Avid social media users seem to chase experiences for the sole purpose of posting about them, but taking a short social media detox from time to time can be therapeutic. (Courtesy of Toni Hukkanen/Unsplash)

If you google social media and mental health, you will see hundreds of websites touting the negative mental health effects of social media, some even backing them up with scientific studies. It’s good that people are aware of the importance of mental health, but on the subject of social media, this has become a hyper awareness. Social media is not inherently bad for your mental health, and in some cases it can be beneficial.

The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other.  When you think of social media, you probably think of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat. These platforms are at the forefront of social media, but there are others that sometimes go under the radar. Reddit is a different type of social media that does not get as much attention as its contemporaries, but it can offer a different and sometimes less harmful environment than that of Instagram or Facebook, wherein appearance comes first. 

On Reddit, it is easy to find small communities with niche interests that are similar to yours. Through this, you can make friends and connections with people across the world without knowing what they look like. This allows users to ask weird questions or express a controversial opinion without fear of ridicule.  

The ability for the internet to mask identity is commonly painted in a negative light due to the frequency of trolling and harassment online. However, it can be a useful tool for people to discuss things they would not be comfortable talking about face-to-face. It is important to have a way to speak your mind or express true feelings, even if it is only online.

Reddit is just one example of a community in which people can express themselves freely. There are plenty of other websites that also facilitate conversations between people.    

Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram are supposedly making us worse people by distracting us and ruining our relationships. This premise is only as true as you let it be. Social media platforms are not evil by design; rather, human nature and our vanity makes it that way. The solution is to be smart about our media consumption and aware of the ways it makes us feel. 

Facebook can be a way for you to reconnect with friends and share pictures of your recent adventures or events, functioning as more than a platform for politics or anger. Instagram can be a place for you to see how friends are doing, not a place to compare a celebrity’s life to your own.  

I place the blame for declining mental health not just on social media, but on the nature of our competitive society. Social media can be used to organize campaigns and movements for positive change. 

The power of social media is in the hands of the user. Social media can be good for you, but  you have to look at it as what it is—a tool.