Sure, it can help us keep in touch, but it can also help us feel terrible. Countless studies have shown that social media has some pretty nasty effects on people.
That constant checking? It can cause anxiety. It also decreases your ability to concentrate long-term, because your brain gets used to switching back and forth between tasks so quickly.
Also, social media has been found to make people feel lonelier. One thing we humans are good at is comparing ourselves to others, and social media is a great place to do that and wreck your mental health.
Having Facebook friends you rarely talk to or just giving an occasional “like” is far from “connectedness.” Instead of making our friendships deeper, social media helps to make them wider, which isn’t healthy from a social wellness point of view. It’s better to have rich relationships than to have many acquaintances, and social media can easily steer us away from this.
On top of all that, the actual content of social media can be pretty toxic. Sexual photos, politically charged anger, horrendous footage of abuse, and fake news can crowd out the social aspect of social media altogether.
So what’s a person to do?
You could also find some ways to use social media more intentionally. By this, I mean avoiding aimlessly scrolling or falling down the rabbit hole until you’re on your cousin’s friend’s ex’s mom’s page. I mean not wasting time and finding ways to make sure you feel happier after using social media, not like you just lost an hour of your life.
Some ideas to use social media more intentionally:
- Purge friends lists. This will help you to better connect to the people you care most about. Make a rule for yourself to cut down on the visual noise in your feed. Mine used to be, “If I wouldn’t walk up and say hi if I saw them at Walmart, they don’t need to be on my Facebook feed.” I think this was helpful. Also, Facebook now has a feature where you can “unfollow” people but remain friends with them. This means you can go to their page to see all their posts, but they don’t pop up on your news feed. This is valuable for a friend or family member that you may want to check up on, but don’t necessarily want to see their constant sales pitches, raunchy photos, or political viewpoint. Here‘s how to unfollow someone.
- “Fast” or “detox” from social media. I did this around election time and it was such a freeing decision. Basically, this just means deciding on a time frame that you won’t use social media. This could be a day, a weekend, or longer, but it helps to reset you to the real world. You could take this a step farther and take time to “unplug” altogether.
- Choose intentional times or ways to use social media. This means choosing a time of the day or day of the week to spend some time on social media, but only use it at that time. This can be tough at first, but it makes a world of difference. Instead of constantly checking, you allow yourself a set amount of time, check up on those who you care to know about, and then lose the nagging stress for the rest of the day. If you are a part of a Facebook group that you’d like to keep up with, you can get the Facebook Groups App, which I find really helpful. You can do the same with Facebook Pages if you’re the administrator of a page. There’s also a Facebook messenger app, which allows you to use the messenger feature without the rest of the social network. If the notifications are wrecking your productivity, consider disabling them.
- Ask yourself what is making your life better, and what’s making it worse. We sometimes forget that we’re in charge of how much time we spend on social media or who we follow. I used to follow a popular and motivational fitness guru on Instagram. Her posts were always body-positive, and I’m sure it was inspirational to many, but I found myself feeling self-conscious and down after seeing these posts, so I unfollowed her. This is why asking yourself what’s making your life better is so important. If you enjoy seeing funny puns in your news feed (I sure do!), then follow that page. If a page, person, group, or social media platform altogether is making you feel bad, the answer is easy: get it out of your life!
That brings us to the challenge for the week. This week’s challenge is to use (or don’t use) social media intentionally. You can do this in any of the ways listed above, or in some other way that will improve your life.
Personally, I am committing to:
- Purge my friends/ follows on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to just the people I actually want to keep up with, and unfollowing those who share things that make my day worse.
- Set a limit of checking each social media platform I use only once per day. (I’ve decided to post photos, life updates, etc. any time, because I really enjoy sharing these things!)
If you decide to intentionally use social media, you can share your experience with this challenge using the hashtag #thethrivingchallenge. The best way to stay up to date on posts here isn’t through social media though, it’s through email. You can get on the email list for free by just giving me your name and email address here.
I’d love to hear in the comments section about what you think of this. Are you addicted to social media? What social media platforms do you need to use more intentionally, and how are you going to do it?
Other posts in this series:
Thank you to everyone who followed along with the series!