Scroll Responsibly: An Idea for Thoughtful Social Media Usage

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. We’ve probably all heard that theory by now – and it certainly holds merit to a large degree. Of course, we’re all individuals. Some more than others, are particularly headstrong and unshakeable in their uniqueness. However, it’s inarguable that your environment and those you spent a majority of your time with impacts you, your energy, thinking, and self-esteem. Like it or not, we are greatly influenced by those closest to us, and today social media is a big player in many of our interactions.

Are the 5 people you spend the most time with ones that you’d be proud and excited to become more like? Or maybe not so much becoming, but at the very least impacted by?

Pandemic & Social Media

What about during a particularly isolating time like say… a pandemic that is encouraging social distancing, extended quarantine, and “bubble” households? We have had our circles made smaller, some even in complete isolation. So, what does that say about who we’re becoming in these months of disconnectedness?

To be fair, in our normal pre-pandemic life, it’s likely that many of us don’t even spend a significant amount of time with 5 different people regularly. Life happens, it can be hard to find the time. But you know where we often spend HOURS a day? On our phones. Right now particularly, we’re not spending much time with anyone outside of our households and we’re spending an admittedly obscene amount of time scrolling on our phones or laptops. Social media has replaced at least one (maybe even multiple) slots taking up most of what we spend our time with.

It’s a humbling realization, but I’ve made myself start to consider my phone as one of my coveted 5 people. I’ll be honest, it was a really tough, eye-opening lesson in boundaries and self-awareness. I realized that I rarely closed my social media apps a healthier, happier, more confident person. And it wasn’t just because of the climate we’re in right now.

I work in the industry, so I couldn’t just go off the grid. So, I decided to do a purge. To do all I could to redeem the social media experience and make it a healthier, more positive place of inspiration, education, and joy.

Social Media Kondo Style

Starting with Instagram, where I’ve found myself spending a majority of my social media time over the last few years and in turn, a majority of my unrealistic comparing. There are entire professions whose objective it is to paint the most unrealistically perfect life possible, gain attention, and sell a better life to us. And we stare at these photoshopped highlight reels in the discomfort of our own skin. Over time, the voices of self-doubt became too loud for me.

Like a Marie Kondo-esque clearing of my psyche, I went through every single Instagram account I personally followed and asked myself “Does this add value to my life? Is this worth my attention? Does this make me feel worse about myself?” And if it didn’t feel good… No hard feelings, but I gladly hit that little ‘unfollow’ or mute button.

That meant unfollowing an embarrassing amount of former Bachelor contestants, some fashion pages, a couple of exes, and people who were maybe acquaintances at one point but I’ve since become decidedly uninterested in their luxurious vacation they’ve afforded from the income from their pyramid scheme “side hustle”. Great for them, not for me.

After my major purge a few months ago, I continued deleting, muting, or unfollowing any accounts that weren’t authentic, uplifting, or inspiring. If I caught myself being negative about a post or account, I sat with that feeling and thought about its effect on me. Then, I decided to be more thoughtful with those accounts I started to follow. I would only seek out diverse, smart, passionate, lovely, real things. People I loved in real life, too. Because that’s what I want to become more like.

Be brutally honest with yourself

If you look at Twitter first thing in the morning, think about whether it’s to get informed about breaking news you’ll have to deal with, or if it’s a mindless habit that serves as an escape from facing the day ahead. Is the last thing you do at night scroll mindlessly through Facebook’s barrage of negativity and misinformation looking for any sign of hope? Are you following accounts of people you genuinely care about?

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, too – If you feel awkward rejecting a friend request from someone you see regularly but really aren’t interested in seeing their updates or opinions, many platforms now have a mute or unfollow feature that allows you to stay connected without seeing their posts or creating an uncomfortable conversation.

Alternately, you should look at your friends lists across all social media as a whole. It’s incredibly necessary to not use the delete/mute/block button as a means to exist in the vacuum of only people with your same opinion or experience. Are you only following or friends with people who look, think, pray, and vote like you? You need to diversify your exposure and your community.

Must Add Value

Continually look inward and analyze how your online life affects your very real life. Continue asking “Does this add value to my life? Is this worth my attention? Does this make me feel worse about myself?”

There is no substitute for in-person human connection. But if our addictions to our phones and being online can’t be entirely thwarted, then we might as well try to monitor what we’re letting eat away at our brain cells. The people you’re around matter. How you spend your time, even seemingly mindless time, matters. I’m going to try to limit my time on social media. But for the time I do spend on it, I want to be thoughtful about who is getting my attention. And in turn, affecting my mental emotional and ultimately physical health.

If social media is going to be one of your 5 you spend the most time with, make it a good one.

Photo Credit Unsplash

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2020-07-30