I have incredibly mixed feelings about social media. I think it mainly serves to feed into comparison culture, which makes us feel worse about ourselves no matter what we’re doing. Almost every day in my therapy practice I’m talking with people who know social media feeds into unhealthy thoughts and want to cut down their exposure to it. I myself want to cut down my exposure to it. And I’m also marketing a book and, for better or worse, that mainly happens on social media platforms these days.
Most of us can’t get off of social media altogether, due to our work, school, or need to maintain connections. Here are some ways to make social media a more positive experience, if you must engage:
- Prune your follows with joy in mind – If something/someone you follow frequently makes you feel bad about yourself, compare yourself unfavorably, or think negative thoughts, just quietly unfollow. You don’t need to make a big scene of it. When you do unfollow something that doesn’t serve you, reflect on the fact that you are choosing what you take in and are protecting your own joy and happiness. Follow things/people that make you feel good, who post positive or uplifting content, or who you connect with in a way that brings happiness.
- Don’t let your phone pull your attention – Turn off notifications! Unless you have a need to know something urgently or it is a positive reminder to look at your phone, you don’t need to be notified every time someone posts something. You don’t even need to know when someone emails or messages you, probably. Make looking at your phone a conscious choice, rather than an unconscious pull. Then you can choose to look at social media when you’re in the right mindset to do so (see #3).
- Reflect before you scroll – Especially if you engage in scrolling as a habit, you might not be aware of how it affects you or feeds into your self-image. When you choose to go on social media, take a moment to reflect and consider what your intentions might be. Are you scrolling to kill time, to relieve boredom, or to look for something specific? If it’s one of the first two, you might check in with yourself to see whether you’re feeling vulnerable to comparison, depression, or other feelings that might actually be fed by looking at social media, and if so choose to do something else with your time. If you’re looking for something, remind yourself what it is and go right there. All of this eases the possibility that you might come across something that makes you feel bad or feeds into an already negative mood.
If we’re more mindful when we look at our phones or social media, we might choose to do it less. We also might set it up differently to bring about positive feelings and experiences, instead of falling into feeling less-than, fear of missing out, or scrolling as a coping tool. While you’re at it, you might start a list of things you’d rather do when you feel bored than look at your phone. Give yourself options, and pay attention to what brings you real joy and fulfillment.