Social media often gets a bad rep – and honestly, usually for good reasons – but in all of its faults, I try to stay optimistic about its benefits. Because of social media, I was able to get my first full-time job (where I met my boyfriend of 3 years), to find a roommate when I moved to a new city, and to meet up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen or talked to since we were nine years old. Maybe this is pie-in-the-sky, but I like to view social media as a tool to help drive in-person or “real-life” connections, rather than replace them.
However, as a disclaimer – I am not aiming to turn to a blind eye to the obvious downsides of social media, but merely to highlight ways in which something that has become such a relevant part of society can actually yield some positive results. Here are some ways to do just that.
Re-consider who you follow on social media.
I say “re-consider” and not “limit” for a reason here. Maybe the problem isn’t necessarily that you follow too many people, but that the type of content that they post isn’t serving you. Next time you’re scrolling through Instagram, try to take inventory on how the posts you’re consuming make you feel. If that one girl from that Geography class you had together in college is posting content that evokes negative feelings in you, maybe it’s time to go ahead and un-follow her.
BUT, don’t stop there! I recommend not only removing negative energy from your feed, but also adding positive energy to it. Follow a few “good vibes” accounts. This could be an account that posts daily motivational quotes (@bossbabe.inc on Instagram is a good one), an account that posts good news (Upworthy) or a non-profit whose mission you care about. Personally, I follow the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on social media and have become actively involved in their mental health advocacy work just from being updated on their grassroots efforts through their Instagram posts and stories.
Create a “fake” account to follow only what inspires you.
No friends, no family, no randos from high school, no exes or old flings. Create a fake Instagram, Twitter, etc where you can curate a feed of content that you are actually interested in seeing. Maybe instead of just following a few “good vibes” accounts on your personal account, you follow hundreds on your “fake” one.
I did this a few months ago and though I didn’t necessarily replace it with my personal social media, I found that my energy was much better after checking my “fake” Instagram feed. Personally, I followed several social justice accounts, non-profits, NGOs, world leaders etc. because those organizations, ideas and people represent who I want to be and where I want to go in life. Spending my “consumption time” by filling my brain with ideas of changing the world and making a difference was infinitely more inspiring than seeing a girl from my high school post what feels like the hundredth artsy Starbucks pic on her Insta story.
Trick yourself into using social media less.
There are a few ways to do this – the most common being to update your phone settings – but I’ll share a few other tactics that worked for me.
Around the time that the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, I realized that I could not afford to spend the next however many unknown months in quarantine simply scrolling on social media. In a world where in-person human connection was literally banned, it only seemed natural that we would cling to social media to fill that void. Knowing myself and knowing I would waste countless hours of my time scrolling rather than reading a book, listening to a podcast, creating something (like this blog!), journaling, or what have you, I decided to limit myself. But I didn’t use the iPhone settings to do it.
What did I do? I deleted my social media apps from my phone (NOT my accounts!). If you want to go ahead and delete your accounts, be my guest, but I’m not there yet.
What I have continued to do for the bulk of 2020 is to delete my Instagram app and re-download it every Sunday. This way, I can still stay up to date with friends and family on a weekly basis, find out about any virtual events or anything that I care about, laugh at some memes for a few hours, and then delete again on Monday morning. I feel that I get in my social media fix for the week without feeling the need to check it every morning when I wake up and every night before bed. I’m not much of a Twitter or Facebook user, but I actually deleted these apps from my phone and never re-downloaded. If need be, I’ll sign on with my laptop.
Whether or not you apply any of these strategies to your life, it is still important that we at least re-evaluate the role that social media plays in our lives and how we can use it for good. I found that social media was keeping me from being creative and creating, stole time away from me that could have been allocated in a more productive way, and ultimately prevented me from taking action to move forward in my life. I also didn’t want to delete or avoid social media completely, since it can lead to good outcomes… sometimes.
For these reasons, I did my best to limit my social media consumption and add positive value to my feed (and life), and I hope this helps you do the same.