As an introvert I’ve always enjoyed social media and seen it as a delightful way to connect, yet without the overwhelm that goes with too much peopling.
But lately that’s changed, and I’ve found social media unpleasant, overwhelming, irritating. Too many selfies, too much meanness, too much posturing, too much phoniness – just too much!
I also got fed up with all the virtue signalling and judgement: See what a fine mother I am because I’m tearing into this other mother for doing whatever; See how morally righteous I am because I’m spouting all this feminist/political/whatever rhetoric; See how conscious I am because I’m condemning someone for using a disposable whatever.
I was getting judgemental about all the judgement!
(I suspect people who genuinely focus on doing their personal best rarely feel the need to lecture others. I know I’m more likely to act superior about something I struggle with. But that’s a whole other conversation…)
Ironically, while feeling cantankerous about what I was seeing, I simultaneously felt compelled to check in all the time – was I getting likes? was there something new and life-changing to see? was my follower count going up?
So here’s what I did. I stepped away from my accounts and did some thinking about how I could make social media fun and productive again. I came up with 7 steps that address both:
- The what of social media – the content you consume and share
- The how of social media – the way you experience that content.
I implemented these steps for myself and I have to tell you: it feels great. Like I imagine it must feel to do an amazing cleanse – but without all the juicing and irritability. So actually maybe more like a chocolate cleanse. That’s a thing, I’m pretty sure.
Anyway, perhaps you’d like to give my social media detox a go yourself? If so, here are the steps.
Step 1: Streamline Your Social Media Accounts
You don’t have to be on everything or the latest thing or anything at all, really. Just consider which social networks give you a positive experience.
If you’re not sure, no need to delete the account – but consider deleting the app from your phone and see if you miss it.
Step 2: Unfollow Liberally
I know some people hate-follow certain accounts, and I get it – there’s a perverse pleasure in getting yourself all riled up.
But however understandable, I want a happier feeling from my social media, so I’ve unfollowed* anyone on Insta or Facebook who:
- Asks me to ‘like on my way through’
- Posts an abundance of selfies
- Is a brand or business I’m not interested in any more.
Just to clarify: I’m not saying you shouldn’t do these things, or that there’s anything wrong with them – I’m saying I don’t want them in my feed.
* On Facebook you can unfollow without unfriending, which is a nice mellow way to get stuff off your news feed without upsetting anyone. If you’d rather unfriend – go for it.
Be a minimalist and declutter your feed. Toss out whatever wastes your time, energy, or emotion. Life is short – save it for the good stuff!Be a minimalist and declutter your feed. Toss out whatever wastes your time, energy, or emotion. Life is short - save it for the good stuff!Click To Tweet
Step 3: Turn Off Notifications
This one is powerful. Get rid of those little numbers that compel you to check in. It’s so liberating!
Just pop into your setttings, scroll down to a social account, turn off notifications, repeat.
Now the corollary to this is that you can’t replace notifications with rabid refreshing and checking in. Instead, try to limit yourself to checking in at certain times of the day. For instance:
- After breakfast in the morning, for 10 minutes
- After lunch, before heading back to your desk
- After dinner, before you settle in to watch Netflix or SBS On Demand.
My suggestion is 10 minutes a session, three times a day. But decide what works for you and see how that feels. You can always tweak it.
Step 4: Rethink Your Posting Strategy
This is especially relevant if you have professional profiles, as I do.
But even if not, it’s worth thinking about what your sharing strategy is. Here’s mine, as an example.
- On Instagram I actually deleted everything and decided to start afresh. For me Insta is an aesthetic profile, and I want mine to look beautiful, so I only want to share pretty things, or at least things prettily photographed. I’ve even started scheduling posts so I can plan the overall design. It’s surprising how happy it makes me to look at this visual plan!
- On my Facebook author page I’m going to post images and links relevant to my book and blog. Simple, really.
- My personal Facebook profile is for interacting with friends so there I’ll post personal updates and
silly stuffhighbrow academic discussions.
- I’m new to Pinterest but it seems a good fit for my book readers, so I’ll investigate what to post there.
Step 5: Clean Up Your Profiles
I did this not long ago when I had some professional photos done, so my main profiles are up-to-date. But I’ve included it as a step for you because it will feel great.
Update your photo, check that your bio and other details are what you want to have out there, and take a fresh look at your cover images.
Like a mini online makeover.
Step 6: Be ‘Just Friends’ With Your Phone
(Don’t Take It To Bed Or Dinner Or Cuddle Up On The Sofa)
Once you’ve made it through steps one through five, it’s time to break up with your phone. Let’s face it – the relationship has become codependent and dysfunctional. You need to say, Phone, let’s just be friends.
- Don’t take your phone to dinner or out with friends
Instead of it being a presence at the table, leave your phone in your bag. It’s time to lead more separate lives. When you’re with people, be with the people. When you check your phone, check your phone. But do it later.
- Don’t have your phone with you when you’re relaxing
Leave it in another room so you’re not tempted to interrupt your reading or look away from the show or from whatever you’re doing. Do the thing you’re doing.
- Don’t take your phone to bed
Say goodbye to being friends with benefits. And by benefits I mean alarms. Go old school and get an alarm clock. If you want your phone nearby for emergencies at night, put it in flight mode and turn off the volume.
- Don’t wake up together
Resist the urge to check social media as soon as you wake up. This will be a challenge! Take pleasure in stretching, breathing, and being with yourself first. Save your check-in till that first session you planned in step three.
In essence, be with who you’re with, do what you’re doing, enjoy the moment, experience one thing at a time. It’s very Zen. And it feels like a breath of fresh air.Be with who you're with, do what you're doing, enjoy the moment, experience one thing at a time. It's very Zen. And it feels like a breath of fresh air.Click To Tweet
Step 7: Don’t Be Part Of The Noise
The final step is an important one.
Even if the accounts you follow are exactly what you want to see, the comments will inevitably make you want to gouge out your own organs in despair.
Of course as we all know, nobody’s political or religious views are changed by a Facebook comment. Nobody’s behaviour is transformed by a judgmental online tirade. Nobody’s life is enhanced by hearing every other person’s two cents worth.
Also, and I don’t mean to shock you, but there will always be people who are stupid, mean, thoughtless, clueless, having a bad day, caught up in their own pain. This will never change.
So… how to deal with the pointless arguing and nastiness?
My aim for myself is to not be part of this social media noise. To try and feel detached from the hubbub when it crosses my path, to let it scroll by.My aim for myself is to not be part of this social media noise. To try and feel detached from the hubbub when it crosses my path, to let it scroll by.Click To Tweet
To fill my feeds with as much intelligence and art and beauty and humour as I can, and to let that drown out the rest.
To create and share content of my own that aims for intelligence and art and beauty and humour.
Along with the other detox steps, this is already making my social media far more uplifting and positive.