I'm sure you've read plenty about the pros and cons of social media. This isn't one of those lectures. Instead, this is a list of the toxic social media habits that I have personally fell into and slowly managed to claw my way back out of.
I have always liked to think that I was an early adopter of several platforms. (Except Snapchat. Now that is one I just can't get on board with.) I enjoyed perusing Twitter when I was still in secondary school, spent hours scrolling through my Facebook feed, and downloaded Instagram before anyone I even knew had a profile.
All of that led to me spending way too much time on all of the above and way too little time with the people I really cared about. Over the past year or so, I've found myself becoming increasingly distanced from social media. It's not surprising to hear that I gave up on Facebook some time ago, but Instagram, too, has become less and less appealing to me. My last post on the gram was three months ago and I'm much happier for it.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been sucked into the social media vortex and spat back out feeling like a former shell of the person I was. Yet I'm not advocating giving up your online communication entirely; I continue to learn a lot from certain people that I follow. It's more about realising what makes you happy and what habits you need to let go of pronto.
Therapist and life coach Julia Kristina has some wise words regarding social media. "Enjoy it, embrace it, but also remember to be responsible with it. We need to be more aware of how we approach the online world," she wrote on her site. And as for those toxic habits: "Don't stress or feel badly if you do any of [them] — we all do."
Here's some that you may recognise along with a few ways to get yourself out.
Forgetting To Live Your Life
When you travel to a new place or visit a restaurant that others simply must know about, it's hard to resist pulling your phone out to take photographs that look like they could grace the pages of Vogue. Instead of actually enjoying our experience for ourselves, our technology-focused culture dictates that we must document it for the enjoyment of others.
There isn't a hard and fast solution to this, except for burying your phone so deep in your bag that getting it out is an absolute nightmare, or getting into the mindset that memories are the most important thing, not Instagram posts and Snapchat stories.
Letting Those Likes Get The Better Of You
How long have you spent filtering and editing photos in order to rack up more likes? Probably more time than you'd like to admit, right? It's easy to get so caught up in social media that you forget that all those likes and comments mean practically nothing in the real world. (Unless your literal job is as an influencer, of course.)
And it's even easier to think that a photo that gets less than 50, 100, or even 1000 likes depending on your following means that you're just not worthy. It may take some time but by becoming more present in the IRL world, you'll eventually realise that validation from people you've never met isn't how you should be measuring your self-worth.
Getting Sucked Into All That Negativity
Although social media can create inherently positive communities, it can also be a hugely negative place. Whether it's jumping on the bandwagon of criticising someone who may have slipped up and said something offensive or receiving an influx of distressing news, Twitter especially can become a whirlpool of arguments and despair.
Constantly being exposed to all the bad things in the world can lead to feelings of cynicism that could potentially seep into your everyday interactions with family, friends, and your partner. You may even find yourself turning into someone who is less forgiving and is quick to try and "cancel" someone, even when they have made an honest mistake and are willing to apologise for it. Let's be honest, the world doesn't need more of those.
Making Social Media Your Safe Space
You could be struggling with your mental health or simply have had an argument with a loved one. But all of those upsetting moments usually result in hours wasted on social media in an attempt to make yourself feel better. It doesn't really work though, does it?
Seeing other people living their best lives can only serve to make you feel even lonelier, especially when you see the people you follow engaging in conversations that don't involve you. Try getting some fresh air. A quick walk or even run can lift your mood and release those all-important endorphins, resulting in a much more positive mindset.
Being one of the first generations to grow up with social media is tricky, but let's try to be the last that lets it get the better of us.