A guide to making social media social

Over the past few years, the notion about social media has turned into a rather bad one.

I feel, and sometimes actually get judged when I post “too much” on Instagram (I’m talking about max. 4 pictures a week and one story a day). People who post on Facebook want to advertise something or have not yet discovered that “Facebook is not real life” (as many people like to say). Social media usage, in general, has been found to negatively impact our mental health (just google “is social media bad for us?” and you’ll find a thousand articles).

What happened? Wasn’t social media aimed at improving our real (social) life? Everybody is now blaming the medium but aren’t we at fault?

Let’s be clear! I’m not saying that excessive use of social media is advantageous. Like any other addiction, social media excess is bad for your (mental) health and can definitely impair your real life. But I’m fed up with everyone blaming social media itself and not our way of using it. We often position ourselves as the victims when we are actually the ones in control. If we manage to figure out how to use Facebook, Instagram, and Co. effectively, I believe there is a potential of enhancing our real (social) life. Here are a few tips I found useful:

Back to the roots

Use social media to stay connected with friends and family, especially Facebook. Don’t use it as a news source nor as something to counter boredom. Use it when you want to talk to somebody you haven’t seen in a long time or to see what they’ve been up to recently. What I love and, thus, use most often on Facebook is their events section. You can see who’s interested or going to diverse events and can therefore arrange to meet up in real life. Time-saving and efficient, isn’t it? Another helpful tool is location tagging. Nowadays, we are all global citizens and our friends are spread all over the world. Sometimes you find out that you are in the same location at the same time and you can meet up with someone you haven’t seen in yeeeeaaaars – my main reason for location tagging my insta pictures, btw ;-)

Drawing a line

Be aware of what you post and who can see it. Keep a part of your life private. Your current relationship status or conflicts with a friend or family member should never make it to Facebook, Instagram, and Co. Make sure to resolve personal issues ALWAYS in real life. Learn how to say what you think and don’t just type it. This will not only make you more courageous but it creates a strong interpersonal bond with the person you’re sharing your thoughts and problems with. Also, the risk of being misunderstood online is high and everything you write is documented – be aware!

Instant pictures and videos

Instagram and Facebook stories have created the urge that we need to share everything instantaneous. Don’t give in to this urge! If you are at a concert, at a beautiful beach, drinking a delicious, insta-worthy matcha latte, take a picture or video or whatever you like but don’t edit and upload that piece of content right away (this will take far longer than just quickly taking a snapshot). Enjoy the moment! Upload it later.

Off-time

I believe the biggest issue we’re having with social media is the amount of time we spend online.

My “simple” advice:

  • Turn off your internet connection before you start getting ready for bed and turn it off after your morning routine
  • Don’t use social media when you are having breakfast, lunch, afternoon coffee / tea or dinner
  • If you have work to do, put your phone on silence and close all social media tabs on your computer

This may all sound very easy but try it out! It needs practice. Trust me, I’m still trying ;-)

Another thing I’m still practicing is learning how to be “alone” (in a wider sense). I often catch myself reaching for my phone when I’m in an uncomfortable situation. Maybe I’m just waiting for someone or I am at a table where everyone but me is engaged in a conversation. I don’t want to look “pathetic” so I take out my phone. But let me tell you, sometimes you miss out on the best situations while you’re purposefully checking your phone.  

Others check their social media at night to make them feel less lonely. Even though it may seem like social media combats this feeling, seeing pictures of friends hugging each other or a couple traveling the world will leave you even more mentally strained. My suggestion: meet up or call someone, read a book or clean your apartment (I know it sounds ridiculous but cleaning is one of the best distractions ever, try it!). Don’t go on social media when you’re sad. The risk of addiction is very high!

Less is more

Last but not least, information overload! The most contemporary issue. The solution (pretty easy again): narrowing it down.

  • Maximum two social media accounts
  • Screen out your Facebook friend list and Instagram followings on a regular basis
  • Since you don’t want to deal with an information overload, you shouldn’t overload your friends / followers either. Think twice before posting!

You know what I realized while writing this blog entry? I definitely haven’t learned the right way of dealing with social media myself. I often get soaked in and end up spending too much time scrolling through my Instagram feed. What I’m saying is that it takes time. But we can only start by realizing that we are not the victims of social media but we are the ones in control. And that abandoning it completely is not the only solution.  

Please let me know about other tips and tricks to improve our daily experience with social media in the comment section ☺

P.S. Addressing the ones who judge me for uploading “too many” pictures on Instagram: I like to call it my “public photo album”. My great grandma used to show me her old photo albums full of pictures with her and her friends traveling the world. It’s funny when you think about it because underneath every picture she wrote where it was taken, who she was with and what they were doing. Sounds familiar, huh? We’ve always loved to share memories and pictures. Now we just do it online!