A guide for young people Social media and mental health

How you experience social media can affect your mood. That’s why, together with O2, we’ve gathered these tips and advice on how to enjoy a more positive time online.

Being connected is a big part of our lives. But if you’re seeing stuff online which makes you feel angry, sad, worried, stressed, or annoyed, this can build up and start having a negative impact on your life.

For example, you might start worrying more about how you look or what you’re missing out on.

If you ever feel overwhelmed by the online world, unable to switch off, or find it difficult to cope, you’re not alone. We all struggle to keep our online world positive sometimes.

Emoji post it notes describing how your post might make you feel.

At the top of the image, the text reads: Clean your feed. Underneath that there is smaller text which reads: How do the posts you see make you feel? The first post-it note is of a smiley face emoji with the text: Wahey! Keep it coming. The next post-it note is a sleeping emoji with the text: Bored? Worth your time? The third post-it is the angry emoji with the text: Angry, probably unfollow. The fourth is an emoji with no mouth, it reads: Speechless, good way or bad? The next is a smiley emoji with two hands that reads: Inspired, share the love. The final post-it has a sad face with the text: negative, nobody needs this.

What kind of social media feed do I have?


Before you can make social media a more positive place to be, you need to find out what kind of feed you have. Have a scroll through your feed for five minutes and write down five words that describe your feed. 

How can I have a more positive time online?

1. Clean your feed

It’s not always easy to tell why you’re feeling down when you’re online. Take some time to go through your social media feed to work out what’s making you feel good, and what’s not. 

Use these tips to help you:

  • Unfollow or muting accounts

    Try unfollowing or muting accounts that annoy you, upset you, or take up too much of your time.

  • Deleting social media apps

    Remember you don’t have to be on every social media channel. Try deleting one app from your phone for a week and see what happens.

  • Limit your time online

    Try limiting your time on social media before you go to sleep and when you first wake up.

  • Think before you post

    Before you post or comment ask yourself: am I doing something positive for myself and the people who’ll see this?

  • The emoji scale

    Use our emoji scale to work out how stuff in your social media feed is making you feel.

2. Find your crowd

Whatever your passions are in life, you’re not alone. There are accounts out there that will interest and excite you, and help you explore your passions.

Being part of a positive online community can give a boost to your mental health. 

Here are some tips to help you find yours:

  • Explore and discover

    See which accounts people you enjoy following follow themselves, and explore the hashtags they use to discover more stuff like it. Don’t forget to shout out positive people by liking, commenting and sharing their posts.

  • Positive content

    Follow accounts that make you feel good, keep you interested and share positive content (e.g. @youngmindsuk).

  • Build your feed

    Build your own positive following, as well as following positive people. Did you know that you can select who follows you and what they see?

  • You are not alone

    You are not alone. Whatever your passion is, there will be other people online who share it. Find like-minded online communities and use social media to fuel your passions.

  • Be aware

    It's important to remember that while many online mental health communities are positive spaces, some can be negative for you and your recovery. Avoid any spaces that encourage you to do things which are harmful for your physical or mental health. If you're struggling with things you're experiencing online, talk to someone you trust.

3. Say hey

You never know what someone else is going through and, whether you realise it or not, your support could make all the difference.

Social media is a great place to let your friends know you haven’t forgotten them, that you care about them and that they matter – and getting involved in making the online world a more positive place to be could give you a boost too! 

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Support causes

    What change would you like to see in the world? Use your feed to support the causes you care about and help make them happen.

  • Check in with yourself

    Check your mood before using social media, and think about what you’re going on there to do before you dive in. Ask yourself: is social media going to make me feel better or worse right now?

  • Positive communities

    Remember: not all the advice you get online is from experts, even if it comes from people who know what you are going through. Positive communities will never advise you to do anything harmful, or anything which makes you feel worse.

Top tech tips and advice from an O2 Guru

Managing your time

  • Apps like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube make it easy to track your time online, whether you're on iOS or Android.
    For Facebook, go to More > Settings and privacy > Your time on Facebook.
    For Instagram, go to Your account > More > Settings and your activity.
  • You can set daily reminders telling you how long you've been using an app. On Facebook for example, go to Your time on Facebook > Set daily reminder. Then set your ideal daily usage.
  • Apps like Hold are handy, especially if you're trying to focus on studying. Hold rewards you for putting your phone down. You get 'pocket points' which can be exchanged for coffee vouchers and cinema tickets. There are many other apps out there that help you stay off your phone, but don't reward you, like Moment, Stay Focused and OFFTIME.

Apps can help you relax 

  • Meditation apps like Calm have stories that can help you get to sleep, as well as daily breathing exercises that help you relax. Calm even has masterclasses taught by world-renowned experts.

Sleep affects your mood 

  • If you'd like to switch off the blue night your screen emits at night, some phones have night mode.
    Go to Settings > Control Centre > Night Shift
    Older iPhones have shortcuts to Night Shift if you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. The shortcut on newer iPhones appears if you drag down from the top right of the screen.
    Android devices often have an 'eye comfort' mode. This setting can be found by dragging your finger down from the top of the screen and tapping 'eye comfort'. If you press and hold this option, you'll also find a convenient schedule option to save you more work.
  • When you need to unwind, you may find that something simple like trying an audiobook rather than reading on your phone may help. Apps like Audible come with a 30-day free trial.

Get free advice

  • For free advice, pop into any O2 shop to speak to an O2 Guru. Whether you're an O2 customer or not, you can chat to a Guru about setting up your phone and choose apps to work for you.
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How can I deal with online bullying?

Bullying is never okay, whether it's at school, at home, or on the internet. If you're being harassed or upset in any way online, reach out for help from someone you trust.

You can block and report the people involved, or, if you don’t feel able to block someone, try muting them - they won’t know you’ve muted them and you won’t have to see their posts or messages.

You can also use the privacy settings on your social networks to limit what they can see on your profile. See below for tips on how to block, report or mute people on social media.

How I coped with online bullying

How can I block, mute or report other accounts?

All social media channels have similar ways to reduce negative content, so check the help sections to find out how to make your online world more positive.

You can also report anything you find abusive, harmful or upsetting on all social media channels. Find out how to report things on:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest | Snapchat | YouTube

Try these five tips for reducing negative content on Instagram:

  • Restrict

    When you restrict someone, any comments they leave on your posts will only be visible to them. They won't be able to see when you're active on Instagram, and they won't know whether you've read a direct message from them.

  • Comment filter

    You can let Instagram know if there are specific words, phrases or emojis you don't want to see and they will not come up on your posts again. You can do this in your privacy settings.

  • Comment warning

    Instagram notifies people if they are writing a comment that other people may consider offensive before it’s posted. This can be a good opportunity to reflect on whether you really want to post something, and how it might impact someone else.

  • Muting

    If you mute another account, you will still be following them, but you can decide when you want to view their content. The account you've muted won't know you've muted them, so it's a good way to make your feed more positive while avoiding any potential conflict that may come from unfollowing or blocking someone.

  • Blocking

    If you block someone, you won't see their content anymore, they won't see yours either, and your account won't appear in their searches or suggestions.

How can I look after my privacy?

Here’s some advice to help you work out what to share, how to avoid oversharing, and how to look after your privacy.

  • What you put online stays online

    Even things you delete can be saved or screenshotted – including those Snapchat snaps meant for just one friend.

  • Online strangers are still strangers

    Forums and group chats can be a great way to connect over things you wouldn't say face to face, but don't feel pressured to share more than you feel comfortable with.

  • It's easy to over-share on social media sites

    especially if you forget who can see your profile. You can use social media channel settings to create lists so that only people you trust can see all your updates. For example, Instagram allows you to make your account private, or you can use the Close Friends tool to share your stories with a group of people you’ve chosen.

  • Privacy is possible

    Make sure you use social media site settings to protect your information. Don't hesitate to block anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable.

Get help now

See below for a list of organisations and helpline services that have information to support you.

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