Social media. It can be both a blessing and a curse, am I right? It helps you connect with friends, becomes a source of news and who doesn’t love videos of a cat in a shark costume riding a Roomba? Then, at other times, social media can increase anxiety, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Elections approach and you see some friends in a totally different light. Everyone shares the same horrible news story about shootings at nightclubs and you feel depressed with the state of the world. Or… social media can make you feel completely inadequate. You follow accounts where people seemingly have the perfect life and are achieving major accomplishments while you can barely keep the lid on your hectic life.
And then there’s the epic time suck that social media can cause. You go on Pinterest to find a recipe for dinner and an hour later you’ve been sucked into the vortex, your poor tummy rumbling away. You find yourself reaching for your phone during every single spare moment to check… what, exactly? It’s become a tick for so many of us that we don’t even notice it.
The average North American is spending 3+ hours on social media per day. That’s insane! Totally believable, and I know that I fall into that category, but still, it blows my mind that I could be spending 3+ hours a day doing something–anything–else.
Here’s the thing, we can take back some control and take steps to decrease our anxiety. Are you with me? Here are the ways that I’m structuring my social media intake in order to decrease anxiety in my life.
1. Unfollow People
The beauty of social media is that we can curate our feeds. If you want to stay friends with someone, despite their drastically different political views to your own, simple ‘unfollow’ on Facebook. That way you remain friends, you can go to their page when you like, but your feed isn’t full of content that you know will stress you out. Why put unnecessary stress on a friendship that is otherwise pleasant?
2. Unfriend People
This is a more severe approach, but think of it in terms of Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram in particular. Nobody is really going to lose sleep if you stop following their feeds. For many of these platforms, folks won’t even know you’ve stopped following them. I had this conversation with myself when my son was born. I thought, if I wouldn’t be willing to pick up the phone to call someone, why am I sharing very personal photos of my life and my baby with them online? Delete.
If you follow over 1,000 people on the above-mentioned platforms, there is literally no way to keep up, and how much of their content do you really want to see anyways? Follow people or pages that inspire you, motivate you, or add value in some way to your life. The detractors? Bye, Felicia.
3. Move Your Apps
You swipe into the home page of your phone and there they are, the shining beacons of a camera, a bird, a large ‘f’ and a ghost. They’re begging you to open them with their bright, cheery, welcoming colours. Out of sight, out of mind is a cliché for a reason. Make a folder for your social media apps, preferably on the last page of your phone, and make it that much harder for yourself to access them. I bet this automatically decreases your consumption.
4. See Beyond ‘Perfection’
In the same way that we can curate what we see on social media, users curate what they share. That ‘perfect’ photo of the couple who travel the world? It doesn’t show that they argued the same day about finances. The black and white picture of the mom kissing her baby? It can be her way of hiding her postpartum depression. That #liveauthenitc picture of an influencer on a mountaintop? It took about 55 inauthentic takes to get it that way, not to mention post production editing. We can all share the ‘perfect’ moments, but recognize that what you’re seeing (and likely what you’re sharing) is not really the true story. #seebeyongtheimage
5. Spend More Time on Hobbies
Cutting things out is always a challenge. Whether you’re on a food diet or a social media diet, the feeling of deprivation only leads to more craving. A better strategy is to fill your time with things you enjoy to crowd out the time waster. Pick up a book on the bus instead of your phone. Listen to a podcast. Draw. Paint. Crochet. Have drinks with friends. Go for a run. What do you enjoy doing? It can be small, it can be large, but find more time in your day for it. Think you don’t have time? Remember how I mentioned the 3+ hours? They might be a great starting place…
6. Social Media Detox
I have every intention (once I can convince my husband…) of starting screen-free Sundays. Having one day of the week dedicated to being free of my laptop, my smartphone or the TV will do wonders for my soul and for our family life. How do I know? Because we took a digital detox in a yurt and it was phenomenal! Now we just need to replicate it closer to home.
Does a whole day feel like too much of a commitment? How about you start with one night a week after work. Is 4 or 5 hours really too much to handle? I have faith in you, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the effect on your social media anxiety.
7. Remember, Social Media is a Tool
Social media was created with the intent of bringing people together and making our lives better, but like many other advances in technology, businesses and individuals always find a way to use technology to their advantage, to sell more products, to communicate their message. Remember that social media is more of a marketing tool than anything, at this point. Think of yourself as a business. What do you want out of the tool? Engagement? Friendship? Know what you want, then use social media for that. If you’re not getting that, reconsider each app as you open it.