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If you have read my blog this last week, you know that I am currently participating in Brita Long’s LoveBlog challenge. Each day there is a prompt for a topic to blog about. Today’s topic is how to have a healthy relationship with social media. You can read my previous LoveBlog posts here.
There are so many posts about social media out there. And most of them are negative. Social media use causes anxiety, depression, isolation. It is bad for our focus and shortens our attention spans. It ruins creativity. Sitting on the couch all day staring at our phone makes us fat. And so on. We have all heard the list of doom.
I am not here to refute it any of this. But despite having heard the above, the majority of people still uses social media. In one form or another, it is here to stay. So rather than despairing about its negative effects, I think it is is much more helpful to think about how we can use social media in a healthy way.
Developing a healthy relationship with social media
There are two aspects to social media – sharing and consuming. We’ll look at each of these individually, but first let’s go right back to the beginning and think about our own intentions when it comes to social media.
Know your why
Why do you use social media?
Maybe you have never thought about this question. Everyone is on facebook, instagram, snapchat, twitter – so you are too. But in order to develop a healthy relationship with social media it is extremely important to answer this question.Knowing your why is the first step towards developing a healthy relationship with social media. #livebrightandbold Click To Tweet
Do you go on social media to connect with friends, to learn about latest trends, to be entertained, to find blogs to read, to join discussion about certain topics, to find a community, to find friends, to find love, to promote your own projects, to express yourself, to distract yourself? There is no right or wrong here.
Be honest with yourself, why do you use social media?
For me personally, I use social media for four reasons:
- Keeping in touch with friends, especially those who I don’t get to see very often.
- I love that social media gives me a platform to share about my faith, the things I read in the Bible and the way Jesus has changed my life.
- It’s a great way to share my creative projects, mostly my blog but also my latest knitting and sewing endeavours.
- Connecting with people who share similar passions (the Bible, writing and crafts) and to get inspired by their work.
What’s right for me might not be right for you
Knowing these reasons is extremely helpful. Last week I temporarily downloaded TicToc and found myself watching dance videos for 45 minutes. None of my goals (connecting with friends, sharing about the Bible or my blog and connecting with like-minded people) is served by doing this. It might be entertaining but for me, being entertained is not why I use social media. I prefer books and podcasts or a good movie for that. So I said out loud: “Britta, what are you doing?!” and deleted TicToc.
If you are using social media to be entertained, then absolutely, download TicToc and watch a lot of dance videos. They are impressive and funny and partly disturbing. Entertainment is guaranteed.
Like I said, there is no right or wrong here. Just figuring out what is right or wrong for you. And being honest about which activities on social media are life-giving and in alinement with your goals and which are just easy ways to pass the time.
The key here is to be intentional. Don’t just let social media happen to you. Make decisions about how you want to use social media and then act.
How much time should you spend on social media?
How much time does someone who has a healthy relationship with social media spend scrolling instagram? 2 hours? 1 hour? 5 minutes?
Obviously, there is no answer to that question.
Rather than thinking about how much time you should spend online, think about your time offline.
How much time do you want to spend giving your full attention to your friend, your partner or your child? What hobbies are important to you and how much time do they require? You want to practice the violin everyday for an hour? Great. You want to spend 20 minutes every morning doing yoga? Then do that. You want to listen to music, go for a walk, read books, make your own clothes, take analog photos, sing in a choir? That’s amazing.
Think about how much time you need for the things that matter to you. Then think about how much time you have left. 1 hour every day? You can use that hour to catch up with your facebook messages and check out what Taylor Swift tweeted and scroll the ‘gram. You can share your thoughts and pictures with the world. Or do whatever you want to do.
Take charge of your own time
The thing with social media is, it’s easy. It is so little effort to pick up your phone and mindlessly scroll. And sometimes it’s nice to have 5 minutes of that. But the problem is that those 5 minutes can easily turn into 30.
Again, if you feel like those 30 minutes were well spent, you connected with a friend, you read an interesting post that made you think, you saw some art you enjoyed – that’s great. But often those 30 minutes are thoroughly underwhelming.
Time is a precious, non-renewable resource. Take charge of it. Make a decision how much time YOU want to spend on social media. Don’t base that decision on what other people do or what they say is right. Make a decision for yourself. How do you want to spend your time? There are so many things that take time we cannot take charge over. We have to stay at work for 8 hours. We have to stand in line for 5 minutes at the bakery. Our bodies require 7-8 hours of sleep every night. What are we going to do with the time that is left? Don’t just let social media take over. Make active decisions. This is your time.
Be intentional about what you share
In the beginning I mentioned, that there are two major aspects to social media: sharing and consuming. Let’s take a moment to think about what we share online.
Many people criticise that what you see on social media is not real life. That is true. But it also wouldn’t be appropriate if it was. No one should read a real-time play by play of your fight with your husband. Most of us like to document our lives with photos but we don’t share pictures of ourselves on the toilet (and I think that is a good thing!)
A healthy relationship with social media encompasses both honesty and healthy boundaries.
So how do you decide what to share? The following checklist might help.
Before sharing, ask these questions:
- Is this truthful and authentic to who I am?
- Am I trying to portray myself in a certain light?
- Do I post this to gain acceptance or admiration of others?
- Is this encouraging?
- Would I tell this story about my kids/my husband/my friend to a group of strangers in a real-life situation?
- Would I be happy for my employer/my parent/my pastor/[insert significant person here] to read this?
- What does this achieve?
- Am I just sharing an opinion or am I trying to put another opinion down?
- Will this cause a fight? Is it important enough to take that risk?
- Am I just following a trend? Am I posting this out of a habit of people-pleasing?
Be intentional about what you consume
Most people agree, that horror films or movies full of drama and violence are not suitable for children. It’s not only that they might become frightened or feel confused but we are also aware that what they consume influences their thinking and behaviour.
As adults, we might be more settled in who we are, but I strongly believe that what we consume massively influences they way we feel, think and act. For example, we all know in theory that magazine images of models are photoshopped and not realistic but they still have the power to make us feel insecure about our own bodies.
A healthy relationship with social media includes that we are honest with how certain images or topics affect us. The unfollow button exists for a reason. If your best friend keeps posting articles about abuse cases and this sends you down a negative spiral, unfollow her. Maybe let her know why, but you don’t need to be online friends in order to be real-life friends.
What goes in, comes out somehow. So let’s be intentional with what we consume online. The following questions might help you decide who you should follow and what’s best to eliminate from your feed.
Look at the content you consume and ask these questions:
- Is this encouraging to me?
- Do these posts spur me on to spend time with Jesus, to take care of my body, to be kind to others?
- Does it inspire me? Give me new ideas?
- Make certain posts feel me like I am not enough? Or like I don’t do enough?
- Does observing my friends’ life online leave me feeling ungrateful for my own life?
- Am I judging people whose content I consume or do I ridicule them in my thoughts (our out loud)?
- Do I feel aggressive/depressed/anxious after consuming certain content?
- Am I tempted to fantasise about sex with someone other than my partner after seeing certain content?
- Do I find myself randomly altering my behaviour? For example, I never before wanted to travel the world but after reading a bunch of travel blogs I suddenly booked a ticket to Cambodia?
Keep having a healthy relationship with social media
Today we took some time to assess our relationship with social media. I would suggest to go through these questions every couple of months and check in – does this still work for you? Or to say it in Mari Kondos words: Does it spark joy?
You might also find it helpful to write down some goals and then to track honestly whether you are reaching those goals. Ask a friend to keep you accountable.
If you are finding it impossible to have a positive relationship with social media, cut it out. I said in the beginning that social media is most likely here to stay. That does not mean it is essential to our survival. Trust me, it isn’t. So, deleting facebook does not mean you have to live off-grid and start growing your own vegetables. You can still be a ‘normal’, social human being.
Reach out to get help
Many of us struggle with some aspects of social media but there are also full-blown addictions. If you think that might be you, find help. In Germany, the DRK offer free consultations but you could also speak to a GP or therapist. (I am not a professional but if you need someone to help you to find help, feel free to send me an E-Mail!)
Finally, lent is coming up in two weeks time (starting on 26 February) – why not use this time to re-think you social media use? You could do a complete fast or just cut back on the time you spend online. Part of my goals for this year is to keep a Sabbath. I think I will start keeping it social media-free.
What are your thoughts and strategies in order to have a healthy relationship with social media? I would love to hear about it in the comments!