social media

spring cleaning | keep it social

Social, according to Merriam-Webster:

1: involving allies or confederates
2: marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates
3: of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society
4: tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others
5: of, relating to, or based on rank or status in a particular society
6: being such in social situations

Social media, from the same:

Forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).

leaving social media

I’ve been listening to Ezra Klein’s podcast on teen mental health, and it contains some downright horrifying statistics. It’s got me thinking about whether social media has taken on the more negative definitions of social (5: “our social set” and 6: “a social drinker”) and lost the positive ones.

It’s become more about social DISconnection—and, for many, disconnection from reality.

Social media lost its shine for me in 2016, when it became clear that both parties were going to be choosing whom I considered the wrong candidate for the upcoming election.

I stuck it out until late 2021, telling myself that I had to be on Facebook and Instagram for business reasons. And I realized that I really didn’t.

I have zero regrets about leaving although it would be easier to keep up with things like my 40th (!) high school reunion plans if I were on there. And as I look at what’s happening in both parties in the run up to the 2024 election, I’m guessing the politics expressed there would be eerily similar to 2016.

It feels like the allies and confederates on social media platforms are all about exclusion rather than inclusion. About drawing clearer lines about who is in/out. And definitely not about the welfare of human beings who are not “in.”

staying on social media

If you’re a fan of Marie Kondo and social media is not sparking joy, I invite you to release it. The people who need to find you can do it, I promise.

And we’re all unique: I certainly don’t mean to convince you to get off social media if it’s your thing. As with most aspects of life, I do encourage you to at least step back and ask a few questions about your presence there—think of it as a chance to do a little spring cleaning of your digital world.

Here are some things to consider:

who are your contacts?

Do you only connect with close friends and family, or do you reach out more widely?

Do you digitally surround yourself with people from a wide range of backgrounds who hold a diversity of values?

Or are you gathering a community in which only certain people and values are welcome?

Do you feel challenged by any individuals in your circle? Do you feel triggered by any of them?

what do you post?

Do you only post about the “good” parts of your life, or are you honest and vulnerable about the fact that your life has its ups and downs?

Do you post because you want to share what’s going on in and around you?

Or do you obsessively post about one topic and only information that supports your opinion on it and you want to convince others to agree with you?

what do you read?

Do you find yourself reading about new and different topics?

Or do you only dig deeper into posts about what you already know/believe?

how often do you check your feed?

Do you have specific times of day and amounts of time you spend on social media?

Or do you check it repeatedly and for more than a few minutes?

do you check sources?

Just because it’s on Facebook doesn’t mean it’s true. Heck, these days we would do well to question the sources of any news we read!

‘Nuff said.

how does your feed make you feel?

Getting back to Marie Kondo in a way, this is perhaps the most important question to ask.

I’m not promoting toxic positivity or pollyannism. (Did I just make up a word? No, apparently it’s pollyannaism, though.)

I am asking whether you come away from social media feeling like the world is falling apart and there’s nothing you can do about it or whether you loved the cute puppy videos and feel encouraged that there is still good in the world and you are a part of it.

now what?

You may read this and think that there are right and wrong answers to all these questions, and I’m sure you know how I feel about the matter. Remember, though, that we are bio-individual, and the “right” answer is what’s right for you right now.

While I firmly believe mobile devices and social media have caused more harm than good to humans, I know they’re here to stay. And I’m confident we can have healthier, more mindful relationships with them.

The bad news: just as food scientists have created hyper-palatable foods, companies have created hyper-addictive technology. And most of us are hooked.

The good news: as with any primary food, we can find what’s right for us right now in the realm of social media. And deep down, we know what is and isn’t good for us.

We might need to get off our devices to figure it out….

make the connection

Real, positive social connection is apparently one of the most important factors in staying safe from developing anxiety and/or depression. Social media can be part of a healthy lifestyle—and it’s more and more clearly not a replacement for in person connection.

Want to clean up your relationship with social media and/or your devices? Spend some time exploring the research about them. (How to Break Up with Your Phone and The Social Dilemma are two good starter resources.)

Then figure out what sort of values you hold and boundaries and strategies you can set for yourself—and remember that baby steps may need to be your tactic.