We have never been more connected - or disconnected, in human history. The internet and social media outlets allow us to connect in amazing ways. I met my husband through an internet dating website. I have met many of my friends through common online groups. I learn so much through groups and pages I follow. When used correctly, these avenues can be beautiful and amazing ways to connect, keep in touch, learn, grow, and become a better human.
In the same breath, these outlets deeply disconnect us, insight conflict, and lead to terrible things from addiction and bullying to death. Suicide accounts for 13% of teenage deaths in the United States. Social media is one of the biggest contributing factors to depression, loneliness, and anxiety in adolescents and adults. Social media creates a breeding ground for predators, extremism, and comparing perfectly presented lives to our own.
Because this is such a relatively new thing, with problems and issues that we have never encountered before and few rules to regulate its use, we must take on the task ourselves to practice self-control and self-care surrounding the media.
Constant media consumption can be mentally and emotionally exhausting and draining. Especially when our feeds are filled with negativity, sadness, despair, and all the bad things happening in the world. Personally, I can’t quit social media altogether as it is my job and a tool for connection. So I have come up with my own plan for media self-care.
Here are some steps I have taken to be more aware of my media consumption:
I limit screen time and content I am viewing. One of the very first things that I cut out was news and commercials. Mute commercials, install ad blockers. Turn off the tv when it’s emotionally draining. If you absolutely have to watch/listen, give yourself a time limit, and stick to it. Many smartphones have internal settings to put a time limit on apps, and if there isn’t one already built-in, you can download an app.
All screens need a curfew because they all emit blue light. Blue light exposure may increase the risk of macular degeneration, contributes to digital eye strain, headaches, and fatigue. Blue light interrupts sleep schedules by throwing off circadian rhythm, and it affects our levels of melatonin and REM. If screens are absolutely necessary, add a blue light filter, dim the brightness or use blue light glasses.
Social media like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter all use algorithms to show you targeted content. If you start seeing a lot of negative things on your feed, start “liking” more educational, positive and happy things, and watch how fast it changes.
Don’t be afraid to cut out the toxic. If something you are seeing bothers, offends, or creates a negative feeling inside you, get rid of it. To improve your feed, unfollow pages, mute, block, or unfriend people and groups that aren’t creating happiness or value.
Seek out positivity, connection, and learning. Find pages and groups about what interests you, where you can make like-minded friends. Fill your feed with things that will add value to your life. I find pages that give me healthy affirmations so that when I am mindlessly scrolling, I am including affirmations that help bring me back to the present. Consciously start choosing and creating spaces that benefit you.
Check out different platforms. I have noticed that Facebook tends to be more negative in content and the way people interact with each other, whereas Instagram has a more positive push. Pinterest is a good place for learning. TikTok may be the happiest place on the internet. Find a platform that will help you meet your social media goals.
We have to find ways to combat comparing. Iyanlay Vanzent said it best: “Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” If we find ourselves comparing and feeling like our lives don’t seem as amazing as the lives presented online, we need to look at why. Try to divert your thoughts to what is good about your life. Encourage realness by being raw. Post pictures of the not great, the ugly, the not perfect. Show others your real authentic self without filters.
Don’t be afraid to take a break. One day, a week, a month, just on weekends - whatever you can commit to will do you good. We have to remember that social media is a tool for us. WE get to choose what it does and how it affects us.