Turn The Volume Down On Your Social Media

Most adults in the 'western world' use social media on a daily basis, whether for professional or personal reasons or both. However, research tells us that overuse is unhelpful for many reasons &, of course, what constitutes ''overuse'' will vary for individuals. 

Social media, while allowing us keep in touch with friends near & far & supporting us to promote our work, share news & discuss ideas can also be a means to fan the flames of narcissism, a way for those predisposed to compare themselves to others to deepen into that unhealthy pattern of self criticism & a tool for distraction from what's really going on both in & around us in 'real life'. 

What I mean by 'turning down the volume' on your social media is simply lessening how 'loud' or how present it is in your consciousness & how much space it occupies in your thoughts & time, reducing it's presence to reduce it's impact & any negative consequences of that impact on you, on your relationships & general well being.

Here, I want to invite you to experiment with one or more of the following & to notice the effect they have on your overall well being & stress levels. If you're someone who's a regular & frequent social media user, several hours per day for example, then consider experimenting with just one idea at a time, too much change in our lives often causes us to feel overwhelmed & doesn't result in lasting or sustainable change. Small steps that last feel & are better than big steps that 'fail'.

1. Review the social media apps on your phone - do they all need to be there? do they all need to be there all the time? could some of them be uninstalled at weekends or during holidays & reinstalled when back at work? 
Remove the ones you rarely use, use them only on your desktop or laptop, if you have one, & see what it's like to remove the ones you mostly use for work at weekends & during holidays - they will reinstall in seconds when needed. Or, you could uninstall them from your phone leaving them all on desktop or laptop or table only. I do this regularly & find that it really useful - out of sight out of mind!

2. Review your use of each social media account - how can you make your use of it less stressful? how can you reduce the amount of unhelpful or un-useful 'information' coming towards you? 

You can unfollow pages you've liked on Facebook, this keeps the number of 'likes' as is, which matters to small businesses & artists, for example, but means that you don't receive page posts in your feed - you can always visit the page to see what's been posted at a time of your choosing or create a list of a group of pages or people.

Similarly, you can unfollow people - mute them on Instagram & Twitter while still 'following' which means you won't see them in your feed, this can be changed back at any time & they don't know you've 'muted' their account. You can 'snooze' people for 30 days or unfollow on Facebook, you're still friends but won't see their posts in your feed & can always go look at their profile if you want to see what they're up to.

Do you really need to be following accounts, people or organisations, that cause you only to feel upset or angry? Research is clear that living in an echo chamber where people agree with us or us them is an unhealthy perspective, it reduces emotional resilience & helps fuel both narcissism & conflict, but there's a difference between engaging intellectually & respectfully with ideas & beliefs different to our own & feeling like every interaction is difficult, challenging, hostile &/or upsetting. What is best for your well being in this instance? 

3. Don't argue or try to change opinions online.
Research is clear on this, people's opinions rarely change because of online arguments or heated discussions, almost never in fact, so it is simply conflict for conflict's sake. What does occasionally, & only occasionally, change opinion is when people are engaged with respectfully, sincerely & by the sharing of direct personal experience combined with factual information. Shouting, arguing, finger-pointing, name calling, blaming & shaming never changed hearts nor minds, it simply fuels the distances between people, & don't we have enough of that in our world as it is?

4. Reflect on your reasons for using social media, the real reasons!
For many people social media is a mechanism by which to feel some sense of connection to others, & it can indeed give us this, but, it can also be a way to fool ourselves into thinking that we are having 'real' connection when, in actual fact, we're not. 'Real' connection requires that we be able to touch, even if only a handshake, others, that the body can relax into a space with another body, even if they aren't touching - this works on us in neurological & biological ways, forming pathways in the brain & increasing & decreasing hormones that support us to have more satisfying relationships & to, ultimately, feel better about ourselves. We are mammals, this is what we need for 'real' connection to nourish & nurture us.

Reflect on how your social media engagement makes you feel, do you feel like people are paying attention to you whereas in your day to day life you don't receive the attention you'd like? do you feel validated by others? do you feel that people like & respect you because of your social media presence? This may be true, of course, but the human mind has an ability to mistake this sort of attention for 'real' connection when it is, at the end of the day, totally reliant on the internet & isn't present in our day to day in-person life thus creating a false & unsustainable sense of self or identity that, without the internet, risks coming crashing down.

Does your social media engagement allow you to keep isolated from those in your physical life? Does your social media presence make you feel like you're right about the things you believe & think? Does social media mostly make you feel irritated, annoyed, angry about social issues? How is this serving you & the people & issues you care about, in a meaningful & real way, especially in a way that causes actual meaningful change not just discussion on social media?

Notice how these questions make you feel, ask yourself more similar questions, have conversations with others about what they think your social media use gives you, what it allows you to think & feel about yourself & others and not just the good stuff, how does social media continue to support you to believe that there is something 'wrong' with other people, with what others think, believe & do? or something not OK about yourself?

Sometimes self inquiry of this nature makes us realise that we're not the great, righteous people we thought we were, that can be difficult. Being honest with ourselves is important, it's vital to a deeply satisfying life, however what we do with that greater self awareness is even more important!

If you're someone who's been a regular & frequent social media user, someone who's 'on' their phone for hours each day, then one of these changes on their own may feel challenging & difficult. It may be helpful to intentionally & deliberately replace the time you'd usually spend on social media with an alternative activity, here are some ideas:
- write
- read
- exercise
- plan to spend time in-person with friends or family, if you have none nearby then make local friends & make plans to visit those far away
- meditate
- listen to a podcast instead of engaging on a social media platform
- listen to music, dance
- cook or bake
- go to a museum or gallery
- take a class, learn something new, meet new people
- catch up on sleep by going to bed early
- go for a walk in a park, or other place of natural beauty

What other ideas do you have for replacing time spent on social media? I'd love to hear your ideas via email info@bethwallace.org

21st February 2020