Hands up who is feeling like they could do with a little break from the world right now? There’s some wacky stuff going on out there, and our social feeds have become a daily doom-scroll of tough, weird and confronting news, misinformation, conspiracy theories and divisive content (OK, there are some LOL-worthy memes in there, too).
Unfortunately, even though we know it’s not serving us, our brains can get hooked on consuming this negative content. After all, as humans, we’re hardwired to keep an eye out for threats and dangers. But instead of feeling in control, the volume of this information can begin to become anxiety inducing, validate fears and leave us feeling emotionally depleted.
Obviously, at The Social Shop, we love all things social. But we’re also really aware of how social media can begin to have a negative impact if not used well (which is why you’ll hear me on the regular, harping on about Social For Good). Negativity has a tendency to spread further, faster in our social media world, which (right now) exposes us to more negative news than positive. A seemingly harmless scroll can leave us feeling down, depressed, disheartened or disillusioned, and start to impact on how we view the world around us, and the decisions we make throughout the day.
But it’s important to remember that you are largely in control of what you see in your feed. And if you look in the right places, social media can be a positive, beneficial space. By curating your content well, you can ensure that your social feeds are places where you find valuable, educational, uplifting content that helps you feel more connected with your friends, your communities and with what matters most to you. Let's get you there!
Curating your news-feed is a necessary move for taking control of your mental health - particularly in the midst of a lock-down where many of us are turning to our social feeds much more than usual, either for information, or for a mindless scroll to kill some time.
If you’ve felt lately that social media has been getting you down, here are some actions I take, and recommend you do, to regain control of your content consumption & social well-being.
Audit as you scroll:
When you come across content that triggers an unsettling emotional response, stop and ask yourself: is this helpful, relevant or useful to me? Do I disagree with this content, or is it potentially false information? Did this post make me feel inadequate, self-conscious, self-loathing, or just shit about life in general and the state of planet Earth right now?
Every time you come across content that makes you feel a sense of unease, discomfort or anxiety, make a decision to either unfollow, mute or block the content. These are all options available to you on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. If you’re worried about the awkwardness of unfollowing or deleting a friend who may be sharing content that is unhelpful to you, fear not. You can ‘mute’ their content, rather than deleting them altogether. They will not be aware that you have done so, however their content (posts and stories) will no longer be shown in your news-feed. You can choose to unmute at any time, and you can also still see their content by going directly to their page. Similarly, on Facebook, you can ‘snooze’ content from a person, page or group. This stops the content from appearing in your news-feed for 30 days - the page, person or group will not be notified that you’ve snoozed their content.
Follow content that inspires:
Once you’ve cleared out the content that doesn’t serve you, flood your news-feed instead with accounts that inspire you, bring a sense of joy or peace, and ones that help you learn or broaden your perspective. Follow credible industry authorities; people or pages who provide sound, reasonable and helpful content. If you have Facebook connections whose content you enjoy, you can ensure that this content comes up in your news-feed first by ‘following’ them - or even setting up a notification that tells you when they’ve shared new content.
Manage your news-feed:
On Facebook, you can also adjust your news-feed settings so that you have control over what content you see first. You can select specific pages, groups and people. Every time you open up your feed, you’ll see the content that is most relevant to you first - and make it easier for you to avoid content that is less appealing or helpful.
Follow meaningful hashtags:
If you’re interested in discovering new content, consciously choose hashtags that will bring uplifting content into your news-feed. You’re then able to find new accounts to follow that add value, inspire, educate or connect you with like-minded people.
Give feedback on ads:
Ads are a necessary part of social media - without them, we’d have to pay to access these platforms. So while you can’t block ads from appearing altogether, you can help platforms feed you more relevant advertising content by providing feedback on the ads you’d prefer not to see. If you see an ad that doesn’t sit well with you, click the upper right-hand corner, then hit "I don't want to see this." It tells Facebook or Instagram that this ad hasn’t hit the mark, and you can also provide more feedback by answering the questions that follow.
Social media algorithms are geared entirely towards showing you more of what it thinks you like. Be conscious of the videos you spend time watching, or the posts you like and comment on, as you’ll likely be served up more similar content. This can be helpful if you’re spending time consuming the right kind of content, but can also be unhelpful if you find yourself heading down negative news rabbit holes.
Organise your friends lists:
On some platforms, it’s possible to create custom friends lists - such as close friends, acquaintances, and restricted contacts. This makes it easier for you to not only share content with a select audience, the platform will also show you more content from your close circle, and less from the acquaintances who are perhaps not serving up such valuable content.
Enforce some breaks:
If you find yourself flicking to your social accounts by default throughout the day or night, set up some boundaries that will help you reduce the amount of time you spend scrolling. You don’t have to quit cold turkey. There are apps you can use to block access to social media for time periods during the day, or to limit the amount of time you are spending on your accounts. Facebook and Instagram also have a feature where you can set self-imposed time limits on usage. You’ll receive a notification to let you know you’ve hit your daily limit. This can be a good way to regain control of your time, and reduce that potentially harmful mindless scroll time.
It can be really easy to feel consumed by negative, misleading and divisive content on social media - I'm no exception. But i've chosen to control my news-feed, rather than letting it control me and I enjoy a much more harmonious relationship because of it. It’s just as easy for you to take control of what you’re exposing yourself to online. Be really conscious in your choice of connections, and how much time you commit to social media scrolling. You’ll find that the content you consume becomes more aligned with what matters most to you - and your mental health will thank you for it!
Take care of yourselves out there people, share and consume content wisely and as always, be kind. Super keen to hear if you've found my tips helpful, and where you are on your journey to striking the right balance with social. Let me know!