Social media can feel unavoidable.
Once, back in 2010, I took a break from social media – forty days, forty nights, no Facebook, no nothing. And I missed out on so much. It wasn’t just the jokes or the status updates. I missed the fact that a friend had had to move schools but then had returned back after a couple days for some unexplained reasons. To me, she was just absent for a couple days. Everyone else had seen the drama unfold over social media.
3.8 billion people in the world use social media as of 2020 – that’s about half of the entire population. Sharing our lives through social media is second nature to us. Particularly in an increasingly globalised world it’s become an invaluable tool to keep in touch with friends and family no matter where you are. And I’ve made it no secret in my belief in the platforms as a catalyst for change.
But in equal measure, I understand it’s dangers. These picture-perfect images splashed across social media can do such harm to one’s self-esteem. Mindless scrolling is such a pointless exercise that ends up taking so much of your time. We start living our lives through social media; and am no longer present in the moment.
So do we throw our phones into the ocean? Delete all our social media accounts and go dark? Well, no. Such extreme measures are not necessary – nor are they realistic in a society in which social media has become so ingrained.
But there are small steps you can take to be more mindful of your social media usage and use it more constructively.
1. Minimise the apps on your phone
Do you ever realise that you’re just scrolling through Facebook on your phone and not actually looking at it? And aren’t you frustrated of seeing the same old meme or ad for the hundredth time?
Take the app off your phone. You’ll realise just how little time you’ll spend on it if it’s not even an option. Like with breaking any habits, taking away the temptation is the first step to changing your behaviour and mindset around it.
2. Turn off notifications
Do you really need to know if someone liked your photo on Instagram? This isn’t about preaching about the dangers of chasing likes instead of meaningful connections.
For one, it’s just a waste of your mobile data and battery to be beaming up with every useless notification that comes through. Secondly, it’s a sporadic and unnecessary distraction that can take you from being present and focused on what you’re doing.
Particularly when you’re working, it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus after you’re distracted. It’s just not good for your productivity to have your phone constantly blinking.
And just like with deleting apps of your phone, take it slow and start one social media platform at a time.
3. Leave your phone off the dinner table
Sounds like something your mum would say, doesn’t it? But they had a point. There is a beautiful ritual in coming together at a dinner table with someone and engaging in light conversation over a meal. To be present in that conversation and give your accompanier the respect and time of your full attention, put your phone away. You don’t need it.
4. Spend 5 minutes just enjoying the moment
We all know what it’s like to reach the top of the mountain and see an incredible view and immediately reach for our phone to snap a picture. But just wait. Enjoy the moment first.
In every great moment that you feel like you need to share straight to social, just wait five minutes to just enjoy that moment. Sure, a photo is a nice reminder of a certain time or even a way to capture exactly how you felt then. But give your chance to experience the moment in the first place and maximise that feeling before you go snapping away for the future you.
5. Be critical of what you’re seeing
We all kind of know that we shouldn’t believe everything we see on the internet. We know that selfies are made from great lighting and great angles. We know opinions can often be born out of a filter bubble. But as we’re scrolling through, it can be difficult to inadvertently be absorbing it all in.
So think twice before you give someone a follow. How are they adding something valuable to your life? Are you following them because you aspire to their apparent lifestyle of the rich and famous?
And what are you sharing? Are you always just sharing your best, most filtered self? What is the image that you’re trying to project on social and is it aligned with who you are or want to be offline?
If there are huge gaps in what you value and what your social media is feeding you, it’s time to reevaluate your whole use of the platforms. But let’s start with the small changes. Make an effort to show the ugly with the good. Unfollow accounts that aren’t doing you and your self-esteem any good. Keep across how many times a day you’re actually picking up your phone, and how long you spend on the platforms. Never be mindless as you’re scrolling through. Use it with purpose and awareness.
If we can all be a little better and more positive on social media, we can collectively turn it into a place for positive change.
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