Wisdom//

How to Use Social Media for More Mindful Connections

For starters, follow accounts that make you feel good.

Phunkod/ Shutterstock
Phunkod/ Shutterstock

Once primarily an outlet for creative expression, Instagram has morphed into a real-time competition to build cadres of followers. But enough is apparently enough. The company has announced plans to move back to being a platform blooming with inspiration and good intentions — or at least to address the mental health concerns lodged against it.

Instagram’s executives plan to experiment with hiding numbers of likes and follows. Their goal? To allow people to connect for all the right reasons rather than join in what some have described as a popularity contest. Some Instagrammers like Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness haven’t waited for company-led changes: They’ve made them on their own.

Van Ness’s Instagram feed chronicles his attempts to learn figure skating, a longtime dream of his. The most attractive thing about his videos is that they don’t pressure others into being like him, but rather encourage viewers to tackle their own passion projects. It’s a positive direction that’s leaving fans eager and excited. He’s prioritizing his physical and mental health — ideally what Instagram should foster.

“To see Van Ness finally able to complete a spin — on one foot — and go on to do a routine, all within a month’s time, was inspiring to me,” writes Quartz video journalist Stevie Borrello, “especially as the responsibilities of work, running errands like grocery shopping, doing basic apartment upkeep, and, if I’m lucky, having enough time to prep meals each week, crowd out any thoughts of committing to a long-term goal or dream.”

Put a Positive Spin on Your Instagram Use

If you’ve felt depleted by the side of Instagram that breeds envy, lowered self-worth, and addiction, you have a choice. You can either drop off the ’gram grid entirely or make intentional changes in the way you use the platform. If you choose the latter, adopt these strategies to stay on a more optimistic track.

1. Follow accounts that give you hope.

Determine to follow accounts that lift you up (and drop the ones that don’t). Van Ness isn’t the only person pushing for positivity. Plenty of nonprofits leverage Instagram as a platform to spread hope in the context of tough issues such as mental health and what it means to be transgender. Plus, there are accounts dedicated to helping you understand more about yourself, such as the numerous Enneagram accounts that explore each personality type.

Even politicians and celebrities have used Instagram to show how normal their lives are when the cameras stop rolling. Followers love seeing favorites like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez share deep thoughts while whipping up a relatively unexciting meal in the kitchen. Seeing famous people as they really are will enable you to feel more comfortable in your own skin, and it can increase your sense of shared humanity. Who knows? You might even bring hope to one of your followers as you spread the strength that comes from humility and self-awareness.

2. Seek out like-minded professionals.

A survey from Dun & Bradstreet’s MDR division shows that 82% of teachers use Instagram, and it’s actually surpassed Pinterest as teachers’ second-favorite social media platform. Teaching is tough, but educators lean on each other through Instagram. By talking about struggles and epiphanies, they not only forge professional bonds, but also help one another become stronger, smarter role models.

As Tennessee art teacher Cassie Stephens notes, “I feel like I have this community of teachers that kinda get me, whereas before it’s always been a lonely island syndrome.” Some instructors have even turned flourishing Instagram accounts into side hustles. No matter what career path you’re on, you can certainly find someone walking the same path who would love the opportunity for some cross-pollination of ideas.

3. Use social media to keep yourself honest.

What goals have you constantly back-burnered — starting a novel, training for a 5K, spending less on Amazon? Hold yourself accountable to not only start but finish your mini and macro journeys by sharing your goals and progress on Instagram. By making your objectives public, you increase the likelihood of success. Even if you don’t get where you thought you would, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment because you got somewhere.

Many Instagrammers document similar life challenges, whether it’s becoming a better money manager, cleaning like Marie Kondo, or getting ready for a bodybuilding contest. Another benefit of putting everything out there is that you can celebrate your progress by seeing just how far your determination takes you.

It’s easy to view Instagram as a distraction from your life goals. However, it’s far more meaningful to use it as a place for self-improvement. Join the ranks of intentional Instagrammers who are turning the space into a venue for bettering themselves and their communities, not buttering up people who are just in it for themselves.

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