We won’t deny it: watching the uber-edited highlights of other people’s lives and chasing the validation of likes and comments can steal hours of your day. That being said, social media can also be an invaluable mode of connection, especially for older people, those in rural areas, people with disabilities, or even just people who can’t find like-minded friends nearby. At TCS, we want to do our part to encourage positive and intentional relationships with technology of all kinds. So, this Social Media Day, we want to remind you that, with the right approach, social media can be a positive tool that fosters a sense of community. It just takes a bit of work to avoid common social media traps. Here are four quick tips to help you harness the positive power of social media.
Before you open your next social media app, take some time to think about why you use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Write down those motivations in a quick list. Do you use social media to stay in touch with your school friends? To build a client base for your small business? To connect with people who share your passion for knitting? Once you make those motivations clear for yourself, use them to guide your social media decisions. You’ll reduce mindless scrolling and approach your social media use with more positivity and intentionality.
Have you ever meditated? A major aspect of classic mindfulness techniques like meditation is bringing awareness to the thoughts and emotions that arise — observing your reactions so that you can let them go. Spend some time observing your reactions to your own social media feed. If you discover that anyone populating your feed reliably prompts your anxiety, anger, or annoyance, consider letting that person go from your feed. Hiding, muting, or un-following doesn’t mean that you’re ending or compromising that relationship; on the contrary, sometimes the best way to preserve an IRL relationship is by creating some space on social media.
Social media connections can be amazingly rewarding, but don’t let them take the place of regular in-person connection. As we all know, the “social media narrative” leaves lots out — meeting a friend for coffee or lunch is the only way you’ll get to share the stuff that’s too personal or too mundane to share online. That person whose life looks glossy and perfect on Instagram may be struggling with some of the same issues as you, but you’ll never know if you don’t reach out.
Don’t let the heading fool you: we at TCS love snacking and encourage it in all of its forms. But “snacking” can be a useful metaphor to distinguish certain social media approaches from others. Just as we envision some foods as nutrient-dense and others as nutrient-poor, we can envision social media use in the same way — some approaches nourish us, while others leave us feeling unwell. Researchers have found that people who actively engage on social media, commenting and connecting with friends, are happier on social media than those who simply “snack” by scrolling without commenting. Just like in real life, being part of a social media community works best when it’s a two-way street.
This Social Media Day, try thinking of social media as a tool that needs some training to use properly. By finding the flexible strategies that help manage our use, we can welcome a positive and healthy relationship with social media. Looking for more tips on how to establish a productive relationship with tech in general? Check out our Mental Health Awareness Month blog post.