Ahh … social media. If you’re anything like me, you probably have a love/hate relationship with social media. (Especially right now, with so much going on in the world and so much pain and anger floating around.)
As a minimalist (and introvert!) there’s part of me that daydreams about deleting all my social media accounts and ignoring it completely. After all, sometimes it can be seriously stressful. It’s all too easy to get drawn into toxic conversations, unhealthy comparisons, and – let’s face it – it can be a huge waste of time. It’s not tough to imagine how much simpler our lives would be without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Having said that, I’d be a big liar if I didn’t admit there is a lot I love about social media. First and foremost, it’s a quick and easy way for me to stay in touch with friends and family all over the world (especially important for me because I’m an expat – I grew up in the States but I live in Australia).
Beyond staying in touch, social media is also a great way to:
- Meet like-minded people who share your special interests. For example, I’m a member of several Facebook groups about minimalism and blogging, because most of my ‘real life’ friends just aren’t as interested in these subjects.
- Learn new things and share ideas. I was actually first introduced to minimalism because I saw an article on Facebook! One click led to another and it eventually changed my entire life.
- Stay up to date with community events, such as concerts or festivals.
- Research travel, food, crafts etc. I regularly use Pinterest when planning a holiday or Facebook when looking for restaurant recommendations.
Whether you love it, hate it or fall somewhere in-between … ultimately, social media is a tool and it’s up to each of us to make an intentional choice about the role it plays in our lives.
Some might choose to cut it out completely, but for others, it makes sense to find a mindful, balanced way to use it. This is the path I’ve chosen and here are a few of my tips on how to consume social media mindfully.
BE HONEST ABOUT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA MAKES YOU FEEL
Being mindful about social media starts with self-awareness. Think about the social media platforms, accounts, and pages you visit most and reflect on how you feel after using each one.
Do certain outlets leave you feeling guilty, angry, hurt or inadequate? And do others leave you feeling positive and inspired? Consider why this is – sometimes it’s the source of information but other times our feelings are a reflection of what’s going on in our lives right now.
There are no right or wrong answers but the better you understand yourself and your feelings, the better equipped you are to make mindful choices.
SET YOUR INTENTION BEFORE GOING ONLINE
Before you login, take a few minutes to set your intention, keeping in mind how you feel when you’re using social media. Is it to catch up with friends? To make plans for the weekend? To zone out for a bit and watch funny cat videos?
There are no right or wrong answers (no judgement here!) but once you’ve set your intention and you know why you want to go online, you can use the following tips to improve your experience.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO FILTER YOUR FEEDS
One of the biggest problems with social media is you often have to wade through a lot of ‘junk’ before you find the information you really want. The good news is there are a few simple tips to help you filter what you see.
- Did you know in Facebook you can customise who you see first? You can choose up to 30 friends or pages that interest you most and you’ll see them first in your feed. More info here.
- If you use Facebook to participate in groups, consider using the Facebook Groups app instead of the regular Facebook app – this way you’re less likely to get distracted.
- If you use Twitter, you can use lists to manage who you follow. For example, I have specific lists for networking, other minimalists, travel and more – and this helps me to only see the information that’s most relevant to me. More info here.
- Also note the major social sites all use algorithms to try to figure out what you like based on your behaviour – so don’t ‘like’ or favourite things you’re not really interested in!
SAY GOODBYE TO ANYONE WHO ISN’T ADDING VALUE TO YOUR LIFE
I know you’ve probably heard this before but it’s worth repeating – it’s okay to ‘declutter’ your friends list. If there is someone (an actual person, a group board, a company page, etc.) that regularly upsets you or makes you feel bad, then let it go.
Hint: If you feel guilty unfriending someone on Facebook, you can choose to unfollow someone, which means you stay friends but no longer see their updates in your feed.
STOP READING COMMENTS
While of course there are some exceptions, for the most part, online comment sections are toxic – no matter your personal beliefs.
There’s something about the nature of the platform; even though they’re not always anonymous, they’re still a few steps removed from our personal accounts. I can only speculate, but I believe this contributes to the often complete lack of respect for all points of views and they’re rarely a place for open and honest discussion – so as a general rule, I try to ignore them.
LOG OFF, UNINSTALL OR TRACK
If you know social media is a problem for you and you want to use it less (but you’re struggling to break the habit) consider:
- Logging off after every session and don’t save your password – the extra step of having to logon each time might be enough to help you break the habit.
- Deleting the apps off your phone – we have a tendency to be more absent-minded with our browsing habits on our phones than on our desktop computers.
- Tracking your usage – there are a ton of free apps that will track how much time your spending on your phone. Sometimes realising just how much time you’re really spending online is the first step in changing your habits.
USE NATURAL BARRIERS TO LIMIT YOUR CONSUMPTION
We all know what it’s like to get lost down the rabbit hole of social media; you hop on your phone to ‘just check a few things’ and next thing you know, you’ve spent an embarrassingly long time on your phone.
If this happens to you, one tip is to use natural barriers to limit your social media time. For example, if you know you have to leave home at 3:00 every afternoon to pick up your kids, then plan to check your social at 2:45; because you have to leave at 3:00 you know you won’t spend longer than 15 minutes online.
These are just a few tips and trips that have helped me become more mindful when using social media. Just remember – social media is a tool and it’s up to each of us to make an intentional choice about the role it plays in our lives.
How do you feel about social media? Do you have tips or tricks for using it mindfully? Let me know in the comments! x
Photo credit: kaboompics.com / Used with permission