Misuse of social media can lead to depressive symptoms, increase loneliness.

While creating robust real-life social networks can be a well-being enhancer, a recent study suggests our virtual social networks can have the opposite effect.

When we spend hours on apps, such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, passively scrolling through our feeds and negatively comparing ourselves to “one-sided” views of other people’s lives, we are doing serious harm to our well-being. The fear of missing out (FOMO)—which is witnessing people in your network having a good time without you—also contributes to negative feelings.

So that whole fear of missing out in which people get very anxious about other people having connections, friendships and relationships that they aren’t a part of is another part of the problem. When you use too much social media, you feel like your own life doesn’t measure up and you are feeling that you are not always invited to things that everyone else is invited to.

So how can we use social media in way that doesn’t make us sad? Here are three helpful suggestions:

Don’t believe everything you see or read. Most of what we see on social media is not real. Not to say that it is necessarily staged, but everything is not always as it seems. We are only getting the intended perspective, and not the entire story.  You are looking at someone else’s Instagram feed and its very curated, everyone looks very happy and they are only posting the photos that are actually flattering. Therefore you get a very one-side perspective on other people’s lives. And it’s very easy to conclude that your own life just doesn’t measure up.

It’s the “Real Thing” that matters. Mindlessly scrolling through social feeds not only wastes your time, it further isolates you from the people you are trying to catch up with virtually. Try spending more time reconnecting with people in person. Maybe someone you know needs a real conversation instead of a virtual chat or text. It is important to note that intimacy is fostered by sharing the bad times with people as well as the good times.

Put on a time limit. Quitting social media cold turkey is unrealistic, especially with younger generations who grew up attached to their phones. By lessening the FOMO, you are more likely to get out in the real world and take part in activities that benefit your well-being, such as taking a walk or volunteering. During their study, researchers noticed that participants, who were all college students, were amazed to realize how much time they were spending on social media before the break and how much better they felt about themselves after the digital reprieve.

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