Social Media can be a dark place, sucking you into a world you wouldn’t otherwise have entered. It can also be a positive place to interact with the people you care about and engage in positive community. It’s hard to find the balance but it can be done.
Not too long ago I found myself checking in on social media when I was playing with my son. I looked on my phone usage and social media was high on the list. I was shocked at how many hours each day (yes hours) it took of my time.
Over the past year I’ve been seeking to have a healthier relationship with social media. World events were causing me stress and, because I have a mood disorder, I was easily angered by posts and comments. I also found myself tapping those little icons on my phone out of nervous habit. I was anxious or stressed and I wanted a distraction. Tapping into Facebook or Instagram gave me an escape. However, that distraction was keeping me from fully engaging with my four year old son.
I considered what it would look like to give up social media altogether. Well, the truth is, I don’t have much of a choice. I work in marketing and I’m a writer getting ready to publish a book–social media is a necessary means to an end. Additionally, there are people I care about who I am best able to stay connected with through social media. Social media can be a good thing.
I found there is a way to keep the good of social media and weed out the bad.
Watch Your Tongue
It’s easy to sit before a screen and say whatever is on your mind. There’s no body language in front of you giving you tells as to how the conversation is affecting the other person. I’ve seen people say things in a Facebook comment that they would normally have never said to someone’s face. The screen shows no emotions and we can only accurately infer so much based on the words we see.
I’ve seen relationships become estranged because of a social media quarrel and it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m going to get a bit cliche, here, but it gets the point across:
- If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. (Thanks, Mom!)
- If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it.
The Bible has a lot to say about our speech.
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
The lips of the wise spread knowledge,
but the hearts of fools are not upright.Proverbs 15: 1-2, 4, 7
I don’t think it’s wrong to debate an issue. I personally don’t think social media is the best platform, especially if it’s a hot button topic. Discussing theology generally won’t become heated (it still does, so be careful), while discussing civil rights most likely will.
On social media, the human element is gone and a lot of people–not all–struggle to interact with civility. The temptation to lash out to the screen is too readily available. If someone posts something that is a hot button issue for you, don’t comment in anger. Mind your manners. If you post something that is a hot button issue, be prepared to moderate comments and keep people in check. It’s so frustrating to see two of your contacts duke it out.
I think it’s wise to refrain from commenting altogether on a post that upsets you. For example, I do not involve myself in political discussions on social media. Believe me, I have my opinions. I just have never seen a whole political discussion where someone doesn’t become offensive or get offended. I have also never seen someone change their mind because of a social media discussion–people take their stance and fight it to the death. I don’t believe social media is a healthy platform for this.
Surround Yourself With Good
When creating a healthy boundary, it’s important to know what nourishes you and what leaves you feeling sick.
Facebook and Twitter are the two platforms where I’ve seen negativity spread like wildfire. Many people don’t realize how much control they have on what they see in their newsfeed. I’m not as familiar with Twitter, but it seems to me that you follow the people and topics you want to follow, so consider who you follow and make changes. The same can be said for Instagram and LinkedIn, though these platforms have been more tame in my experience.
Facebook is the platform where people become offended when they become unfriended. It doesn’t have to be this way because Facebook is so customizable and you don’t have to resort of unfriending.
You can create a positive environment in your newsfeed and here’s how.
Just because a friend posts things that cause you stress, doesn’t mean you have to unfriend them to remove them from your newsfeed. You still want to be friends with them, you just don’t like their posts. For me, it’s politics. Politics completely stress me out and make me angry. It doesn’t matter whether or not I agree with the political view being posted. It’s not that I dislike the person, it’s just that they post things that upset me. I’m more likely to keep a positive view of these people if I don’t see their posts on my newsfeed, so I unfollow them.
How to Unfollow
- Click on the three dots next to their name.
- Click on “more” on the menu.
- Click on “unfollow <name>”
You can also go to your friends list to unfollow. I did this when I unfollowed a bunch of people at once.
If I’m close to this person I like to message them to let them know that I unfollowed them and why. I’ll say something like:
“Hi <name>! I just wanted to let you know that I’m glad we’re friends, but I unfollowed you so you probably won’t see me interact with you on Facebook. It’s nothing personal. I am not unfriending you, so you can see my posts, but I won’t see yours. I still care about you but you post a lot about politics and it causes me stress. It’s not wrong that you post things like that and I don’t necessarily disagree with what you post. I just need to create a stress-free environment on social media for my mental health. Thanks for understanding. Please let me know if you have questions.”
Maybe in the future (for example, after a big election) you can check in on their profile to see if they are posting less and refollow them.
Consider Groups and Pages You Follow
Another thing that keeps me on social media is that I’m on a few groups that have been helpful in my life. There are also organization pages I like to be updated on. These are all positive things in my life.
Here are some Facebook groups that I like having in my newsfeed:
- The Marinelli’s have a private family page. We post things about our kids or things we’re doing we don’t really want to post on our profile but that we want to share with the family.
- Bullet Journaling is a tool I use both to organize my daily life as well as my prayer life, Bible study, and writing. I’m on a page of fellow journalers where we post ideas of how we use our journals.
- Gardening pages. Gardening is a hobby of mine and these groups are great for asking questions and getting information about how to have a successful garden.
- Nonprofits I support. It’s great to see what these groups are up to. Seeing stories of how these organizations are making an impact is encouraging.
I have unfollowed any pages that post things that elicit arguments between its members, even if it’s a topic I’m interested in.
Set A Time Limit
I found that if I allow myself to be on social media all hours of the day, I will be checking it at all hours of the day. It’s a nervous habit. It’s an escape from whatever is going on at the moment. My hands need to be doing something and my phone is at my fingertips. This keeps me from engaging in what is happening around me. This is especially important when my family is around, but it also keeps me more focused when I’m working.
As I mentioned, I use social media a lot for marketing. If you search “when to post on social media” on Google, you will see that 11am-2pm is the highest traffic time, therefore I allow myself to be on social media from 10am-3pm Monday-Saturday. No social media on Sunday. For you it may be during your lunch hour (Noon-1pm) and after dinner (6-10pm). I find myself only checking in one time on some days since I started limiting my time. Having this limit has allowed me to be more present.
When I’m trying to focus on my son I will put my phone in another room.
Limiting social media has allowed me time I didn’t think I had to do other things. What have you wanted more time for? For example, I wanted to read more. Times I would normally be on social media, I will grab a book instead. I’ve also found that sewing by hand is a good way to keep my hands busy while still being able to focus on other things. For you it might be something else.
You don’t have to get rid of social media. There are great things that come from it. You just have to be wise about how you use it.