How To Use Social Media Without Losing Your Mind
Stop, Drop, and Roll
We all know it. Social media is a total dumpster fire. We know these corporations are abusing us — mining our data for profit. We know it makes us completely miserable and hinders our ability to form genuine connections. Yet, we’re all completely addicted. Every year I hear more and more people proudly proclaim, “That’s it! I’m leaving social media for good!”
As recently as a few months ago, I was firmly in the all-social-media-is-trash camp. I had finally done it. I deleted my Facebook and abandoned my Twitter and Instagram accounts. For over a year I lived a life free of the pressure, anxiety, and harassment that comes with maintaining an online double-life. Those were the halcyon days.
Then, perhaps against my better judgment, I agreed to co-found a new social media site with my partner in August. We saw a space that needed to be filled and decided to take on the mantle. Suddenly, I was thrown back into the world of engagement, nasty comments, and getting tagged in petty drama. Everything I had never missed about social media was back — and I was drowning.
All of the feelings of pressure and anxiety returned in a whirlwind as I started engaging in social media again after my year-long hiatus. While our platform was free software and did not abuse users itself, users certainly have no issues abusing each other. I started to get that familiar pang of anxiety every time I got a notification. I woke up anxious for multiple days in a row, afraid to see what people were saying in response to me online.
Pretty soon I realized something had to change — again. While I couldn’t abandon social media entirely this time, I decided to come up with a system to put out the dumpster fire of anxiety happening in my brain as a result of my return to social media: Stop, Drop, and Roll.
1. STOP caring about metrics
It’s amazing how much value we assign to content, other users, and ourselves based on these tiny little numbers. Our eyes instinctively flick to the number of likes, retweets, and comments a post has — often before we even read it. Some people obsess over their own metrics, others use metrics to judge how worthy someone else is such as the number of followers a user has. Ending our reliance on metrics to tell us what content or users to enjoy is the first step in freeing your mind from the clutches of social media.
Of course, this is easier said than done. If “stop caring” was reasonable advice, we’d probably all have many fewer problems in general. Luckily, there are now tools to help with this. Ben Grosser’s Demetricator, for example, removes all metrics from Facebook or Twitter through a browser extension.
This is what a Twitter post looks like before the Demetricator:
Demetricator even removes the number of notifications you have, helping prevent notification anxiety. Using a tool like this, even for a short period, can help you re-train your brain to put less stock in the metrics and instead assign your own value to content based on what you genuinely enjoy.
2. DROP your content
If you’re like me and hate social media but feel you can’t delete your accounts altogether, it’s likely because you are a content creator of some sort and social media is a major distribution tool for you.
Distributing your content without getting roped into the drama of social media isn’t easy, but we should not let this hold us back from putting ourselves and our work out there. Rather than using social media as a mindless scrolling tool to cure boredom, I’ve started only opening social media when it’s time to drop my content. Finish a blog post? Think of a clever joke you just have to share? Have a life update your followers would be interested in? This is the proper time to open social media and make your post.
3. ROLL out without reading the comments
After dropping your content, it’s time to go. Don’t wait to see if people start liking or retweeting, don’t keep opening the post back up to see how people are responding, and under absolutely no circumstances should you ever feed the trolls.
The knee-jerk reaction to instantly start replying to what strangers say to us online is what gets us into the most trouble. Engaging with those who are only trying to tear us down and hurt us is a sure-fire way to experience social media burnout. The comments section is the trash pit of the internet, and rarely will anything good come from it. Trust me — don’t do it. Just roll out.
Obviously these rules are more like guidelines. There are probably times where it is worth it to read the comments or check on metrics, especially if you are trying to incorporate the feedback of your audience into your work or content going forward. Rather than a rigid methodology, “Stop, Drop, and Roll” should be treated as a mindset.
Letting go of the biggest roadblocks to having a healthy experience on social media can make a major dent in our daily happiness, especially for content creators who feel they rely on social media for their success. It is possible to use social media without getting sucked down the rabbit hole — and having a mental game plan for how you’re going to do that is an important first step.