I often hear stories of people, celebrities and regular folks alike, quitting social media, only to return. Maybe it’s not about quitting, but pinpointing what works and what doesn’t. But how do we figure out what works for us?
Knowledge Equals Power
Understanding social media’s ecosystem makes it easier to benefit from the good and stave off the nasty parts of social networking. This can mean not letting it take over your time, productivity, attention, confidence, and peace of mind.
It’s important to note that you’re not alone when it comes to feeling the negative effects of social media.
Like most technology, social media comes with benefits, but at a price. If you believe that being on social media wreaks havoc on your life, here are ways to deconstruct the issue and hopefully find your happy medium.
Your Goals and Role
One way to analyze how social media affects us is by first figuring out your goals. Knowing what you want to get out of the platform streamlines your use of it and allows you to have a clear goal. Purposeful use prevents mindless use.
Be honest. What do you want to get out of it? Entertainment? Consume news? Gossip? Make yourself feel good about your life and yourself? Are you using it to become popular?
Additionally, define your role. First, do you want to create or consume content, or both? Second, identify your status or dream status on the platform, whether you have or want celebrity or influencer level or have a modest followers of family and friends.
Technology and Social-Psychology
Creating an Enemy
It’s been 20 years since the launch of the first social media platforms, and we know more about how social media affects us, individually and collectively. We understand that the current business model nudges us to stay longer and to remain active on the platform. Negative and controversial content engages us, but it compromises our wellbeing.
In short, be weary of toxic people or accounts that create an enemy to gain engagement.
Finding Your People
To keep us entertained, the recommendation engine tends to place us in silos. It detects what we want, and makes sure we find like-minded people and similar ideas. For this reason, social media can make us feel like we belong. However, this also makes us more intolerant of other ways of thinking.
It’s fine to feel belonging, but if you start feeling antagonistic, assess what drives it. And remember that other people are in a silo too, probably frustrated by the other side as well.
Compared to the first versions of social media platforms, which were meant for the desktop and limited wi-fi capability, our phones keep us connected constantly. This changes how we interact in terms of immediate and impulsive actions.
The temptation to post or find out what’s going on is always there. In short, the platforms ask more of our attention and we require more self-control. Do you have a way to limit your use and not get addicted or obsessed?
Comments Are Content
Aside from posts, when on social media, we also consume comments. And they follow similar rules: negative comments get the attention. As Jennifer Aniston puts it in a 2021 Hollywood Reporter Interview:
Now you’ve got social media. It’s almost like the media handed over the sword to any Joe Schmo sitting behind a computer screen to be a troll or whatever they call them and bully people in comments sections.Jennifer Aniston
And a warning, the negative comments lingers more than the positive. In an interview with GQ, Roger Federer talks about the effect of negative comments.
I can’t imagine going through the beginning of my career with social media; I have no clue how I would have handled it. For every ten nice comments there’s always one negative comment and, of course, that is the one you focus on. It’s a horrible situation. Even when I am feeling down I know I need to act a certain way in front of the world’s press. We need to remember that tennis players are athletes and professionals, but we are also human too.
We can’t stop negative comments. Therefore, have a strategy that works for you when it comes to dealing with them. Comments might not be directed towards you, but against someone you follow and admire.
Additionally for some people, a post without interaction or comment, can also feel like a negative one. So if you do decide to create content, know how to address these moments.
When we post content, we express a part of ourselves. The ease in which we broadcast our thoughts might seem like a win for self-expression, but that’s not always the case. As Zadie Smith explains:
I have seen on Twitter, I’ve seen it at a distance, people have a feeling at 9am quite strongly, and then by 11 have been shouted out of it and can have a completely opposite feeling four hours later. That part, I find really unfortunate.
I want to have my feeling, even if it’s wrong, even if it’s inappropriate, express it to myself in the privacy of my heart and my mind. I don’t want to be bullied out of it.
I’m not saying I have all the answers to navigating social media, but I have experienced the highs and lows of the platforms. Opting not to quit all social media platforms and instead find ways to make it work for me, helps. Not all social media outlets are the same. And maybe quitting works sometimes. That’s OK too.
An example of how I use social media: during fires here in California, I rely on Twitter for updates. On Instagram, watching videos of dogs rescued and finding forever homes make me happy. LinkedIn connects me with former colleagues and opens career opportunities. The other day, I learned a new way to cook pasta that’s supposed to save me time.