Minimalism

How to Consume Social Media Mindfully

November 10, 2016

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.

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.

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

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  • There are lots of great tips, thank you. I must get Facebook Groups as an app.
    Generally, I feel quite positive about social media. It might help that I’m not of a generation it’s a huge part of my identity and self worth. I use it to connect with lots of interesting people and access information.
    The downside for me, and one that I need to actively manage, is the huge time waster it can be. Like you suggest, I look it when I know there will be a natural time limit (about to head out the door), or I set the timer on my phone or iPad.

    • Hi Amy! Yes – definitely try out the groups app – I think it’s a big help 🙂
      And 99% of the time, my biggest problem is time wasting too – although I’d be lying if I said that every once in a while I didn’t let something else get to me.
      Thanks for stopping by! x

  • Aren’t comments the worst? I just can’t believe how awful people are online and the things they’ll say. Yeesh! Great post! After yesterdays After Election social media posts I contemplated deleting mine as well.

    • They truly are! With a few exceptions of course, but as a general rule they are a dark rabbit hole to avoid. And yep, I’ve been trying to stay offline – or I’ve been really conscious of what I’m bringing to the table (the world needs positive vibes right now!) Thanks for commenting Rachel 🙂

  • This is all great advice, and on a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. I love social media, but I definitely have a problem with FOMO and have a tendency to take an all-or-nothing approach; for instance when I open my Instagram, I feel compelled to scroll down till I reach the posts I’ve already seen, and that also means I’m more likely to avoid it if I don’t check in for a couple of days, because of the prospect of dozens of pictures to scroll through. I honestly don’t know why this is (and I don’t feel the same way with Twitter or Facebook; on those ones I just find myself in an infinite scroll loop), so I like the idea of using natural barriers so I can check in on my feed without feeling like I need to see EVERYTHING that’s happened in it since I last looked.

    • Hi Nicola! I’m really bad with FOMO sometimes too … generally on my days off (which always drives me nuts because I know I should be using my precious free time better!) A friend suggest the natural barrier thing and it’s definitely a big help so give it a try! xx

  • Julie@ChooseBetterLife

    I love the community of social media when I need a boost. With this week’s elections, many people have shared hopeful, inspiring letters and messages with calls to action to help make our country and our world a little brighter.

    • I totally agree! This is why I trying to offered a balanced approach – too often we here “social media is bad” but the truth is it there are also wonderful, uplifting communities too! It sounds like you’ve found a few good ones 😉 Thanks for commenting Julie x

  • Omg, I didn’t know about the Facebook Group app! Thank you. Going to download it right now.
    – Charmaine
    http://charmainenyw.com

  • Stephanie // Following Rafiki

    Great post, and so important to help keep things in perspective at a time like this! The other thing that had me considering taking a social media break this week was finding out just how much Facebook’s algorithms keep us in a bubble of people with similar views and feeding us only news articles that support that. Makes it difficult to understand and forge connections with people of different beliefs!

    Oh and I had no idea about prioritising people OR Facebook Groups! Thank-you!

    • YES!! The algorithm things really gets to me too, and it feels like right now there is more ‘fake’ news than ever floating around on FB. I’m definitely trying to go a little easy on FB right now (which is why the Groups app is so good because I still have many I enjoy!)

  • What a great post and so timely with so much noise going on politically. I can attest to feeling hella confused over Pinterest and deciding it was not adding value, and just not my thing. And, guess what? I’m perfectly okay! 😛

    I used Twitter lists but I must try out your FB ideas. Thanks again, xxoo

    • Hi Lani – totally agree that different things work for different people. It’s all about doing what works best for YOU. So good to here from you!! xxx

  • Sahel Rose

    Great post – I love all the tips you include on how to keep using social media in a mindful way. I’ve just done a big social media detox and now only use the social media I actually love, not the ones I feel I ‘should’ be on. I feel so much less pressure and have more time to do the important things that matter, like writing and spending quality time with family.

    • Hi Sahel – thanks for sharing your experience! I think you’ve made a great point about only using what you love and not feeling pressured to be ‘everywhere’ all the time 🙂 Cheers! Jen

  • Gah, social media! Definitely a love-hate relationship for me too. These tips are awesome, Jennifer!

  • Alissa Carpenter

    This is an awesome post Jennifer! I agree and think it’s so important we filter other peoples’ controlled content. Knowing what our intentions are before we go on social media is huge. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to other people online but knowing but adjust what we see and our mindset when we go online is huge. Thank you again.
    http://www.notokthatsokcoach.com

  • Great advice! I’ve recently started a social media free mornings challenge and it’s been super helpful in identifying my social media ‘triggers’! I’m definitely going to try your Facebook tip- I didn’t know you could pick what you see first. http://www.tinyambitions.com

  • Great post! I’ve recently started minimizing social media’s role in my life, especially now that I’ve started blogging. I noticed I wasn’t fully present to my family, because I was always checking notifications for various apps. I love your tip about deleting apps from the phone + setting intentions before surfing the web. I’ve deleted all but instagram and I’m only checking notifications in the morning and evening. I’ve also started leaving my phone in places that aren’t easily accessible to limit temptation. For example, I leave my phone upstairs because I’m too lazy to go up and grab it to only check social media.

    • It’s definitely much harder once you start blogging because the line between personal use and blog use really gets blurred! I love your advice about leaving your phone somewhere out of easy reach – I might steal this tip! Thanks and good luck on your blog!! x

  • Amy Murnan

    This is such a great post – I often get tempted to delete all my profiles, so good to know I’m not the only blogger who feels that way!

    I’m a long time fan of your blog, so I thought I’d add a couple of your posts to something called Quuu Promote. You pinned one my blog posts a while back (‘3 clever tools to simplify your wardrobe’, I believe) and it gave me such a huge boost in traffic that it seems only fair I repay the favour 😀 It’s basically a content promotion tool, so hopefully, you should see our subscribers sharing your posts on social media soon.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    • Hi Amy! Haha – it’s so tough balancing social media when you’re blogger! You’re definitely not alone 🙂

      I’ve never heard of Quuu Promote, I’ll have to check it out – but thanks so much for any support! And I’m so glad to hear that my pin helped you out! Pinterest is definitely an amazing marketing tool.

      Thanks again for reading! xx Jen

  • This is such a useful post, I’m going to try and use some of these tips!

  • You’ve summed it up so well and echoed my feelings completely. It’s exactly how I approach social media too. Mindfulness has helped greatly, especially with multiple social networks vying for our attention.