I remember the day I signed up for Facebook. I was intentionally late to join the fray, mostly because I was wary of social media’s draw, which, for me, involved many wasted hours on Myspace and AIM in junior high school. When I started college, nearly all of my friends had Facebook accounts, but I was resolute in my decision to avoid the popular new platform. I was a self-declared Luddite, and proud of it.
Over time, though, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to join this mysterious Facebook world. I told myself that I would only use it a couple hours a week, if that. I told myself that I wouldn’t get sucked in this time. Fast forward seven years, and I have a Facebook tab open on my browser as I type this, subconsciously looking up every few minutes to see if I have any notifications. And believe me, my cell phone and apps therein are just a few inches away. This has become the new normal, and on it’s face, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve met so many wonderful people on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and many of them have become friends in “real life.” It’s fun to go online and see what college friends are up to, or to connect with distant family members.
Social media only becomes problematic when it becomes a time and emotional energy suck. I imagine I’m not the only person who feels totally drained reading posts and status updates–political or otherwise–before going to work (and again before bed…argh). And yet, enough though I know how it makes me feel, I’ll invariably log online the next day, and the day after that. Even so, it’s important that we don’t let social media control us. It isn’t a simple task: once something becomes a daily–or hourly–habit, it’s quite difficult to break, even if we know we’d be better off without it (ask any smoker). Here are some simple ways to avoid social media burnout, which can be incorporated over time and as you see fit.
How To Make Social Media Work For You, Not Against You
For every new account you follow, unfollow an account. Experts say that when making a consumer purchase–such as clothes or kitchen gadgets–you should discard or donate an existing item you own. This helps prevent clutter, but for me, it has an added psychological benefit in that I don’t feel overwhelmed with so much stimuli. The same can be said for social media; if you’re constantly adding new accounts to your feed, it’s almost inevitable that it will become burdensome. Next time you want to follow that cool yoga page on Tumblr, take inventory on what else you’re following.
Start following accounts that inspire or make you laugh. I don’t know about you, but I think these past couple years have been deeply unsettling for this country and world. Rather than following political commentators or signing up for breaking news alerts on your phone, seek to incorporate some fun and even frivolity into your social media experience. Here are some of my favorite Instagram accounts: @exhilarateHER (focuses on women’s empowerment and intersectionality); @noihsaf.bazaar (for good deals on secondhand ethically produced garments and accessories); @apartmenttherapy (home design inspo); and @clueapp (women’s health education).
Engage in activities that don’t involve your phone or computer. This one is pretty obvious, but it bears repeating. Leave your phone and tablet in your room and take a walk with a friend, watch a movie, or read a good book. I’ve learned that if I give myself time away from technology, I enjoy it more when I return. I’m not suggesting you go on a tech fast, but simply that you carve out a bit of time each day to enjoy your surroundings.
Ask yourself, “Am I gaining anything from this?” More often than not, the answer is no. I confess that I follow some people online simply because I “love to hate” them. It’s terrible, and a total waste of emotional energy that I could otherwise be using constructively. Take a look at the type of content you’re following on social media and ask yourself whether it’s serving you. Then, make a change. Life is too short to focus on anything besides what feeds and invigorates us; let your online presence reflect that.
Define what social media use means to you. Perhaps during high school, social media was the way you gossiped with your buddies or followed celeb scandals, but it doesn’t have to be that anymore. In fact, social media can be used as a business tool that allows you to curate your own brand through the content you post and the way you interact others. Think about how you want to present yourself–or how a potential client or employer may see your accounts. Try to strike a balance between personal/authentic and professional/polished.
Be selective about what you post. When it comes to your social media accounts reflecting your personal brand, the key is being selective about the photos, blurbs, and links you share. Keep in mind that you don’t have to post literally everything you snap a photo of or share every thought that comes to mind. Rather, consider how what you’re about to share contributes to the larger “picture” that is your online presence. Over time, this will allow you to build a coherent presence that represents your best self.
Take inspiration from others but avoid direct comparison. Some people on social media are actually professionals at building and sharing social media content. Their accounts can be an excellent way to learn and be inspired, but it’s important to avoid trying to make your accounts look just like theirs. Bring your own creative flair and authentic touch to your posts–they’ll resonate more with your followers and you’ll have a better time sharing!
How do you make social media work for you?
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