“If you are on social media, and you are not learning, not laughing, not being inspired or not networking, then you are using it wrong.” ― Germany Kent
One tap is all it takes to turn an innocent swipe of your screen into an emotionally draining attack on your ego and mood for the day ahead.
Social media can be a life-sucking jungle of misinformation, boneheaded arguments, and obnoxious boasting bearing an addictive nature for us to keep on scrolling.
Of course, social media isn’t totally bad as it has its upsides. However, it’s impossible to see and experience the good of it when we approach it in a way that caters to the negative nature of these apps.
Thankfully, I learned how to go from a passive social media user to an avid social media utilizer. You should too.
No longer do I allow the dark side of social media to magnetize my eyes to the depths of Twitter arguments and trivial Instagram swipe posts. Instead, I let the diverse nature of beautifully curated stories from around the globe to serve as a source of inspiration, not of distraction.
Doing so required me to recognize the negative impact social media had on my time, mood, and self-esteem when none of those should‘ve been damaged from a seemingly harmless action.
By taking a deliberate approach to social media that caters to my values and ambitions, I’m now able to use it in a way that inspires rather than distracts me with arbitrary posts and toxic negativity.
Hence, implementing one or all of the below four tips will help you create a healthy alliance with social media, as they did for me.
1.) Follow People Who Inspire You.
“Associate yourself with people who think positively. You cannot surround yourself with negative people and expect positive outcomes.” — Roy T. Bennett
What you see is your reality, and that speaks true to who you follow on social media.
On Instagram, I used to follow a bunch of pages that provided nothing more than shallow entertainment — accounts that served no real purpose aside from a quick perk of the eyes and a bit of dopamine.
One of them was WorldstarHipHop.
Back when I followed this page, my 17-year old self spent his time watching street fights, hip-hop artists beefing and dissing each other, celebrities showing off the ice on their wrists, and music videos of not so flattering music.
Although it was entertaining for my adolescent mind, looking back it wasn’t a good look. I was wasting my time with things that never inspired me, never educated me, and never provoked my thoughts.
It was all mindless rubbish.
It wasn’t until recently I realized that when I click on that square icon, I want to see something that will inspire or teach me a thing or two, rather than throwing mud onto an already stressed-out mind trying to escape into the digital sea of my feed.
To achieve this, I did myself a favor by unfollowing most of the pages that served no real value to my purpose for using social media. Now, I follow folks who I look up to or who inform me with food for thought to feed my curiosity.
While you shouldn’t just follow a bunch of corny Instagram pages that post cliché motivational quotes, search for people who share similar goals and values. Whether you’re a passionate vegan, self-help junkie, or an aspiring entrepreneur — there’s a page for you.
Additionally, this doesn’t mean that you have to unfollow every page that doesn’t cater to your purpose.
I diversify my feed by following a few of my favorite skateboarders, NBA players, as well as a few highlight pages for sports. The point here is to curate your feed with those who inspire and educate — mixed in with a bit of fun and miscellaneous accounts.
Don’t oversaturate your feed with fluff or thought-provoking content. Keep it balanced so that social media offers the best of both worlds.
2.) Be Cautious of the Comment Section.
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” — Dale Carnegie
YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You name it, pretty much every comment section on any platform will have its trolls, dummies, and instigators.
I’m all for expressing our thoughts on a piece of content because after all, anything worth posting on the internet should spark conversations around the message being expressed by the creator.
Unfortunately, the internet has its bad apples.
The anonymity of being able to speak your mind, or flat out say hateful speech, has prompted many internet users to be relentless on the keyboard.
These keyboard warriors will fight you to the death to make sure they win a Twitter argument, by any means necessary. Heck, some of them will DM you and send death threats. Some of them might even create burner accounts and spam your page with even more hate.
In a nutshell, comment sections are like a mini-war zone, except you have no bunker to hide in. Once you post a comment, your words will be vulnerable to the criticisms and possible harassment of other folks. It’s inevitable.
Hence, if someone replies to you with unwarranted hate, realize that the conversation ended before it started because their behavior suggests that they aren’t looking for a civil discussion. That’s when you click block and move on.
Another way I avoid the dangers of the comment section is to avoid it altogether.
Especially if it’s a controversial post, I’ll end up coming across a comment that seems so ignorant and narrow-minded, which often ruins my mood. So I figured that I might as well avoid ruminating in the depths of uninformed opinions.
Anyhow, cautiously approaching the comment section of any platform has helped make my strolls through social media a less stressful experience.
3.) Disable Pop-Up Notifications.
“An addiction to distraction is the death of creative production.” — Robin Sharma
Our reason for turning on pop-up notifications is so that we can receive urgent alerts about important news.
It’s like keeping your phone ringer on because you’re expecting a call from your employer for a job interview. Or having one of those hand-held restaurant pagers so that you’ll know when your table is ready.
Those are some situations when notifications are helpful.
In contrast, a way that they aren’t helpful is to turn on pop-up notifications whenever someone likes your post or tags you in a video.
Is it urgent for you to be notified when you receive your 10th like, or when your friend tags you in a cute dog video?
If you’re a content creator, imagine receiving a notification on your phone for every click on your post — not reading or watching the content, but simply clicking on it. Your phone would be going off and it would be hard to focus when you get notification after notification.
Keep your alerts to a minimum as they should cater to your priority, not your subconscious craving for distractions.
4.) Moderate Yourself.
“To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.” — Confucius
Social media detoxes are great. I take one every other month and it refreshes my mind, as it allows me to approach Instagram and other platforms out of purpose instead of habit.
While you don’t need to take 30-day detoxes to use social media with intention, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re not allowing it to manipulate your time and attention.
From setting time-limits, deleting the app and constraining yourself to the browser version, or using it only after you complete all of your tasks — these are all effective ways to moderate your social media usage.
I get it, there will be some crappy days where you just want to spend hours scrolling or binge-watching videos. It helps get your mind off of reality. But if this behavior becomes a daily habit, then that’s when you ought to reconsider why you’re using social media and how you can lay off of it.
Like comfort food, it doesn’t hurt to indulge occasionally, but it’s harmful to consume in excess. Find a balance and moderate social media’s role in your busy life.
Putting It Together
All four of these tips are like a gas mask to help you survive the toxic side of social media, with each acting as a layer to strengthen your protection against the unwarranted side-effects of the digital landscape.
- Follow people you care about.
- Lay off the comment section.
- Avoid pop-up notifications.
- Keep it in moderation.
Following these four tips helped me turn social media from a no man’s land into a library of hidden knowledge and inspiring stories.
We should always strive to strengthen our relationship with the tools the internet has gifted us with, so let’s be the hammer and not the nail.