Learning to love social media

Do you find yourself checking social media 24/7 — fearful you’ll miss friends’ posts
while dreading yet more shots of trendy girlfriends in gorgeous clothes or loved-up couples in swanky restaurants? Perhaps it’s time to stop clicking and start thinking how to make the most of this powerful tool.

Social media has become such an integral part of our lives it’s easy to forget that it’s only been around for a few years. Those born in the late 1990s onwards have never known a world without ‘likes’, 140 character-limit messages or making your meal Instagram-ready.

Communication has broadened and reached further around the world because of social media. It’s done wonderful things to bring together like-minded people and to shrink the world virtually. People who in previous decades would most likely never have met in real life can find each other through similar interests, share their knowledge and in some cases create deep friendships and supportive communities. There are many positives in the creation and growth of social media.

What stories are you telling yourself?

How often do you scroll through social media, seeing images of a group of friends having fun or a beautifully decorated, tidy living room, and imagine the people who posted these photos live this way all the time? They’re constantly having wonderful, carefree, fabulous experiences with their equally fabulous friends. Or their whole house is chic, neat and perfectly styled with no mess to be seen. There’s a minuscule chance these stories we tell ourselves are true: it’s not impossible, but it is highly improbable. When you stop to think for a moment you know that no one lives life as a 24/7 party. Everyone has to do the mundane, ordinary things at some point, usually every day, and no one spends every waking minute in a social whirlwind. Nobody lives in an immaculate show home, everyone has a pile of washing up, laundry that needs folding, unopened mail and general homely clutter.

By being aware of how you’re feeling and what you’re telling yourself as you scroll through social media, you’re better able to see it for what it is, and not let it negatively impact your mood or feelings of self-worth. You can’t control what others post, but you can decide how much of it you view and how you respond to it.

Your social media presence

As well as considering how you soak up and respond to social media, it’s worth considering your personal contribution to the digital world. What you share is your choice and your responsibility. Once you’ve posted it online it’s out there, forever. You can limit who sees your updates to an extent, but it’s still worth giving some thought to how posts could affect your life or that of your family.

A simple rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t say it in a room full of people, don’t say it on social media. Think about who could see your posts — other family members, friends, colleagues, employers, customers? How will the people you feature in your posts feel about it, even in a few years’ time? A video of your child in full cabaret mode makes for a sweet and funny post — will they see it that way when they’re older?

Take a break

Declaring a self-imposed digital ban for days on end is not necessarily practical or sustainable. But simple rules — say, no scrolling in the first hour of the day, while eating or after 9pm may be more achievable.

Social media is a powerful and brilliant tool. But it is just that: A tool. You decide how often to use it, you choose how much of yourself to invest in it and you have a say in how you respond to other people’s content. Use social media to connect with others, to learn, find kindred spirits, be inspired, be motivated, share knowledge and see the beauty in the world. In this way — by establishing boundaries and being mindful of your usage as well as your reactions — you’re more likely to enjoy a healthy relationship with social media.

This article was originally published in Issue 5, Breathe Magazine – Start Believing.