I have taken more breaks with social media than Ross and Rachel. It has been the most toxic, on-again-off-again relationship of my life. But I have finally started to figure out how to have a healthier relationship with social media, and technology in general. It’s not the apps themselves that are harmful, it’s the way I use them. Knowing that, I’m becoming a more conscious consumer of content. I’m mindful of who I follow and, more importantly, why.
That’s the big one. Why do you follow the accounts that you follow? Are they friends you want to keep in touch with? Are they strangers who offer inspiration? Do they make you laugh, think, feel? Or have you not really put too much thought into at all?
I ran a poll on my Instagram stories this week, in an effort to better understand my audience. If I’m going to be online, I want to add value to their lives and create content they want to consume. However, I realized that most people don’t really know what content they want to consume. They just consume it, mindlessly scrolling out of boredom.
That’s the trap. By the time we swipe our thumb up on our screen, blindly find the Instagram app, tap it open and start scrolling, we’re already sucked in without realizing it. We don’t even know how we got there.
I think this is just one of the downfalls of the social media machine and a big reason we all feel not so great about using it. We still use it, of course. I’ve certainly tried to quit more than once, always coming back for more. I’ve come to the conclusion that its a necessary evil.
Whether you’re using it to make money through paid sponsorships, build an audience platform to sell your next book, or just use it to stay in touch with friends and family, it’s not realistic to be off the stuff for good.
So, what can we do? How can we exist with this technology and use it in a way that adds value to our lives? My suggestion is setting boundaries, becoming conscious of how we’re using these apps and what type of content we’re consuming.
Below are a few ways I’ve set boundaries with social media. So far, they’re working. I still feel like being on social is a gigantic waste of time. But it is serving a purpose, at least for the time being.
1. Deleting the apps off your phone
I’ve done this a few times. Right now, I just keep the Instagram app on my phone, because I’m making a push to build a stronger platform there. But the idea is to delete the apps off your phone, even if just for a week, to see how often you find yourself flipping open your screen and looking for the apps. It’s a lot more often than you realize. Another trick I’ve tried is grouping all the social media apps into the same folder, moving that folder to the last screen of apps and titling it something that forces me to pay attention. Like “Bored?” or “Are you sure?”. You can also try signing out every time you leave the app. That way, when you go back and it asks you to sign in, you get to pause for a moment to decide whether you really need to be there.
I’ve put together a guidebook to help you prepare for your time offline, if you’re ready to experiment with your own social media detox. It’s short and sweet and offers all the resources you need to spend your time off the apps successfully and productively. You can access that, here.
2. Unfollowing people you don’t know/don’t add value
We forget that we are in control of who we follow online. Over the years, I had followed thousands of strangers around the Internet and when I signed back online after being away for so long I realized I had no reason to be following most of them. I started to become much more mindful of who I was following. In an effort to gain followers I had started following anyone and everyone in order to get followed back. This left me consuming the content of a bunch of strangers. So, when I signed back online, I would scroll through my Instagram feed and stop myself every time I saw an account I didn’t recognize or didn’t necessarily enjoy, and I’d unfollow them. In the process, I lost a ton of followers, like 50 in a week from what I remember. But, as much as I’m back online to focus on building my platform, followers who aren’t consuming my content and instead only liking me because I liked them are not the audience I’m focused on growing. Now when I go on Instagram, I enjoy myself. I see content that makes me laugh, think, feel. It motivates me to try new things. It’s content I want to be consuming.
3. Privatize your private accounts
When it came to my personal accounts, I made them super private and deleted anybody who I didn’t personally know and regularly interacted with. Now when I post about my family and my kids, I know who is consuming that content. I know it is only people I am allowing to see it, the friends and family who care to see it. This made me a lot more comfortable posting updates, which I had missed doing but started hating because I didn’t like strangers seeing pictures of my kids and my vacations. Now I can share updates with friends and family and keep up with theirs in a way that makes more sense to me.
4. Find alternatives to relieve boredom
Finally, the best boundary to set is to find alternatives to these apps. We don’t NEED to be on social media as much as we are. We go there because we’re bored. We’re nursing the baby for the millionth time that day. We’re sitting in the waiting room. We’re lying in bed at the end of the day too tired to do anything else. But, there are alternatives. I wrote an entire post about productive alternatives to social media. You can read that here. My favorite is PODCASTS! That’s why I decided to start my own. But in general, I’d say find other fun ways to use your phone. Or bring books with you when you know you’re going to be waiting somewhere. Or just enjoy the moment of silence and stillness. Just sit there and be. I fear we’re forgetting how to do that.
These are just a few ways I’ve come up with to set boundaries with social media. And it’s helping! I’m more mindful of the content I’m consuming and I’m more conscious about the content I am creating. If we’re going to be here anyway, I want to at least make it a place that adds value to our lives. Not insecurity, judgment, self-doubt, and loneliness.
One of my favorite ways to stop scrolling and be more productive is listening to podcasts. That’s why I started my own, the Perfcked Podcast, to talk about all of this with people who, for one reason or another, have to show up online. How do they manage the pressure of showing up online and balance that with the passion to pursue whatever it is they’re after? We could all learn a thing or two about developing a healthier relationship with social media, and who better to learn from than people just like us who happen to be making a living doing it. TUNE IN NOW! Available anywhere you get podcasts.