Pondering the topic of social media and its manifold ills, I was thinking about the concept of time as relates to self-awareness.
Specifically, I was thinking about these concepts in terms of what to do about the predicament we now find ourselves in re: social media making us feel bad about ourselves, about others and about the world we live in; essentially minimising our ability to meaningfully communicate with each other. I then thought, this is the perfect opportunity to write something on social media about it!
Whilst broad strategies governing the use of social media in the home, schools, and workplaces certainly need to be explored, given that these responses are likely to be protracted, in the meantime, it might help to think about how we might mitigate the deleterious effects of social media by taking responsibility for how we engage with it, right now.
As I was thinking about these ideas, I realised that they reminded me of another mitigating strategy stemming from another pervasive social trend, decluttering and minimalism, respectively. Many of the approaches recommended for getting rid of material stuff can be applied to how we hold onto social media and how we choose to engage with it:
1. Ask yourself how does this make me feel right now?
When you log onto the social media site, ask yourself ‘how does this make me feel, right now?’
Bored, overwhelmed, jealous, irritated, uninspired, inferior, superior, unworthy or interested, joyous, amazed, energetic, grateful, appreciated, excited and confident?
Are there one or two social media platforms that makes you feel inspired and energetic but one or two that make you feel despondent, cynical or lethargic?
If there are a couple of sites that are making you feel great, right now (not yesterday, not five years ago) then keep them. If not, it might be time to let them go (same applies for contacts or friends).
Don’t worry about how a social media platform makes someone else feel, it might be working well for them right now at this stage of their life path. But, if it’s making you feel pretty average, then you are the one experiencing those feelings everyday, not them, so take control over those emotions and give Facebook, Instagram or Lin… whatever site is overwhelmingly bringing you down a temporary or permanent rest.
2. Is it adding value to your life right now?
Do you actually need or want this in your life, right now? There was a time in my life after a relationship ended, that I had to leave many of my previous friends behind and move towns. At that time in my life, Facebook was amazing for reconnecting with old friends. I was also travelling overseas a lot and Facebook helped me to keep in touch with new and old friends overseas. There were regular events and gigs I was invited to as most of my friends were moving in all sorts of exciting circles so it was really adding a lot of value to my life, at the time.
Eight years down the track, as people moved on, moved away, got married, had babies, became busy with their careers etc., this all changed. I began gravitating towards spending time with a smaller circle of close friends with whom I had more in common, and regularly emailing the couple of overseas friends that I was closest too. I found my feed increasingly overrun with all sorts of intimate news and inane ‘shares’ from people I had either never really been close to or had drifted away from. I wished them the best and there was no ill will, I had just begun to feel like a gatecrasher at their life party and increasingly removed from my own.
In short, for a number of formative years, Facebook added a lot of value to my life and facilitated a lot of social contact. But then, gradually, it just didn’t anymore. In fact, it started taking some things that I valued more – time, learning new things, deep personal connections and feeling happy in the moment. So, I stopped using it.
3. When was the last time I used it?
Have a look at your Facebook (Instagram, LinkedIn) contacts. When was the last time you spoke to them, emailed them, messaged them, hung out with them? If it was a long time ago then ask yourself, what is the likelihood that if I saw them on the street I would say hi, that we might grab a coffee? Is there a chance you will catch up and work together or be good mates in the future?
If the answer is still absolutely not a chance this side of…, then it’s time to hide or delete them. Alternatively, if your whole feed is subsumed by people that fit this category, write a list of those contacts/friends with who you are close to at the moment, (or hope to be in the future) get their mobiles and/or emails (if you don’t already have them) and start a new, real social network with this group.
This is a confronting process because apart from a small proportion of the truly mega popular, social people-people, the list may be surprisingly small. It also requires you to challenge your sense of self – where you are, where you have been and where you are going. If your feed is making you roll your eyes, feel bored, uninspired or cynical, then don’t blame the site or the people on it. Instead, look honestly at yourself and consider if you need to find new friends and new contacts that fit your life not yesterday, not maybe someday, but right now.
Happy decluttering! It can be a rough but entirely rewarding process.