This blog was originally written by Jay McGinley on Satellite’s Blog.
For better or worse, social media is here to stay. 3.8 billion people around the world use social media. On average, we spend 2 hours and 24 minutes liking, tweeting, and sharing across devices. In the US, 70% of the population (and growing) have social media accounts.
Social media has many benefits. It has given us the ability to connect with countless people across the globe. It has allowed us to meet like-minded individuals and build communities. It has also supplied a megaphone to global causes like ending poverty and stopping genocide in far flung locales that might have gone unnoticed before.
While social media has benefits, it also certainly has done damage to society. Some studies have shown links between social media usage and an increase in perceived stress levels. Misinformation has run rampant across newsfeeds and social media addiction has become a real problem for many people. Although it may not be a full-blown addiction for others, it has become an ever-present and unconscious habit slowly manipulating the way we think and feel.
Needless to say, we should take steps to protect ourselves from the unhealthy aspects of social media.
So what can we do to improve our relationship with social media to make us healthier and happier? Here are 7 hacks that can help.
Follow Accounts That Bring You Joy
This has Marie Kondo’s fingerprints all over it. She’s a “tidying expert” who pioneered an organizing method that ruthlessly prioritizes keeping only the things that bring you joy and getting rid of the rest. Her goal is to help you create physical spaces that are uncluttered, inspirational, and serene. Likewise, following social media accounts that bring you joy helps you create mental spaces that are uncluttered, inspirational, and serene.
On the flip side of the coin, that also means you should remove the accounts that don’t bring you joy–especially anyone whose posts consistently stress you out or depress you. And if you think unfriending will lead to some very awkward conversations in your future, there’s always the mute or unfollow buttons.
Remember, you are in control of the content you consume. So curate it in a way that will most benefit your health and well-being.
Don’t Compare, Make Genuine Connections
We’ve all been there: scrolling through the impeccably curated feeds of some of our friends while cursing our luck that our life isn’t as unbelievably perfect.
But it’s all smoke and mirrors. The truth is the moments you see posted on social media are not representative of their whole life. Social media bewitches us into putting the most idealized version of ourselves out into the digital world. The consequence is that everyone ends up feeling inferior to these unrealistic depictions.
So, there needs to be a fundamental shift in your mindset. When you engage with posts on social media, don’t look to compare your life to what you are seeing. Instead, view those posts as inspiration–as the rocket fuel that will spur you to action to achieve your own goals.
Also, make the mental switch to use social media for the reason it was originally intended: to genuinely connect with others. Reach out to a friend or relative and send them something to brighten their day. Listen and engage with someone. It’s tempting to just click the like button and scroll on, but the path towards deepening relationships is paved with words, not clicks.
Contribute to a Healthier, Non-Toxic Social Media Environment
For many, social media feeds have become a toxic place full of abusive trolls, conspiracy theories, and misinformation. There’s an epidemic of outright negativity. The only way we’ll be able to transform social media for the better is if we each make the conscious choice to be more considerate about what we post.
The folks over at MindHandHeart, an organization within MIT that focuses on building a stronger community, have a three-question process they recommend going through before posting.
First, ask yourself, “is it true?” All of us have a responsibility to make sure we aren’t adding to the crush of misinformation. Do your part and double-check that what you’re about to post is true.
Second, ask yourself, “is it necessary?” Are you just adding more noise into the void? Why are you posting? Are you just trying to get that dopamine hit from a collection of likes or is it a meaningful contribution to the communal conversation?
Finally, ask yourself, “is it kind?” Be someone who exercises kindness and empathy online. To steal a term from the late Mr. Rogers, be a helper.
Change Your Notifications Settings
Notifications are like the sirens of the social media sea. When we hear that chime or feel that vibration, we are defenseless against their pull. Of course, that’s the point of them. They are built to grab our attention and drive a desire to investigate. So pull the plug on notifications so that your use of social media is on your terms.
There are also some useful hacks for eliminating the other black hole of social media, the never-ending newsfeed. With Facebook, for example, you can pop over to the settings page, navigate to newsfeed preferences, and manually unfollow everyone.
Another far more elegant and efficient way to do it is to download the News Feed Eradicator Chrome extension. This handy tool will remove your newsfeed and replace it with an inspirational quote so you don’t get sucked into the attention hole.
Be Intentional About When You Use Social Media
And since we’re talking about that attention hole, being clear about why you are about to log in to a platform and sticking to that task is another important way to avoid getting sucked in. Attention is one of the most important resources you have. Make sure you are spending it on things you actually care about rather than the things an algorithm thinks you should be looking at.
It might be helpful to schedule specific times for using social media as well. It’s easy to lose time mindlessly scrolling. But if you can reduce the amount of time you spend on social media by breaking those habits that have you mindlessly clicking your Instagram or Tik Tok icon whenever you open your phone, you’re on the path to gaining back control over your time and your day.
Plus, a study from the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology showed that people who limit their time spent on social media to under 30 minutes a day report a decrease in loneliness, depression, anxiety, and fear. Limiting your time on social media may lead to a significant improvement in your well-being.
And there are specifically two times in the day when it would be most beneficial for you to avoid social media altogether: right before you go to bed and right after waking up. It’s been shown that scrolling social media right before bed can negatively affect how long and how well you sleep. So, it’s best to give your screens a rest about an hour before bedtime. In fact, some people even go so far as to have a strict no-phone policy in their bedroom.
And when it comes to surfing social media upon waking up, you run the risk of letting the posts of others set the tone of your day. You have absolutely no control over what pops up in your newsfeed. So, instead, spend your morning doing something that will improve your outlook.
Prioritize Spending Time On Genuine Conversations
Social media has given us an effective way of maintaining contact with others, but according to Sannyu McDonald Harris, a licensed counselor at Cone Health, “social media likes and comments don’t always provide the same interpersonal connection as a conversation over the phone, video chat or even text messages.” So, when you have the impulse to simply click the like button, ponder if there’s a more meaningful way you could use to connect and catch up.
The best way to do that, of course, is to go out and meet your friends in person (something that might not be a possibility for you during a pandemic). You could also reach out and set up video chats or phone calls. Harris recommends using social media as a secondary method of nurturing your relationships, not the primary. And definitely, do not spend all your in-person time with others on the phone scrolling social media. That kind of defeats the purpose.
When It Gets Too Overwhelming, Take A Break
There’s nothing wrong with taking some time off from social media. In fact, some people recommend you delete social media altogether. While we recognize that social media has become ingrained in our lives making it nearly impossible to completely eliminate it, we do think it’s possible to take a hiatus every now and then. This is especially true if you are feeling severely overwhelmed and depressed by what you are seeing in your feeds.
At the very least, you could probably eliminate some of the apps from your phone. Just because social media platforms are available on all of your devices does not mean you should install them on all of your devices. Pick a few, the healthiest being desktop because you will only see notifications when you log in manually.
At Satellite, we’re developing a new social media platform that focuses on the quality of your social media engagement rather than the quantity of it. We want to build a network that has all the advantages of traditional social media while eliminating all the damaging aspects. We’d love for you to come along on the journey so that together we can invent a healthier way of engaging.