Semper Fi Digital’s Tips For a Healthier Relationship With Your Social Media
I watched The Social Dilemma a few weeks ago, and like so many other viewers, had my mind blown. Now, owning a digital marketing agency, the revelations about social media weren’t entirely new to me. I utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tik Tok, YouTube, and other social media to help my clients grow their businesses. I am one of those individuals studying human psychology and behaviour in order to help my clients understand their customers better and therefore sell more of their products and services.
I also worked for a production company for 5 years, assisting with the production of both full-length and factual docu-series. So I have an understanding of the unique method used to create a certain level of dramatics in a documentary film. Therefore, like with anything you see or read, you must take it with a grain of salt.
And yet…. when the film finished, I felt somewhat sickened. How have we come to this?
As the documentary shows, these companies weren’t founded with such nefarious intent. Yet, along the way, it seems corporate greed has manifested itself within these platforms, and now we’re bearing witness to some of the horrendous societal side-effects of such unrestrained and unregulated profit-seeking.
In order to bring a healthy balance, you must know going in that the Social Media giants are using very sophisticated algorithms to condition you to use Social Media more and more and more and more…
They are using positive reinforcement whenever you do something that they want you to do. And they reward you instantly by revealing content that you enjoy. This is exactly how dolphin trainers can get dolphins to perform those amazing tricks on demand. They blow their whistle, the dolphin performs the trick and gets rewarded immediately with some fish. And by the way, this is the same technique that casinos use with slot machines. Little rewards periodically to have you continue to pull that lever on the slot machine until you have run out of money. It is so subtle that it all occurs below your conscious awareness. And so you must be actively “scrubbing” your natural impulses and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I reading this? Why am I sharing this?” Are you making the choices based on your needs, wants, beliefs and values, or have your choices been hijacked and made for you. Never let your guard down.
I’ve limited my social media usage severely since watching the film, and I can honestly say I feel a positive improvement in my mood.
I was never going to let my 9 and 6 yo have social media until they were 16 (at the earliest) so I felt reassured that some of the main participants in the documentary were doing similar things with their own children.
Since I was a little kid, I’ve always been curious about our global community. I love traveling to new places and seeing how other people live their lives. If I could go to a new country each month, I certainly would. So it made sense that social media attracted me right away. What a wonderful way for me to keep in touch with all the friends I have met in all my travels. In fact, I’ve even made friends through Facebook that I then met in real life afterwards (Jackson buddy, I am looking at you).
So, like with everything in life, there’s gotta be some kind of healthy balance, right? I still check social channels everyday to monitor the progress of my clients accounts. I am in fact, a part of this big machine, and although Alex and I believe in only working with clients who we share a strong value alignment with, are we nevertheless culpable?
It’s something I plan to reflect on quite a lot over the coming months (especially since I will be at home a lot more now it seems with this second wave raging over us here in Toronto). For the time being, my partner Alex and I have assembled what we believe to be the top 10 tips for creating a healthier relationship with social media.
Try Taking ‘Disconnecting’ Breaks
Depending on how much you use social media, you can start with just taking a few hours away from your feeds. Then, perhaps you take a day, or an entire weekend. You will be rather surprised by how little was actually missed and you will start to break the habit of checking unintentionally.
Do not check social media either right when you wake up, or right before bed
This is a very important one. Checking your social media channels or emails when you wake up has evolved to become similar to reading the newspaper in the morning. When you wake up, and the first thing you do is check social, unless you see something super uplifting, you can set negative intentions for your day. Seeing something negative or petty first thing pollutes your thinking. Instead of reaching for the phone right away, try sole light stretching, a few minutes of meditation, yoga or listen to your favourite book or podcast while having coffee.
Review and Revise All Your Notifications
Start disabling unnecessary app notifications and logging into a social media site only when you have to. When you see a notification that triggers you or makes you feel sad, simply remove it. This one alone step has helped me enjoy social media SO much more.
Unfollow Anything Even Remotely Toxic
Scroll through your social feed for a little while and pay very close attention to how you feel about certain accounts/posts. If you see something that makes you groan or roll your eyes or feel not so great, unfollow or unlike. Start to ‘mute’ friends on Facebook or Instagram if you feel that they are not contributing anything positive to your life.
Try engaging with old friends in the ‘old fashioned way’
A friend of mine told me that when he deleted Facebook, he was initially worried about all he would miss out on. He realized though, after reaching out to some friends via text/phone call, that the quality of those relationships actually improved and he felt much better about his decision. So perhaps you could reach out to a friend via phone or ask them to meet you for a coffee and a walk? This will undoubtedly be better for your mental health than just sending notes back though Messenger or DMs.
Begin (or continue to engage with) mindfulness practices
Practicing mindfulness can help you improve your ability to regulate your emotions, decrease your stress levels as well as help you manage anxiety and depression.STOP. And smell the flowers. Focus on being very aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment without judgement nor interpretation.
Start your day on a positive note with a 20-30 minute meditation. There are numerous mental health benefits of meditation some of which are reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing self-awareness and improving one’s attention span. For beginners, considering trying out Headspace.
Use Social Media Apps Purposefully
Try to avoid the ‘mindless scroll’ where you may or may not even be paying attention to the content you are consuming. Whether you want to watch your favourite show, check your flight status, answer a work email or download a Pinterest recipe, focus on the predetermined task while you’re online and log off right after you’re done. Bottom line: smarter and more purposeful use of social media will decrease your chances of being bogged down by it or feeling negativity or sadness.
Practice “The Golden Rule”
While not everyone online is a jerk (Twitter may have you believe otherwise), it’s incredibly easy to be triggered by a silly click-bait headline or trilling comment, and then fire back with vitriol. Try to always keep in mind, during social media use, and before engaging with anyone online, “Is this kind? Is this true? Would I want to be spoken to in this manner? Is this conversation actually educational or enlightening?”
Don’t play the comparison game
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” When you focus on what other people are doing, you end up cheating yourself. When using social media, always keep in mind that these feeds are simply highlight reels.
Feel free to share your tips for healthy usage of social media with us!
We’re always wanting to learn more, so please feel free to leave your own suggestions or tips for better managing your relationship with social media in our comments. It’s worth mentioning, as a conclusion, that we have actually tried and battle tested each of these tips ourselves, and believe that they truly can work when trying to limit your social media use, and improve your mental well-being.