Social media, just like anything in our life can be a wonderful source of activity and connection for us if we take the time to manage it and take responsibility for its use. There was a time in which I was really struggling with social media and felt that it only had negative things to offer so I was about to throw it all out and just unplug completely, but after praying and studying I got a strong impression that I wasn’t supposed to do that.
Instead, I did some of the steps above, took some time away from it, looked up tips of my own about it and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t all bad, I was just not taking accountability for how I was using it. I was letting it dictate to me instead of the other way around, which sounds silly but it’s how they are designed to work. Did you know that social media apps like Instagram have algorithms that learn your behaviors and adjust accordingly? For example, based off your history of use it can determine that if it withholds likes to a certain number and then releases to show you that you have 10+ likes at once (or however many is your “magic number”) you’re more likely to come back and engage in it. They also now determine the order in which to show you posts that will keep you on their app for the longest amount of time possible.
Yep, these apps, websites and phones are teaching themselves how to adapt to increase our usage behaviors. It is artificial intelligence at it’s finest and it is a little terrifying. So do yourself a favor. Become smarter than the computer programs and take ownership for your own engagement. I know that there are wonderful things that can happen with the use of social media. I’ve seen it. We just have to take stewardship, set boundaries and be intentional with it.
So below I've provided some tips that I have found in my life to be helpful in doing just that.
- Take a break. Take a couple of days without it to recognize overuse or addiction. Sometimes things can become such habits that we don’t even realize they’ve taken place of more important matters. When you take a break it allows you to see times in your day that you may be missing out on (like conversations with friendly strangers that could turn into friends while waiting for a service) or you may notice that there are distinct times when checking your accounts would fit perfectly during your day (like a quick browse during your lunch break or during nap time). Either way having that break will give you more clarity and less distraction to evaluate proper use.
- Set boundaries or make goals. These days a lot of phones will let you see how much time or at least how often you’re using your different apps. Go check those usage times out and see if the numbers surprise you. Make rules for yourself about how much time is appropriate. Before my business, just once a day for about 20 min was plenty of time for me, now however, I have to dedicate a bit more time to it for work, but if I’m not careful it can spiral and take over my day. I’ve made special markers for myself to know if I’m going over those boundaries. For instance, I don’t let myself check social media until I’ve done my daily scripture study first. This works for me because I like to do my studies in the morning but for those morning’s when things are off schedule and I don’t get to it, it helps me to realize that instead of just forgetting about scripture study altogether, I’ll use my spare time I usually use for social media browsing for study instead. It’s just a way for me to keep my priorities straight. --But don’t le my tips fool you, I’m in no way perfect and have plenty of room for improvement.
- Don’t let it become our default activity during boredom. We are getting so used to having our attention constantly drawn that we rarely know what to do with ourselves and automatically turn to our devices for distraction, which can mean we miss out on good thoughts or impressions. There is a time when I was using my phone so much that I didn’t even know what to do with myself during red lights. That is not healthy and frankly dangerous. Since, I’ve been making a better effort at putting my phone far from reach while driving (in the backseat in my purse). Another thing I do is have a “docking station” at my home where I put my phone if I need to focus more on my family. It is out of reach and I don’t feel the need to check it so often, making me more present with my family.
- Turn off your notifications. Even for someone like me who’s running a business using mostly social media, there’s really no need for me to have notifications on. If I did I would be a slave to other people’s timelines and that would encroach on my family life and although we live in a time when consumers demand instant gratification, I find that when it comes to interaction on social media, it’s the content of the exchanges that matter, not the timing.
- From time to time switch your apps around. Our bodies are great at muscle memory and so sometimes our hands are all too quick to tap on that app during idle times and then we’re easily distracted once we do. So if you rearrange your apps occasionally, it will prevent such “accidental browsing”. I switch mine so that in place of my social apps are my scripture app or a workout tracker. That way if I do end up tapping I’ve committed to reading a few versus or doing some exercising instead. It’s just a little thing that is surprisingly helpful.
- Clean up your accounts with only the best. Weed out any negative accounts in your feed, whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or whatever you use. There are always people we ended following or friending for a random reason that we find leave us feeling bad or down about ourselves or others or even just don’t contribute anything worth while. Take the time to go through and see if anyone makes you feel that way and simply unfollow or unfriend them (even if it’s me, but hopefully it’s not). You do not have space in your life for negativity. I really do have wonderful friends and people that I’ve found leave me feeling good about life. I like to follow people that make me feel inspired, give me helpful information for my life, make me laugh or just make me happy. Figure out what your criteria is and delete anyone who doesn’t meet that.
So I want to know, Share in the comments below because like I said, I have made improvements, but I know I still have a ways to go.