Unless you decide to live “off the grid” in the middle of nowhere, if you live in the. United States, internet and technology probably play a role in your life to at least some extent. Having constant access to information and people at your fingertips is both a blessing and a curse, but fortunately, people have more power over their media experiences than they think. Below, I have included five ways to enhance your internet experience and use social media intentionally to minimize the potential toxic effects these tools have.
#1 Streamline the content you’re seeing by using social media settings and doing some “spring cleaning.”
Fortunately, many social networking sites have provided settings to help prevent you being subjected to triggering, annoying or upsetting content. You can block and report other users on most sites, ask to see less of certain types of posts, and even block posts featuring certain words from showing up on your feed on sites like Twitter. If you take the time to recognize when certain people or posts are particularly upsetting to you, such as hate speech or body shaming, taking steps to reduce these kinds of content can do wonders for your mental health while using social media.
Of course, sometimes not all people need to be blocked or reported; there are some people that aren’t doing anything wrong that still might be draining for you to follow? That ex that got engaged, friend from middle school traveling the world or parent’s coworker trying to sell you diet pills? Feel free to unfollow these people without guilt, or see if the social networking sites you use have mute features so you can still politely follow them without seeing their posts. Also, while scrolling, try to go through each post asking if the person you’re following’s content resonates with you, or if they are just taking up more space on your feed. If the second option is the case, know that it’s ok to unfollow them as well.
#2 On the other hand, make sure you follow accounts that are inspiring or entertaining to you.
Enhancing your social media experience doesn’t have to stop at eliminating negative or mediocre content from your feed. It can also include making sure you incorporate more enjoyable accounts to your following list as well. Whether it’s meme pages, your favorite celebrities’ Instagrams, uplifting quotes, travel shots, or influencers who are actually relatable, try to create a feed for yourself that is like a vision board, one that supports you, keeps your goals at the front of your head, and inspires you to be your best self. For example, if you identify as female, here is Harper’s Bazaar’s picks for some awesome empowering accounts to follow.
#3 Make it a point to have “phone free” bonding time.
Maybe as a child you experienced a parent or friend’s parent collect your phone in a basket, encouraging you to interact with others with zero technological distractions. At the time it may have sounded like a boring and annoying idea, but according to the introduction of the book Reclaiming Conversation, “We have learned that even a silent phone inhibits conversations that matter. The very sight of a phone on the landscape leaves us feeling less connected to each other, less invested in each other.”
This information is all the more reason to go out of the way to leave phones out of your future quality times with loved ones. Whether it’s leaving your phone in the car when your family goes to see a movie, putting it in your purse when you’re on a date, or leaving it in a different room at a friends house, these habits can make all the difference when spending time with the people you care about, and can spark more meaningful conversations, especially if you encourage others to do the same.
#4 Practice mindful and/or physically engaging activities to balance out your time on social media.
As I mentioned in the beginning, it’s pretty difficult to avoid using social media these days. As a result, it’s extremely important to practice self-care and activities that can help separate you from technology to maintain your wellbeing. In an article about how to set boundaries with technology and overcome the distractions it causes, “Remedies for the Distracted Mind,” the authors Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen recommend doing activities such as exercising, being in nature, daydreaming and reading during technology breaks throughout the day.
#5 Finally, be authentic.
Just like when kids pretend to be people that they aren’t to fit in in high school, it isn’t a good feeling trying to keep up with a perfect, social media-ready version of yourself at all times. Try to recognize when you are frantically editing pictures, freaking out about the amount of likes you get, trying to appear happy online during times you are not, or caring more about how you capture cool experiences than how you live them, and remind yourself that there is just as much beauty to being yourself and authentic as there is to the little high you get from uploading the “perfect” post. It feels better when people are “liking” your genuine feelings and experiences than when they are liking a false reality you have created.
I hope these tips help you on the pursuit of happiness both on social media and off and that you make sure your own happiness is a priority when you post. Happy scrolling!