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Loyola Magazine

Tips for Healthy Social Media Use

Marie Yeh, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing who specializes in using marketing theory and practice to tackle issues such as mental health, offers insights into healthy ways to engage with social media
Illustration of a person sitting down using a laptop with media icons surrounding them

Marie Yeh, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing in Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business and Management, specializes in using marketing theory and practice to tackle societal issues such as mental health. Her research includes investigating the stigma around mental health and how to more effectively use marketing to reduce it. Prior to entering higher education, Yeh was an accomplished nonprofit fundraiser and public health educator.

Here she provides insights on present-day marketing and best practices for healthy social media use.

Portrait photo of Marie Yeh
Marie Yeh, Ph.D.

How do consumers encounter marketing every day?

With digital and social media marketing, if consumers are online, on their phones, on their Instagram or Facebook apps, they are encountering marketing. And that’s on top of the traditional forms of advertising present when, for example, consumers listen to the radio or watch or stream TV shows.

Recognize what you’re viewing isn’t reality; it’s a positively skewed curation. Use social media as an opportunity to engage and connect rather than as a place where you compare yourself to others.

How has social media changed over the last decade? How do marketing and social media intersect today?

While social media has been around for more than two decades, marketing and advertising on social media platforms took time to mature. Although Facebook was launched in 2004, it didn’t have its first advertising campaign until 2006. Instagram was launched in 2010, but it didn’t introduce sponsored posts until 2013.

Since then, social media platforms have become promotional and engagement channels, and advertising and marketing have become more targeted and personal. Brands not only target based on your browsing history, they also actively encourage you to follow and engage with them in their online social media communities. Doing so gives them access to your profiles so that they can learn about your interests, your activities, your personal relationships, and your life in general—and they strengthen their relationship with you based on this data.

How does social media affect mental health?

It’s complicated. On the positive side, social media allows users to stay connected with loved ones, friends, and family. Users can obtain support, guidance, and assistance on social media. People with a rare disease, for example, can find others online with the same condition and build a supportive community around that. On the other hand, studies show social media can harm mental health, particularly among young people. Studies have linked heavy social media use to increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and even suicide. The problem with social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram is users can curate what they show of their lives to other people. Highly curated social media accounts can make everyone else’s lives appear better than yours and lead to discontentment or worse.

Further, social media users feel pressure to constantly engage and stay informed about the world or their friends and families. This always-on mentality can lead to excessive screen time, which can interfere with needs like sleep. Social media platforms can also be toxic. Because users aren’t interacting face to face with another person, they often feel free to post negative or cruel comments.

How does your marketing classroom work toward addressing mental health?

I provide a positive, supportive, and transformative experience in my classes that helps build my students’ skills and, ultimately, their confidence in themselves. For example, in my sales class, I teach students persuasive communication skills that they can use not only in a career in sales, but in life. I also teach them about handling things like rejection, negative feedback, and failure. They find the assignments challenging, but with the supportive classroom environment, they all have the opportunity to succeed. That gives them the skills and, more importantly, the confidence to sell themselves for jobs and internships, which positively affects their mental health.

How can our readers use social media in a healthy way?

Set limits and boundaries for yourself. Limit the time you spend scrolling and take breaks from social media altogether. Recognize what you’re viewing isn’t reality; it’s a positively skewed curation. Use social media as an opportunity to engage and connect rather than as a place where you compare yourself to others. Use it as a tool to interact and foster relationships rather than as a standard for comparing your life to. Only follow people and things you enjoy and are interested in.