I started 2014 sick of social media.
Endless streams of selfies on Instagram, constant negative energy on Facebook and posts from a stream of bloggers and brands I had no recollection of ever following on Twitter left me irritated and uninspired every time I dipped into the digital pool. I stewed as I scrolled through content that didn’t educate, inform or inspire me in any way, filling my time and my mind with nothing of value. And yet I kept coming back.
I started to blame myself…”gosh, do I just pick the worst people to follow?” “Am I a bad friend because the thought of seeing one more identical selfie of your duckface makes me want to throw my phone into a wall?“…then I blamed my online friends “Ignoramuses the whole lot of you!“…and finally I considered quitting the scene altogether, but we all know how that story ends. No matter how much we rail and rant against it, social media is an undeniable part of modern communication and disconnecting completely would mean giving up many of the great connections I’ve made through this blog and otherwise. Plus, there is some really awesome content out there! So how could I get more of that “stuff”, the posts that made me laugh, smile, reflect or want to go out and live a fuller life and less of the posts that I found offensive, irrelevant or irritating? It took a little time and a lot of thought but here are some steps that have improved the time I spend on social media.
1. “Unfollow” Without Actually Unfollowing. The simplest, most obvious way to avoid content that doesn’t enrich your life is to unsubscribe from it. Unfortunately, we often get caught up in the “politics” of social media and find it hard to do without risking unnecessary drama or tension from the creator of the content. The way I work around this on Facebook is by simply “unfollowing” posts from people who constantly post unappealing content (when they pop up in your newsfeed, click on the dropdown arrow in the upper right hand corner of the post and you’ll see the option). You can also use this option to select the people who you want to get notifications from so you can see more of their content. I use this option for my close friends and family as well people who tend to post content that really engages me. With Twitter, you can organize the people you follow into lists and view a timeline that’s only comprised of folks on a specific list. With these options, you can pick and choose what content you’re spending your time on without offending anybody by unfollowing or (heaven forbid) de-friending them.
2. Ask Yourself-Bitter or Better? While using tactics like those mentioned above can help navigate sticky online social situations, sometimes you really do just need to cut certain content out of your life. The older I get, the less hesitation I have about cutting online ties because if those are the only ties we have, well then, it’s not really that serious is it? I’m not cutting a person out of my life, I’m cutting myself off from the content they create. The way I make the call is by asking:
Would getting more of this type of content make me bitter or better?
That can be a question that requires painful honesty but the answer usually makes it clear what action I need to take. And by “bitter” I’m not simply referring to envy but any type of negative emotion that gurgles up when you see something online. Know why you’re following a person or a brand and what you expect to get from them before you simply take in whatever they’re putting out. The great thing about social media is that we can be connected to people in so many different ways that the answer in one place may be completely different in another. Maybe your sorority sister’s Instagram snaps inspire you to try paleo cooking, take up Capoeira or plan your next vacation, but she’s constantly sending out tweets that make you wince. It’s fine to invest your time in supporting the positive information she’s sharing and distance yourself from the negative.
3. Put Out the Energy You Want to Get Back.
Tamera Mowry recently posted this on Instagram and while I laughed, it struck me just how true it is. People are drawn to content that reflects the lives they lead or want to lead and distance themselves from energy that clashes with their own. People who value positive energy and are putting it out there in the world will eventually find you if you’re putting out that same type of energy. As you build connections with them, the type of content that dominates your social media feeds will begin to be a truer reflection of the type of information and exchanges you value.
You don’t have to accept and absorb every bit of content that’s thrown your way these days. It can feel overwhelming at first to think of parsing through the people and brands that currently make up your social media experience and streamlining it so that you’re much more likely to see exactly the type of content you want every time you login but it’s worth the effort. If a random mix of relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers compiled a magazine and demanded that you subscribe to it, without any notion of what it was about, would you do it? Probably not. So why do it every day? Be your own content editor and make sure that social media is giving you more of what you want from it and less of what you don’t.
How do you manage your online experience? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet, I’d love to know! And (if you happen to like my content and energy), feel free to follow me on Twitter and “like” the page on Facebook!