This story originally appeared on LX.com
Social media can be a lot of things: a space to share pictures, find new recipes or connect with community. And it's also a place that affects your mental health — for better or for worse.
A 2018 Pew Research Center report showed that one-third of 13- to 17-year-olds surveyed regularly posted their feelings on social media. This is particularly true on TikTok, where Gen Z makes up about 60% of the users globally.
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On TikTok, users are helping reduce stigma around mental health issues like anxiety and depression by talking about their experiences — and mental health workers are using the platform to help create conversations beyond the therapist’s couch.
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Courtney Tracy has a doctorate in psychology, a popular podcast and a thriving clinical practice, but her TikTok account is where she may make the greatest impact. Her account @the.truth.doctor has 1.5 million followers and her content has more than 18 million likes. She uses TikTok’s 60-second videos to informally break down complex topics like trauma, addiction and emotional abuse.
“I think that having mental health psychoeducation on social media is changing the game,” Tracy said. “I think that having this accessible and having it for free is going to create a better community, a better society, a better understanding of who we are as human beings and how we actually function so that we can lead the best life that we possibly can.”
Tracy believes TikTok can help de-stigmatize therapy and mental health issues by creating a space where therapists can speak plainly and said she approaches her own content from a “No B.S.” standpoint.
“Mental health information is complicated. And people need this information in a non-complicated way. And I think that using the no b.s. platform in the way that I'm using it is touching people and communities that don't want the sterile or the rigid clinician or that mode of delivering education” Tracy said. The platform allows her to reach people who may not have had access to these conversations without social media. “I'm reaching people who are now more open to mental health because they see someone like me and what I look like and the way that I talk, and it's encouraging them that healing is possible.”
But even as social media is sparking positive conversations about mental health, it can still be a toxic place for many. Tracy shared her tips on how to create a feed that will make you feel good.
1. Set an intention for using social media
Tracy suggests figuring out what you want from your social media and then using it for that purpose, rather than mindlessly scrolling to waste time or fill a void. Constructive purposes could include using it to stay in touch with friends or family, or to pursue a hobby or ambition.
2. Curate your own experience
Once you've set an intention for your social accounts, use the unfollow, not interested and mute buttons to get rid of accounts and creators that make you feel bad or don't serve your needs. Tracy says you can train the algorithms, like the one that powers TikTok, to curate an experience that creates positive emotions.
3. Guard your following (and your heart)
Public accounts allow all users to see your content, and Tracy said this can lead people to feel like they can't be their true selves online. She suggests making your account private if you start to feel like you can’t be authentic. If a public profile is required, she encourages users to stay true to themselves.
4. Don’t stay stagnant
Don’t allow social media to keep you from connecting IRL. Tracy encourages finding the time to move around and connect with those who are physically around you.
If you’re concerned that your social media use is making you feel tense or stressed, Tracy suggests doing a quick body scan exercise to see how that tension is affecting you physically. Watch the video above for a brief demonstration.