Consuming social media healthily, is there even such a thing? I believe there is but that the definition of healthy consumption depends on the individual and how confident they are with themselves. Upon taking a break from social media I learned a few guidelines for myself which may help others on their own path to learning to use social media without feeling bad about themselves while scrolling. There are two things that are certain to me.
Social media itself is not toxic: It’s simply the medium to convey a message. The message you convey and the messages you “follow” are of your own choosing.
How you feel about yourself is within your own power: If you are insecure, social media can easily reveal your insecurities. But if you work to strengthen your own feelings about yourself then ultimately the images on the screen will affect you less or perhaps not at all.
We can choose to avoid social media, however, in a digitally advanced time such as this, it’s better to learn how to use it to our advantage rather than avoid it. But before you can use social media to your advantage read below to learn about my 7 guidelines to build a mentally healthier relationship with social media.
1. Let Go of Your Ego and Deeply Question Yourself
We’re likely all guilty of scrolling and going through a vicious cycle of envy followed by belittling others for sharing what they share, living how they living, loving how they love but why do we care so much? What do we gain and what do we prove with this besides our own self-doubt and insecurities?
At the end of the day, we are all human, we all share what we feel comfortable with. Yes, social media IS a highlight reel but then again not everyone is at ease with disclosing their entire life on social networks. While you may not control the billions of people on social media, you can control how you feel about yourself.
Things to ask yourself:
Why do you care so much about what other people are doing and what does that reflect about your own life?
This will help you understand things you can work towards. Avoid goals centered around material possessions, think about lasting objectives.
What do you truly care about and want in life?
Detach from what you THINK you want because of what you see on your screen, think about what matters to you the most at your core.
What are you currently doing to help yourself?
Oftentimes we complain yet are not actually taking action to resolve our own troubles. You can wish and pray but if you do not make the moves help yourself then your present day will never evolve into the future you envision.
2. Follow Accounts That Enrich Mind and Body
If you are going to be taking in content on a daily basis you might as well curate a list of accounts that will leave you feeling empowered, educated and happy. You do not owe anyone a “follow for follow” and it is not rude to be selective about who you follow. For example, I’ve unfollowed accounts in the past that post empty content consisting of beautiful pictures but no actual message. The accounts I follow embrace the things I love: dogs, food, mindset, spirituality, inspiring people, artists and a few meme accounts. What you see on your screen can easily shape your daily approach to life, follow selectively, follow wisely.
3. Build Your Online Relationships Offline Too
Social media is an incredible networking tool and I encourage you to build online relationships. But as with everything in life, there needs to be balance. In fact, this is the point I find the most challenging but most necessary.
It’s great to have online friends but do you have anyone offline? If not, don’t feel bad, we can work on this together. Don’t be afraid to join meet up groups, say hi to a stranger or even invite those online buddies to hang out in real life. Although humans can be introverts, extroverts or ambiverts we are social creatures by nature and long to be a part of something. Find your “tribe” by involving yourself in situations where likeminded people are sure to be there.
4. Learn To Handle Keyboard Bullies
I used to add fuel to the fire and fight hate with hate, anger with anger. Then, one day, I took a compassionate approach just to experiment. About 2 years ago, a man had taken the time to message me to put me down. He said I was fat, nothing special and I needed to shut the f*ck up with my inspirational posts. Luckily, at this point, I had built up enough self-confidence to not take this personally and instead felt that he was a lost soul who didn’t know how to deal with his own inner frustrations and pain. I asked this man what he had hoped to accomplish by sending me those words and also educated him, without profanity or verbally abusive language, on the impact words can have on someone with mental health issues or low self-esteem. He apologized profusely and said he was having a bad day.
From that day on, I view bullies as people who need to be educated through love and compassion instead of giving them a taste of their own medicine. I don’t know how this person was brought up, what values were instilled within him and if anyone ever shows him love therefore how he reacts is likely a reflection of what life has shown him. Either educate the bully and hopefully, they are receptive to your message or delete and block. There is no need to disturb your views of yourself with those of a stranger clicking away at letters on a screen who has not the slightest clue of who you really are.
5. Practice Gratitude and Self-Development
You might think it sounds silly but if you are able to really absorb and be thankful for what you do have it can make a huge difference. Maybe you often hear “be grateful” and are reminded of what you have but it is one thing to hear it and another to actually understand it. You won't ever become someone else or have someone else’s life. Scrolling through social media will often make the unaware mind fixated on the material possessions and luxury experiences: cars, yachts, plastic surgery, constant traveling, huge friendship circles, fame, designer clothing etc. Can money buy happiness? Sure, to a certain degree. If you are relatively confident but don’t have a single cent, money allows you to put food on the table and a roof over your head which can make you happy. However, if you have all the money in the world and are trying to fill a void with mindless purchases that bring you pleasure, then you’re looking for happiness in the wrong direction. There’s a difference between pleasure and happiness.
At the end of the day, your happiness should lie in things that can’t be bought starting from within. It’s the love you are building for yourself and from those who care for you. Even in the worst situations, you can be thankful to be alive because as long as you are here and breathing, every second is an opportunity to take a step in the right direction.
6. Think About Your Message Before Posting
Not every piece of content needs to bring some kind of deeper meaning but sometimes we create content that will only dig a deeper hole. For example, people often make hateful posts taking personal jabs at other people. All that does is dig a deeper wound. If there is a larger scale problem, tackle the problem in a productive way. You can’t fight hate with hate.
Also, as great as sharing about our own pain can be for our personal healing it’s also not the right route for everyone at first. When you share openly online you can become the subject of “keyboard bullies” and for those who are completely new to working on confidence, it may not be the best start. If you wish to share online, check out countless support groups on Facebook where people will be more warm and welcoming.
7. Disconnect and Work on Self-Awareness
As great as social media is, sometimes disconnecting is necessary. If you are feeling overwhelmed, possibly even considering deleting your accounts, take a break. But don’t just disconnect, actually focus on yourself and take advantage of this time to reconnect with your mind and explore whatever has been poking at you. Don’t just replace one screen for another as in going from social media to binge watching shows. Take the time off to face whatever has been bothering you, finding ways to build your own confidence and love for yourself, and tackling tasks you keep putting off for “tomorrow”.
Ways you can work on self-awareness:
Meditation: I highly recommend meditation. Based on my own personal experience, I’ve started with just 5 minutes, usually at the start of my day but can be anytime, and it has helped clear my mind to really understand myself after clearing out most (or all) of my frustrations clouding my vision.
Daily Self-Reflection: Whether you write it out, talk it out or think it out, setting aside time to reflect on who you are and what you’ve done that day to take an honest look at yourself and where you’re aiming to be.
Explore Your Curiosities: Maybe you’ve been meaning to try a networking event or a new class at your gym. By exploring interests you keep shrugging off you might begin to uncover new facets of your personality that’ll help give you direction as to where you want to be.
Ask Trusted Friends To “Review” You: Trusted friends can play the role of being your honest mirror to describe a reflection you need to face. Maybe if you know you have a bad habit of “one-upping” your friends can call you out on it or any other habit you need to fix. Let them know it’s necessary for your own well-being to be honest to get good feedback.
At the end of the day, we like to think that the problem lies not within ourselves but instead in others because it is easier to blame than take responsibility. Your social media perception is constructed from the follow button pressed by your very own fingertips. If to you social media is toxic then you might be following accounts that do you more harm than good. However the problem is not just the accounts you follow but how confident you are in how you perceive yourself. So even if you follow amazing empowering accounts but are unable to feel good about who you are after scrolling, then taking time to disconnect, reflect and build up your mental fortitude might be just what you need before coming back.