Last Monday, I wrote about some of my struggles with social media, particularly Instagram, The Dark Side of Social Media. Instead of just complaining about the problem, I wanted to follow up on a positive note with some ways that we can all make social media a bit healthier and a bit less toxic.
UNFOLLOW ANYONE WHO CREATES A NEGATIVE SPACE FOR YOU
They might not be doing it on purpose. They might not be being mean or malicious or hurtful in what they post, but maybe it's making you envious of what they have, unhappy with where you're at, or creating a place where you feel what you have or who you are isn't enough. Just do yourself a favour and unfollow them. It will make you feel so.much.better. I promise. Like I mentioned last week, I used to follow a ton of fashion bloggers a few years ago, but it fuelled this lie that I always had to buy new clothes and be trendy and spend more and more money. It wasn't creating a good space for me, so I purged them all from my follow list. I'm much better for it.
FOLLOW PEOPLE WHO ENCOURAGE YOU, MOTIVATE YOU, TEACH YOU, INSPIRE YOU
Lately, I've been focusing on people who are authentic online. They're real about their lives, their problems, and their online appearance. They remind their followers that these squares aren't the whole picture. They're honest about their lives as "influencers", if they are one. They use their platform to bring attention to bigger issues. They tell you when they're struggling with something, even though they don't need to share their entire lives online.
Here are a few women who I love to follow. I follow them for different reasons, whether that be honesty and vulnerability, minimalism, activism, encouragement, motivation, bravery. You should check them out.
SET REALISTIC BOUNDARIES FOR YOURSELF
Have you seen that meme that says something like "Are you ever on your computer and pick up your phone to see what the smaller internet is up to?" I think almost every millennial can relate. And even right now, I have my laptop on my lap and my phone within arms reach. I've found that it's really easy to mindlessly scroll at every spare moment. Riding in the car or riding the train, waiting for just about anything, walking to the bathroom at work, first thing in the morning or just before going to sleep, and just about every moment in between. I challenge you to install the app Moment that will track your screen time. Even if it's just for a week, see what you're clocking every day and see if you can set realistic boundaries around that. Thoughtfully consider what you need to do to stay within those boundaries. Maybe it's charging your phone downstairs overnight and using a real alarm clock like it's 1998. Maybe it's leaving your phone behind when you don't actually need it. Maybe it's transferring some of your life off your phone so you're not so dependent on it. Maybe you have some serious discipline and limit your time on social media to one window of time per day. Whatever it is, see what difference it could make in your life, your happiness, and your social media presence.
On that same note, just be present in your life. If you're out with friends or family, spending quality time with your significant other or your children, try unplugging for a while. Play that game at restaurants where you pile the phones on the side and whoever picks up their phone first loses and has to pick up the check as well. I get it, some things should be documented. Snap a few photos (even better if it's on a real camera instead) and then put it away and be present in what's happening. I struggle so hard with this, to be honest, and there are a lot of times when Luke and I find ourselves watching a movie or show but both on our phones, playing games or catching up on social media. We're trying to be better, but the truth is that's hard. Lately, when we've caught ourselves falling into that habit, we'll make a declaration that the rest of the night is phone free so we can enjoy each other's company instead.
KEEP YOUR PHONE AWAY FROM YOUR BED
Social media is seriously messing with our sleep. I'm 100% guilty of climbing into bed, phone in hand, and scrolling endlessly for a while, cutting into my sleep. I'm also 100% guilty of picking up my phone first thing in the morning and immediately checking Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter. If I don't have anywhere to go, I can lie in bed for hours mindlessly scrolling, and if I do need to get up, well there goes my time to get ready. Like I mentioned above, one way to focus more on your real life and be less enslaved to your phone is to simply keep it away. Get a real alarm clock instead of relying on your phone and charge your phone overnight in another room.
THOUGHTFULLY SHARE YOUR REAL LIFE
The fact of the matter is, if you're reading this, you probably have some sort of online presence. It's part of our world now, but you choose how you spend your time online and how you present yourself and your life. Be mindful of what you share. Share what you're comfortable with, but don't strive to create a feed that people are envious of because of everything you have or all the places you go. Strive to create a community where people feel heard and welcome. Be honest about what you can be and try to step out of your comfort zone and share some of the less picture-perfect moments of your life. You'll be surprised at how many people can relate to your "mess" (AKA real life) and the kind of community you can find online. It's scary and it takes a lot of courage, but every time I've been raw and vulnerable in this space or on social media, it has been met with nothing but love.
KEEP YOUR PERSPECTIVE
At the end of the day, remember that what you see isn't someone's whole life. No matter what they're sharing online, there are things that we don't see through those little squares. Everyone has problems and struggles and it's not going to benefit you in any way to compare what you know your life to be to what you perceive their life to be. When you find yourself feeling like you're not enough, like you need more, like you aren't happy all because of social media, turn off your screen and go live your life instead. Find something good in your life and hold it close. Remember that whoever it is isn't perfect. And if it becomes too much of a problem, go back to the top of this post and start from the beginning again.
What else works for you?