With more than a staggering three billion social media users worldwide, the medium has had unquestionable impact on our lives: keeping us in touch with friends and family everywhere; connecting us with like-minded people irrespective of location; giving voice to individuals and meaningful movements like never before and; bringing us bountiful inspiration and laughter besides.
Filipinos top the global charts for daily usage, averaging almost four hours of social time (!) which begs the question, how much time are you really spending scrolling social feeds?
It's hard to ignore the negative impact social media is having on not just our productivity but also our mental & emotional wellbeing. As a slew of celebrities take social media breaks — Selena, Ariana and others — more of us are recognising the value of time away from our apps. Social consumption has been linked with increased anxiety, depressive symptoms and low self-esteem as we unfairly compare our lives to the seemingly perfectly curated feeds of strangers. Also, much like an addiction, that like, follow or comment is driving a dopamine rush that we are seeking to recreate repeatedly.
I have a personal mission to help others cultivate stronger minds as much as body: we have the power to take control over our digital environment by making choices that shape not just our personal landscape, but also of others we are connecting with. These are my simple-but-effective tips on keeping your headspace strong in the social media sphere whilst creating a healthier, happier environment we consciously want to engage with:
Social media free AM & PM
Set a "do not disturb" function on your device to activate one hour before bed up to one hour after waking. Looking at social when you're tired (pm) or incoherent (am) is a guaranteed way to fuel your anxiety. Reserve that time for non-digital activities. Additional no, no – checking your phone during the night if you get up.
Turn ON helpful features, Turn OFF notifications
A host of tools have been introduced to take control over how much time you spend on social – be that on your device or within an app itself. For example, Instagram's "Your Activity" settings allow you to set a daily time limit and chart your daily usage, which can help raise awareness for mindless scrolling habits. Next, turn notifications off: tracking every like, comment, and follow the moment it happens is an unhelpful distraction. Allow specific times to engage when you're fully present.
Instagram in particular is a highlights reel of the big picture – we KNOW real life isn't inspirationally glossy all the time. Remember there are humans at the end of a device and that most people will face similar challenges you might be experiencing at some point – they just aren't going to be shouting about it on social.
Clear the bad energy. It's always worth asking yourself why certain people cause you to experience negativity, but if someone persistently triggers unhealthy responses or bad thoughts, simply unfollow. It doesn't matter if it's a super celebrity or someone closer to home. You are not obliged to waste energy on people who are bringing you down. There are plenty of inspirational, feel-good, encouraging people to engage with.
Be the source
Staying social media strong is not just about our consumption habits, but what we are consciously putting out too. Think before you post or comment – are you fanning the flames of negativity, or sharing encouragement and positivity? We each have our part to play in making social media a great space for everyone.
Respect your offline time
Out for dinner? Nothing is more off-putting than phone-tapping during a conversation at the table. Granted, you may want to pap a stunning plate of food but then put devices away, out of sight. Human connection is precious and needs preserving. You don't need to document every given moment of life. Assign a social media free day and have some experiences for your eyes only and not through the lens of a device intended for others.