Whether we care to admit it or not, social media platforms are transforming the way we communicate. From business opportunities to influencing the stock market and making hedge fund managers cringe, relationship advice, or simply passing the time until your next Zoom meeting, the digital world is taking our everyday lives by storm. According to a Forbes report, it was estimated that 53% of the world’s population (4.02 billion) were internet users just three years ago (Shaw, 2018). Personally, like many things in the world, if used in moderation social media can be of great value. For those with ill-witted views of the world, chances are they may be using platforms for alternative reasons. Regardless, it is a hard place to be for the most disciplined of individuals and can lead to unhealthy habits and skewed beliefs. It is with these observations that I find a healthy social media diet to be as critical to our lives as anything else. The following will provide only a few ways to remain lean when it comes to your digital diet.
FOLLOW THE LEADERS
I have found it most prudent to follow a combination of friends and professionals on all my platforms. To be honest, I am a bit old school and enjoy seeing what my friends are up to and messaging them to catch up or share words of encouragement.
On a more serious level, I follow and engage in the pages of people who I may not know personally but admire and would like to obtain a set of skills or develop a similar habit. In the end, you would be doing yourself a favor by prioritizing people who embody a lifestyle or image that you can stand by.
BECOME ACTIVE BROWSERS
There are lots of ways to become active browsers depending on your comfort level. What works for me is knowing what I am looking for before logging in. This is especially true during the week. If what I am looking for does not pique my interest, it is time to walk away. Weekends are different. Because I do agree that social media can be used for fun, weekends are when I let my personality shine and unpretentiously allow my followers to get to know my lifestyle better.
In previous articles, I have mentioned my social media habits which include removing applications from phones and only logging in from a web browser. This remains true unless I need to upload photos which may require downloading the application.
One thing to note is that I am careful about potential ads and “breaking news”, given the influx of divisiveness and fabricated reports. You know the ones, in large bold black print outlined in yellow. They often lead to false narratives.
Recently, the New York Times detailed the imperative nature to regulate many platforms due to the influence or promulgation of certain images and ideologies (Frank, 2021). Case in point, if you really want to know something, do your research.
DEVELOP AN INTENTIONAL APPROACH
Your online presence can vary depending on the platform which only makes sense. You would not post the same content from LinkedIn as you would on Pinterest, and your Instagram page is unlikely to resemble text-heavy sites. However, to deviate from the person you represent is not only a waste of time, but it could also hurt you in the long run.
The other day I was locked into a LinkedIn Learning session on a topic one would assume unrelated to social media – Assuming the Mindset of a Hiring Manager. Led by a Wharton Business School career coach, the session highlighted tips to set yourself apart and ques to reduce the chances of having your resume dislodged prematurely. What I did not expect was her advice on social media presence.
With more users taking advantage of their profiles in creative ways, she highlighted the importance of having your pages align with your personal brand. It many ways you can use it to leverage your skillsets and have your potential employer really see the depth of who you are as a person.
As you make your way down the rabbit hole because your self-control got the best of you, it is easy to compare lifestyles. Note to self, social media is nothing more than a highlight reel. It is a culmination of our accolades and best moments. Do not get me wrong, once in a blue moon, an occasional real-life moment will surface in your feed (e.g., an illness, job loss, or heart-breaking moment) that moves you to come to terms with life in its good and ugly forms.
Behind the scenes, self-loathing can haunt you, if you refuse to put things into perspective and accept what is presented as reality. It can be triggering, especially when you neglect to consider the context behind every story. Always keep in mind that most things in life are not what they appear to be.
KNOW WHEN TO DISCONNECT
According to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, a depression-free person is not barred from developing systems after using social media over the span of several months. They found systems in those using platforms as little as two hours per day. For young adults in the range of 3.5 – 5 hours per day, their symptoms were exceedingly higher (Norton, 2020).
Everyone needs a break sometimes. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and uninspired do whatever it is that makes you happy, take a break. When the fear of missing out (FOMO) makes its way into your life, simply remember the alternatives; phone calls, text messages, and virtual meetings with your close connections can bring you up to speed far better than a program created with an algorithm to keep you connected.
CREATE A RULE (BONUS)
What is something you can do to really make your online experience more meaningful? How can you hold yourself accountable? These are questions worth asking and it all comes down to perception and impact. Since living purposely has always been my intention (perception) behind online content, I created the 80/20 Rule. Evaluating myself on a weekly basis I make sure to post 80% inspirational/positive messages (impact) and 20% off topics issues (sports, media, etc.) In short, the online world is filled with beneficial and frivolous content. Our influence can sway either way or a combination of both.
Social media is not the devil, nor should it be treated as such. Like a hammer used to build a home or nail to secure a set of furniture, it is a tool with many purposes. Our responsibility lies in how we use it because the outcome will inevitably be ours alone.
If you may be experiencing depression or addiction of any form, resources are available. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a comprehensive list for those who may benefit. Do not feel ashamed because at the end of the day, this is your life, and it matters more than a fictional world created for our indulgence.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.