MINIMALISM AND SOCIAL MEDIA: HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA MINDFULLY
I have a love-hate relationship with social media. It’s an amazing source of information and inspiration but can also be a tough space to hang out in and can take up our time and energy. In this article on minimalism and social media, I’m exploring some ways we can use social media mindfully and responsibly.
THE BENEFITS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
There are some amazing benefits of social media, which is why, of course, it’s so popular. Here are some of the reasons why I love social media.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms can be a wonderful means of connecting with family and friends. They may live far away or we’re not able to see them in person but social media makes it quick and easy to keep in touch and stay in contact.
As a business owner I use social media to connect with customers, suppliers and other businesses and as a blogger, social media helps me stay connected with and make new connections with other bloggers across the world, all at the touch of a button.
The online world is a wonderful source of information. You can source pretty much all the information you’d ever need on the internet and it’s easy to find and easy to share through all the social media channels, whether it’s news on world affairs, local events, where to eat out and so much more.
Social media is a great reference tool to help you stay up-to-date and informed whether it’s generally about the world or on a specific niche. There are groups, pages and feeds for pretty much everything!
Sometimes we know what we’re looking for, at other times we’re looking for ideas and social media provides this really well too. I love to get ideas for recipes, home décor, fashion trends, holiday destinations and (when my kids were little) art and craft projects. At the scroll of your phone or the click of the button you receive inspiration and ideas from around the world.
THE PROBLEMS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
There’s a flip side to most things in life and social media has many problems and disadvantages. Here are some of the main ones I’ve noticed.
I used to compare myself with others. What I looked like, what my clothes were like, where I went on holiday, how my body looked. And, I’d often compare myself unfavourably to the people I saw on TV or magazines.
With the advent of social media, this can be taken to a whole new level. It’s now so easy to compare ourselves with everybody else, from famous people to our closest friends, just by checking out their feeds.
We’re exposed to the subliminal messages that those who are most successful have the largest following and those people tend to be rich, good looking or both. How are the rest of us going to be able to compete?
2. Distortion of reality
I think the comparison game is made worse because we look at those perfect feeds and grids and then wonder why our own life is so messy and imperfect in comparison.
I do it myself even now. I don’t like posting photos of my home on my Instagram account because I don’t think it’s ever as clean, tidy and perfectly manicured as the other minimalist accounts I follow.
I know in reality, my followers would like to see my pretty average but real life home (albeit that has much less stuff in it than other homes!) but I still struggle with the fact that aesthetically my grid won’t look good enough!
The images and life that we see through filters on social media is often a distortion of reality and we need to remind ourselves of this often.
3. Obsession with likes and followers
Not only is it a question of curating the perfect feed, but then there’s the obsession with numbers of likes and followers. I gave up on that game a long time ago because it wore me down and drained my creativity and joy of using social media to connect, stay informed and share inspiration.
Monitoring the insights of how many people engaged with my posts, liked and followed me was exhausting and a futile game of chase that I felt I always lost. I ended up being too busy watching and chasing for more followers and stopped enjoying writing, creating, sharing and learning which is why I started all this in the first place!
4. Negative comments
On top of the quest for likes and followers, there’s also the comments to deal with. Positive, helpful, constructive and uplifting comments are great, but the negative ones can be very tough to deal with.
It somehow makes it easier for people to post hurtful and negative comments on social media when they probably wouldn’t say it to your face.
Perhaps we take advantage of the anonymity, distance and being able to hide behind our on-screen persona which gives us a confidence and bravado that we wouldn’t have in real life. Negative comments can be destructive, paralysing and offensive.
5. Mental health
Much of these disadvantages of social media so far can be summed up in two words, mental health. If you’re chasing perfection, comparing yourself unfavourably, not getting the likes you need or the responses you want, or you’re the subject of bullying, trolling or even just a few odd ill thought out words, then social media can be a harsh, unwelcoming world. I think this applies to influencers and those who use social media just for personal pleasure and leisure.
Mental health issues are prevalent enough for many of us at the moment, and social media doesn’t help boost our confidence, lessen our anxiety or cultivate good self-esteem.
Sadly, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.
6. A waste of time
The other problem I’ve noticed with social media is how easy it is to waste time scrolling and watching! It’s a real time suck and, in my own experience, not a very productive way of spending my precious time. I could get so much more done that would benefit my body and mind in much better ways!
7. Stops us being present
I’ve also noticed that too much scrolling means I’m not spending enough time being present and engaged in my own life right now. I’m too busy looking at what other people are doing to be fully aware of my surroundings. Putting down my phone allows me to look up, take interest in and be present with whoever or whatever is around me. Here are some more tips to help you be more present in life.
MINIMALISM AND SOCIAL MEDIA
So, now I’ve shared my own thoughts about social media, I wanted to briefly mention why I linked minimalism and social media together in this article.
Minimalism is a life of intention. It’s about being purposeful and aware of what you let into your home and life. Often that does relate to stuff but it can also apply to the make-up you wear, what you do for exercise and your eating habits, how you spend your money and, as in this article, how you use social media.
A minimalist approach to social media is a mindful approach. It’s not about getting rid of all your apps and social media accounts because they’re great for many things, but it is about being careful what, why and how you consume the information out there.
WHY NOT GET RID OF SOCIAL MEDIA COMPLETELY
Social media is here to stay. It’s a big money-making business and a popular and useful tool for millions of people so, although the different platforms might ebb and flow in popularity, social media as a whole isn’t going anywhere.
Along with the huge benefits that it can bring, I don’t think it’s realistic to get rid of your social media accounts completely if you basically enjoy being on them.
What I personally think is a better option (and it certainly works better for me), is to use social media mindfully and purposefully.
HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA MINDFULLY
Minimalism and social media have an interesting relationship, but it all comes to down to how use your favourite platforms. Here are a few ideas for using social media mindfully.
1. Set your intention
Before you hop on to Facebook, Instagram or something else, think about why you’re doing it. Are you looking for some particular inspiration (a restaurant review on Facebook for example)? Do you have a few minutes to spare and just want to catch up on the local gossip or see what your friends have been up to lately? Do you need ideas for a bathroom makeover or a recipe for carrot cake?
Before you open up your favourite platform, set your intention and decide what you want to achieve.
2. Decide a time limit
Isn’t it easy to waste time on social media? It’s like a worm hole that you get sucked into. Just a few more scrolls, just this next video and before you know it, half an hour’s gone by.
If you spend too long scrolling, decide a time limit. Set the timer on your phone or use natural limits such as whilst you’re sitting in the car waiting for your kids to come out of school, or whilst dinner is on the boil.
3. Declutter your feeds, friends and follows
Keeping up with everybody can be difficult so if you’re spending ages scrolling your friends’ updates and want to see less, it’s ok to declutter your friends and connections. You don’t have to follow everyone and you can even turn off notifications and updates you don’t want to see without unfriending people.
Take a look at the groups, pages and accounts you’re following. Do they all really add value to your life or have you outgrown them or moved on. Regularly sift through and delete or unfollow accounts that you’re not interested in hearing from or about.
4. Use the algorithms to your advantage
Social media platforms are always changing their algorithms which is how things you like watching will continue to populate your feeds. Which is also why, if you’re not liking and commenting on things you do like, over time you’ll stop being shown them which is infuriating! So, if there’s something you don’t want to be shown, don’t watch it and then the algorithm will know not to bring it up on your feed.
5. Remove apps from your phone
My phone is how I access most of my social media and from time to time, when I’ve had enough, I remove the apps from my phone. This means that if I want to check them I have to log in at my computer. The faff of doing this is usually enough to put me off and I’ll find something else to do!
6. Take a break with a social media detox
Sometimes it’s helpful to take a break from social media, maybe for a few days or more. It gives you time to work on your own life instead of living vicariously through others. If you do try this break, make a mental note of what you do with your time and energy instead of scrolling. It might be an interesting experiment to find other ways to fill your time.
7. Find something else to do
You could also find something else to do instead of checking your phone. The key here is to work out why you look at social media in the first place. If you use it for work then this suggestion might not be appropriate, but if it’s something you do in your personal time and you want to try going without then give it a go!
Identify if you use social media to relax or to take you to a different place. Do you look at travel accounts, check up on the celebrity gossip, look at cute puppy videos? Is it something you do just to while away a few spare minutes or does it drain hours from your day? Finding something else to do is about knowing why you use social media in the first place.
Some alternatives could be:
- Reading a book
- Doing something creative like writing or art
- Listening to a podcast
- Do something more productive on your phone
8. Have screen-free zones and times in your home
If you find it difficult to limit yourself, then impose other limits instead. You could say no phones in the bedroom, or at the dinner table, or after 9pm at night. Choose your own limits but make sure they’re realistic so you can stick to them.
9. Keep your phone in a specific place at home
I’ve found that when my phone is next to me then I’m much more likely to check it out of habit. If I leave my phone in the hallway in the middle of the house where I can hear it if it rings, then it’s far enough away from me and I’m not tempted to grab it and start scrolling.
10. Turn off notifications
Although I currently have social media apps on my phone, I do turn off the notifications so I still have to access the app to read messages, see updates and know what’s going on. If I turn the notifications on then I’m more tempted to check what’s happening and get involved whenever a notification banner pops up on the screen.
11. Choose your favourite platforms
The other thing you could try is to decide which social media platform or platforms work best for you and stick with those. For this blog I am on Facebook (where I share articles), Instagram (where I share quotes to inspire simplicity in your day) and Pinterest (which is like a noticeboard of informative resources).
You don’t need to be on every platform to get your message across or receive everybody else’s. Choose what you like to use and receive from social media and decide which platforms accordingly.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MINIMALISM AND SOCIAL MEDIA
I’d love to know your thoughts on minimalism and social media and whether you use social media mindfully. Or, do you feel you get sucked in and find it difficult to come away? Do you have any other tips to share on how to use social media intentionally and safely? Please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear your ideas too!