Be honest, at this point, can you even picture your life without social media? Without quickly updating your friends, family, and strangers alike at a moment’s notice, or being able to creep through the lives of others whenever you want? While social media is still relatively new, it has changed the game, and let’s face it, it looks like it is here to stay. And seeing as 45% of the global population was on social media in 2019, chances are you have dabbled in the digital world, too.

Also read: Social Media, Information Overload, and Self-Esteem

The Relationship We Have With Social Media Matters

Let’s start by going over the numbers. In 2012, people were spending, on average, 90 minutes on social media per day. But by 2019, that number had increased to 153 minutes per day. WHO estimates our average lifespan globally is 72 years, and seeing that people who are as young as 10 years old are joining social media platforms, that means in our lifetime we will likely spend roughly 6 years and 8 months scrolling through social media [Source].

Whether we may actively realize it or not, social media is playing a substantial role in our lives – and that is not entirely a bad thing. In fact, social media can connect us with people, opportunities, and information we may otherwise not be able to. So much of our society is now connected to the digital world, which means that avoiding it altogether may not be practical or desirable. What we should do, on the other hand, is make sure we are developing a possible relationship with it so it continues to serve us, as opposed to falling into the trap of mindless scrolling.

10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship with Social Media

1. Spend more time living

Do you ever find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media without even realizing you ended up on the platform to begin with? Logging onto social media has become effortless and instinctual now. We do it while we wait in line at the grocery store, while we use the bathroom, or during dinner without putting any thought into it. It can be nice to be able to keep up with what is going on in the lives of the people we care about, but we need to remember to live our own lives, too. Spend more time living your own life than you do scrolling through the lives of others. This does not just mean going through the motions of going to work and keeping up with household chores – this means doing more the things that excite us help us grow. When you are feeling more fulfilled offline, you may find the pressures of social media easier to manage.

2. Set limits (app limits, times of use, bedroom, etc)

Take control of your social media use, as opposed to letting it take control of you. Without realizing it, we can find ourselves stagnant in one place, mindlessly scrolling through the lives of others. Setting limits with ourselves regarding our social media usage is a great way to log on more intentionally to ensure we are scrolling because we actually want to and not because we instinctively tapped the app. The limits you decide to set should be unique to your own needs but could include limiting how long you spend scrolling through particular apps (ex: TikTok or Instagram), limiting what time you log on and off during the day (ex: avoiding it before 7 am and putting it away by 8 pm), or limiting where in your house you can use it (ex: avoiding it in the bathroom, bedroom, or at the dinner table). At first, this may feel uncomfortable or foreign, but the more your focus on creating limits that work for you, the more in control of your experience you may feel, and the better your relationship will become.

3. Unfollow/mute

From our favourite restaurants to our political beliefs in foreign countries, social media allows us to share our opinions on virtually any topic. This also means that when we log onto social media, we are immediately flooded with the opinions of others, as well. As great as this can be to learn more about any topic imaginable, it can cause some serious information overload (we actually wrote a post on this recently, so feel free to check it out here). If you are feeling like you are getting too many opinions, or if you are finding particular opinions are damaging, you have to remember that you can take control of what accounts you are following. Whenever you feel like it is needed, you can unfollow/mute accounts that are not serving you.

4. Check-in before posting

It can be easy to get caught up in the instant gratification of social media – to post something online, and then find yourself repeatedly checking back in to see who has liked your post and what people are saying about it. There is nothing wrong with posting something online and hoping to get positive feedback, but just take a second to check in with yourself before you post. Ask yourself what your intentions are behind the post – are you just posting it to get validation or praise in an area of your life? Are you wanting to share a recommendation that you think others may find useful? Are you wanting to update your friends and family members on something exciting without having to text everyone? The point of this is not to make yourself feel guilty or bad for posting online, but rather to make sure that you are not basing your worth on the opinions of others, or that you are not fixating yourself on who is liking your posts.

5. Never share your location in real-time

While this one may feel obvious for some, it is still an important reminder. Social media connects us with people all around the world, who, unfortunately, are sometimes not the greatest. This does not mean that we should necessarily live our lives in complete fear, but it is a good reminder for us to take the necessary steps to keep ourselves protected. One thing this includes is not sharing your location in real-time. Not only does this help you stay in the moment (let’s face it, posting while you are with your friends at a coffee shop or local store can be a little distracting and takes away from the moment), but it can also make sure that strangers or unwanted people to know where you are in real-time.

6. Log off when you feel overwhelmed 

Sometimes social media can catch up to us before we even realize what is happening. Maybe when you log on, things start off as a fun way to catch up with what is going on with your friends and family, but the more you scroll, the less it feels good. Identifying when social media is starting to feel overwhelming can be extremely challenging because it can happen so gradually. However, when we are logging on more intentionally, we can become more aware of our habits and how we are feeling, and identify when we start to feel overwhelmed is much easier than if we are mindlessly scrolling. When we are feeling overwhelmed (whether that is from social media or something in our personal lives), the best thing we can do is to log off and prioritize our own self-love and gratitude. If you are new to practicing gratitude, check out these 7 gratitude practices you can do at home for free.

7. Remember it’s okay to keep parts of your life private

There can sometimes be this pressure to share what we are doing on social media. Maybe we go out for a nice dinner and want to let others know that we did, or we went on vacation and feel obligated to share all of our photos. Sharing snippets of our lives has become the backbone of social media, and there is nothing wrong with it, but just remember that it is also okay to keep parts of your life private. When we are aware of our social media usage and our intention behind why we are posting to social media, we can be better equipped to decide if it is worth sharing at all. Deciding not to post something does not mean that it does not hold value in your life – sometimes, it just helps to keep you grounded to yourself.

8. Reel is not the same as Real

Social media is a collection of highlight reels. This is something we can tell ourselves easily on a good day but may find more challenging when we are struggling. The fact of the matter is that we choose exactly what we want to share on social media: the good, the bad, and the otherwise – but so does everybody else. People can share the picture of the brand new home without the years of rejected offers, or the fancy new job without the months of financial strain and unemployment that lead them to that moment. Reel is not the same as real. If you catch yourself comparing your life to what you see online, kindly take a moment to remind yourself that you are not seeing the full picture. Plus, regardless of what others may be doing, that does not take away from everything you have accomplished in your own life. Stand tall and believe in yourself.

9. Find offline activities you enjoy

The other day I told a friend that my boyfriend and I were planning a weekend to get away and unplug, to which my friend quickly responded with, “what the heck will you do?” That was a pretty fair question – so much of our lives are directly influenced by technology. In fact, with so many of us spending more time at home, it almost feels like everything has moved into the digital world. Our meetings are now on Zoom, our workout classes are lead by a YouTube star, and our family dinners are on FaceTime. It can feel like it is becoming more challenging to escape the digital world, so sometimes you need to do it a little more intentionally. Now, let me make something clear: our plan was never to go completely pioneer and turn off the electricity, avoid modern-day kitchen appliances or anything to the extreme. Our plan was to avoid things like TV and social media for a weekend where we could get outside and focus on the present moment. It was, however, a good reminder that it is good to find activities you enjoy doing offline.

10. Love yourself first

Before anything else, love yourself. There are a lot of people online who are telling you that you are not enough. We see glimpses into the lives of strangers who show us what they want us to see – a piece, but not the full puzzle. So, in all that we do, every single day, we need to make sure that we are there for ourselves, we trust ourselves, we believe in ourselves, we honour ourselves, we listen to ourselves, we stand up for ourselves, and we love ourselves first.

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