Social media is one of the most groundbreaking innovations of the 21st century. Almost overnight (in century terms) we’ve gone from software skeptics to mass consumers of digital content on these platforms.

But social media has also come under fire in recent years for certain negative effects. We need to know how to use social media in a healthy way to keep it groundbreaking for us rather than mind-breaking.

This post will teach you how to use social media in a healthy way so that you operate with an advantage masses of people don’t have (I recommend reading the entire post to fully internalise the right attitude towards social media use). First, here are two analogies to provide context.

A tale of two analogies

The Letters Analogy

Imagine a life where you receive letters in the post everyday from your ‘friends’. Inside of these letters are hard copies of photos which are occasionally accompanied on the back with a short message of some kind. In addition, you sometimes receive USB sticks containing short videos (as short as 10 seconds on many occasions) that you connect to your computer and watch.

These photos and videos are almost always about the lives of your friends or about something inconsequential, unrelated to your relationship with one another and they usually have very little to do with you. For example, the photos may be about what your friend has eaten for breakfast, selfies of them pouting at some exotic location you can’t be in right now, or a video of a dance lasting a few seconds.

Furthermore, these photos and videos are often heavily filtered to make them appear more photogenic and bedazzling than the reality of when they were shot. You spend copious amounts of time each day going through each of these photos and videos even though they have nothing to do with you. You in turn make an effort sometimes to send your own photos, selfies and dance videos to your friends in the post because why not.

Your close relatives begin to question why you spend your time on such an activity but you justify it as ‘social’ because it’s of people you know despite the fact that most of the time you’re not even communicating with them via a message.

However, soon after this you begin to receive even more letters in the post, a ubiquitous amount of mail well beyond the amount your friends were sending you. This mail contains similar content to the ones your friends are sending you – photos, videos and the like.

Yet this content comes from any which way and beyond. A dump of content from people who believe they’re special influencers in the world. Companies who pretend that they’re your friends but actually have an ulterior motive to sell you something. And even plain random people who felt like spamming your letterbox.

This makes you spend even more time in your life looking at these items even when the items are not personalised nor contain any real message of direct communication. You never stop receiving these letters, even when you go on holiday they manage to find you. Every single day without fail.

In such a scenario, could you blame your relatives if they showed concern that you’re spending hours of your day, everyday looking at such items? Despite never properly communicating with any of the people who send you letters, could you justify the activity you spend hundreds if not thousands of hours on each year as social? Even though you’re receiving and sending photos and videos that do nothing else but ‘demonstrate’ your lifestyle or conversely what you’re ‘missing out on’, could you state that you won’t insecurely compare yourself to others nor narcissistically try to showcase yourself?

You can probably already see where this is going. There is such a mechanism in place that millions if not billions of people all around the world partake in: social media. There are a number of visual and auditory-focused platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok that risk syphoning our precious attention away if we fail to know how to use social media in a healthy way.

How To Use Social Media In A Healthy Way Letter

The Room Analogy

Here’s another analogy. Imagine there’s a room in your house which is largely empty but is accessible to anyone from the outside via a door. Nobody can enter the main part of your house, only this room.

This room has only one purpose, to be the location in which opinions and viewpoints are stated. In fact, they don’t even have to just be opinions or viewpoints, they can be any type of utterance. The only rule is that the utterances are unilateral, not conversational. Plus, everybody who makes them can only utter a sentence or two at maximum at any given time.

You have to stand and listen to various people making such utterances throughout the day, again perhaps spending hours on this activity. Many of the statements are inconsequential and trite, sometimes they are about regular news which you’ve seen or will see elsewhere. Sometimes, they are vindictive political polemics attempting to denigrate whoever they can.

When making your own utterances, you feel inevitably stifled by the imposition of length on them. You do your best to keep them pithy but alas, your self-expression can never reach full fruition.

You wonder why such an imposition exists when you were taught that English is a beautifully rich language, remembering that you were encouraged to use it in all its glory to read, write, learn and debate with through more than a dozen years of schooling yet here you find yourself handicapping the language along with others. This confuses you more since it doesn’t appear like anyone else that enters the room has anything better to do. Most of them seem to do this as a hobby despite the continuous negative energy you encounter from the words of others.

After a few days, you realise that this room now has transformed into a convergence of people who are very much like one another demographically and politically. In fact they almost seem to want to feed off of their joint belittling of other groups and you hear a distinct echo reverberating in this ‘chamber’ on a daily basis.

When you started out entering this room, you thought that one of its strengths was to hear and share views from a wide diaspora of people. At first, a real cosmopolitan mix of people joined the room but now everyone is the same and have just become more negative despite the pretence of being ‘likeminded’. Soon, you wonder what the point of this room all is.

Unless you were born under a rock in recent times, you can probably see what this analogy represents. This story represents X (formerly known as Twitter).

How To Use Social Media In A Healthy Way Room

How to use social media in a healthy way

Despite the potential negative effects that social media can have on our minds and personalities, they are just that—possibilities. They aren’t guaranteed if we know how to use social media in a healthy way.

Social media has a lot of upside we can leverage. The key is knowing how to make it work for us whilst avoiding the deleterious effects.

Use and internalise the following tips to make using social media a win-win situation for you.

1. Limit your access to web only

The majority of people’s excess consumption of social media takes place on their smartphones.

99% of users access social media from a smartphone or tablet while less than 2% do from their desktop.

What does this mean in reality?

If you limit your access to social media from your computer or laptop, you’ll drastically reduce the number of hours you spend on the apps per week, a boon for your productivity and mind.

Without the ability to fiddle with the apps on your phones at any time, you structure your environment to set up a beneficial habit.

“What if I need to use social media as part of my work?” I hear you protest.

Think about it this way—if you’re working, you’re likely doing your job from a computer or laptop so you qualify this way regardless.

When you do get round to social media access via web apps only, your usage becomes hyper-focused on looking at what you need to look at and posting what you need to post rather than a time-killing doom scrolling endeavour.

So give it a go, remove social media apps from your smartphone, switch to computer use and see how you conserve your time and attention.

How To Use Social Media In A Healthy Way Web

2. Be judicious in who you follow – less is more

It’s all too easy to follow yet another person on social media. Nothing bad can happen from pushing one more button, right? I can’t miss out on what that ‘influencer’ has to say, no?

That’s exactly what these platforms want you to think. At the core of all social media platforms is network effects, they only thrive by connecting as many users together as possible, even if these ‘connections’ are trivial to ones that take place in real life.

So if they can convince you to follow another person because tonnes of other people do, they will. Yet this doesn’t mean you should. As my philosophy professors taught me: is doesn’t always imply ought.

It’s better to adopt a minimalist approach to who you sign up to.

For you skeptics out there, here’s a fundamental piece of logic behind such an approach. If you follow too many people making your feed overwhelming, how much of the content on the feed will actually make an impact in terms of learning, entertainment, usefulness? How many of the posts will you actually remember?

Decades of research has shown that most short-term memories last less than half a minute and humans have the capacity to store between 5-9 items in it (now my psychology professors get to shine). If like most people in the world you scroll and look at dozens and dozens of content pieces in social media feeds per day, how many will you truly remember and use? Consumption should imply ‘absorption’, an internalising through the senses. Yet it often doesn’t when it comes to social media.

Go through your follow lists and scrupulously unfollow users you don’t need to track especially those whose content you barely consume (if you find it takes too long, that’s the point). Have a high bar for who qualifies as worthy of your ‘follow’ instead of keeping someone for the sake of it.

If you don’t have a large follow list in an app, consider yourself lucky but hold that high standard on who you will follow from now on. The way to do this in practice is to trigger your critical faculties before you push the follow buttons. Ask yourself: Do I really need to add this person? Will I look at most of their content over the next year? Are there factors making me think I’m missing out if I don’t follow them when in actuality I won’t be?

By keeping a focused follow list, you’re future-proofing your later use of social media to be effective and productive.

How To Use Social Media In A Healthy Way Follow

3. Avoid echo chambers – create space

Hear the term ‘echo chamber’ and chances are you associate it with online communities and social networking groups.

An echo chamber is groupthink—a collective reinforcing their opinions amongst themselves with no consideration given to alternative viewpoints because it feels better to confirm your own biases than to deal with opposing ideas.

Echo chambers are dangerous for society. That’s no exaggeration—the need for social approval has led to acceptance of morally questionable dogma and ideology throughout history via conformity to strong agendas of others.

Fast forward to the 21st century and we now have a tool that risks amplifying this: social media. These networks make it easier to find individuals who share the same opinions wherever they are in the world. Plus it also makes it easier to be polemical and dogmatic about affairs, the internet provides a buffer between people communicating making it easier to be derogatory without worrying about the reaction you get as much as you would if you were face to face with someone.

Stay away from echo chambers on social media even if it feels nice to be in a group where everyone thinks the same. Most members in such groups are too far down the rabbit hole to realise how one-sided their thinking has become.

Some are obvious: political discussions, fan pages, and fad groups have echoes reverberating all over them.

But some are more subtle. Group admins who’re scared to discuss alternative opinions and enforce arbitrary rules. Companies who want you to belong to their community when in reality you’re part of their ecosystem to keep buying product after product without switching to a competitor. Individuals who shout the loudest and proudest making you think they’re a thought leader but lack substance underneath (there’s a LOT of these types).

Avoid echo chambers on social media and give yourself space to think clearly and be open-minded to other sources of opinion.

How To Use Social Media In A Healthy Way Echo

4. Focus on giving value through your posts

The key on how to use social media in a healthy way is giving value rather than taking it. Making your content and posts worthwhile for other people rather than mere filler pixels.

If you really want to take this concept to the next level, be a net contributor rather than consumer.

There’s a simple way of implementing this. Whenever you’re about to create a post, think: is this post giving real value to others? If the answer is “no”, don’t post it. If the answer is “maybe”, brainstorm how you can make it more valuable, otherwise get rid of it.

Can you imagine an internet where everybody held this standard? Gone are most of the self-aggrandising selfies, that umpteenth pic of the same tourist spot that has had professional photographers snap it better, and unnecessary filtered imagery. In short, a better social media landscape for everyone.

Granted there’s no gold standard for what constitutes value. But I’m willing to bet if you asked most people how much of social media content is valuable, even the most obsessed influencers would agree that a huge proportion isn’t, whether that’s for entertainment or learning.

This might mean you publish less. And that’s ok. What you do publish will always be worth the viewer’s time. Quality over quantity, it’s cliche but holds true no less.

It’ll mean that what you do put out requires attention to detail not just spam releasing. That’ll make your efforts spent on the platform more rewarding.

How To Use Social Media In A Healthy Way Value


Social media is one of the most seminal inventions of the 21st century and it’s here to stay. Despite its wide potential and outreach, it comes with many drawbacks for those who don’t know how to use social media in a healthy way. Among others, social media risks sapping our attention away in excess, festering FOMO-induced narcissism and perpetuating online echo chambers replete with groupthink.

Luckily, we can learn how to use social media in a healthy way. Limit your time on social media platforms to desktop or laptop web access which will prevent overuse. Have high filters for who you follow and consume content from. Avoid echo chambers like the plague. And above all, focus on giving value with your own content.

Social media can not only connect us with friends but it can also act as a proxy friend if you know how to use it well. Follow these tips on how to use social media in a healthy way to make it a win-win outcome for you.