Taking the Toxicity out of Social Media

Social media can be a minefield for toxicity and “compare and despair” thinking. It is so easy to scroll through timelines and focus on what others are doing, seemingly achieving and measuring our lives against theirs. Many of us pick up our phones and automatically open Instagram without giving it a second thought and that is often when the trouble starts. I am not by any means saying you should stop using social media; for many of us, it has become a part of our jobs and day-to-day lives that is unavoidable. Social media has been responsible for a lot of great things in my life: connecting with like-minded people, job/networking opportunities and keeping in touch with friends near and far to name a few -- so it’s definitely not all bad! However, if you find the scales tipping toward the more unpleasant side of social media here are some tips to help keep the internet a safe place for you and your scrolling thumb.

  1. Unfollow/Mute - If you get a negative feeling every time you look at a particular person’s photos then maybe it is time to consider unfollowing them or at the very least muting their account. There is no need to follow someone that makes you feel bad about yourself for any reason. Try to fill your feed with things that make you feel good: friends and loved ones, motivational and inspirational content -- things that uplift you instead of bringing you down.

  2. Knowing When to Put the Phone Down - When we travel or have an exciting experience many of us get caught up in documenting it for the enjoyment of others and forget to enjoy it for ourselves in the moment. It’s hard for us to eliminate this habit, but we can try and find a better balance. Try snapping a few photos at the beginning and then put your phone away for the rest of the event. Focus on staying on the present and having a good time IRL.

  3. Forget the Fantasy - It’s easy to scroll through countless curated and perfectly edited “plandids” (planned candids) on social media and compare our everyday lives to them. Most people don’t put real moments on social media; all you are seeing is their highlight reel or best moments. Don’t get caught up in the filtered fantasy; what we see on the ‘gram is hardly ever real life. Be smart about what you’re looking at, take it with a grain of salt and keep the focus on yourself.

  4. Nix the Negativity - Social media isn’t all bad, it has created a lot of very positive communities, but more often than not it can be a breeding ground for negativity. Whether it’s publicly shaming someone online or filtering through a slew of distressing news, it can quickly become a mashup of not-so-nice-things. When we are constantly exposed to this kind of negativity it can easily slip into your everyday life and cause feelings of cynicism to prevail.

If you want to try and minimize the toxic effects of social media on your life, you can take a few steps to try and combat it. Ultimately look at how much time you are devoting to social media, the simplest and most practical way to keep it from taking over your life is by decreasing the amount of time spent on it. If you find yourself slipping into comparisons and negative self-talk try practicing some daily gratitudes and affirmations. When you learn to love and accept yourself the validation from strangers online becomes way less important.

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