildren, or coworkers.

At the very least, we should all be aware of how technology and social media are shaping the lives of the younger generations. For example, we can set a good example by ensuring they have the information and support they need to develop a healthy relationship with the digital world. This includes learning how to sift through massive amounts of content and participate in constructive social media conversations. We can also assist Gen Z by providing resources and guidance on using platforms responsibly to protect their mental health.

Over to you!

We're seeing more and more evidence that social media is hurting Gen Xers' mental health. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate its negative consequences. Taking breaks from social media and practicing self-care, using social media platforms that promote mental health, and raising awareness of the potentially harmful effects of social media can all help improve mental health.

In what ways has social media affected your mental health? What steps have you taken to foster healthy habits online?

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