How to Prune Your Social Media and Reclaim Your Joy in 5 Simple Steps

Or how to stop the dreaded, "compare and despair" feelings.

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In 2016 I got myself off social media. I was barely active again until the end of 2019. My relationship with social has completely changed. Yes, this is sounding like the beginning of a social media addicts anonymous meeting (which I’d bet most of us would secretly want to attend). But it’s true. 

 I was seeking perfection, comparing myself to highlight reels, wondering why I wasn’t skiing the French Alps. But I was playing the game too. Trying to keep up with travel photos and cute angles. No big deal, just another day in paradise! But I wasn’t in paradise. In fact, most people who are trying so hard to show you their perfect life are actually struggling (maybe even more than you). 

 I’ve watched so many people use their social media accounts as often as they breathe air, and with as little acknowledgement of their choice to do so. And their faces all say the same thing when they’re done getting their fix. Their eyes avert, the phone slowly goes back in their pocket. There’s such a clear energy shift. They’re drained, feeling deeply flawed and wildly imperfect. It’s terrible to see, and I’ve been there. You deserve better. We all do. Imagine yourself (actually) being excited about getting onto Instagram or Facebook! What would it be like to truly looked forward to what you’re about to see and learn? Let me tell you, it will liberate you. 

I now logoff feeling joyful, uplifted or educated. Social media is a powerful tool. But how we choose to use it is where we reclaim our own power. What game are you playing to win on social? 

Now, let your heart rate come back to resting, because I’m not asking you to get off for 3 years. I’m going to give you the 5 steps of how to do what I did in a week. I want you to feel good, fast and change your experience. Ready? 

1. Prep Your Social Swap. 

I had tried multiple times before being off social media to delete it. But I couldn’t. The reason was simple: I didn’t know what to swap it for so I’d return to my habit. Avoid my mistake and decide, what you’ll do instead. Have you been wanting to paint but saying you just can’t find the time? Have a backlog of books calling your name? Wishing you’d get outside more but just “too busy”? 

Add up the time you’re on social each day, multiply it by 5 and question if you now have the time to do any of those things that bring you joy. You totally do! Now, make a “me list” of what will make you feel full again these next 5 days and put it on your fridge, phone background and reminders. For me, it was podcasting and listening to audio books like crazy. It was getting in shape. Learning how to cook (still questionable there tbh).

 2. Go Cold Turkey. 

Plan for just 5 days that you’ll stop using the social platforms where you’re a regular. Put up your Instagram OOO. Tell Facebook you’ll BRB. And then log out and delete. Delete the apps from your phone and your bookmarks on your computer. Make it difficult to automatically login. Give yourself space to make a more conscious choice. 

This is the simplest and most difficult step. But you got it! You’re prepared with your “me” list! Take a deep breath, release it and focus on enjoying your real life.

3. Explore. 

On day 4 of the detox, start asking yourself the question, “When I’m back on social, what would I like to be looking at?” Think back to your “me list”. Consider what makes you feel energized and alive. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. Maybe you want to see more how-to videos on pickling or finally learn how to French braid. Perhaps more good news could be uplifting! Make notes on what these energizers are. 

4. Quietly Return to the Scene and Prune. 

Ok, you made it! Day 6! Today is pruning day. Get the apps back. You have your “me list”. You know what you want to see more of. There will likely be a clear misalignment with what you see when you’re back. That’s great! You have fresh eyes, an energized soul and clear direction. Start looking at your feed objectively to prune. 

This is where your FOMO will wake up. Your fears of being on the “outside” of a falsely elevated group will try to take over. Your brain will not want you to do this. So, let’s bring in some Marie Kondo here. Ask yourself objectively, “Based on what I know now, does this account bring me joy?”. Answer fast and answer with your gut, not your excuses. Hit “unfollow”. 

Now, if it’s your crazy frenemy who will totally notice she lost a follower, start by muting her stories and feed. And then ask yourself,

 • Does this person truly care about me? 

 • Would I invite her to my wedding if I had a 30 guest limit?

 • And would she be at my funeral? 

You’ll feel empowered to unfollow her pretty quickly if you answer honestly. And if she goes as far as to reach out and ask, tell her you would love to keep up with her, but you’d prefer to do it over the phone. Now mark today’s date. If she calls in a week, I owe you 5 bucks.

Back to your “me list” and notes on what you DO want to see. For every few people you silence or unfollow, replace them. This is a reward your brain needs. Look for cooking and underwater basket weaving accounts through searches and hashtags. People are out there creating delicious content you deserve to see and be uplifted by. 

5. Party for Your Progress. This week was not easy, but it will be rewarding. Celebrate that you had the nerve to try it. And keep going. It’s a journey. Keep looking for what accounts light you up and conversely what accounts make you “compare and despair”, as a close friend calls it. 

Portrait of young woman holding lights

There will be continuous glimmers of light, where you start to enjoy your life so much that the frenemies and non-funeral attendees will matter to you less and less. You’ll see who you truly want to give your precious time, love and attention to. And you’ll start doing it more IRL. Something that can feel as benign as social media and your experience of it will transform how you show up for others. And ultimately, how you show up for yourself. Happy pruning!     

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