I’m what’s considered an Older Millennial, which means I’m a part of the age group that both grew up with the internet and vividly remembers a time without it. I still remember the ancient dial-up chords of the Prodigy and America Online-era World Wide Web, the rush of excitement when you finally made it “online” (because that thing was SLOW), and the hope that someone wouldn’t pick up the landline, break your connection, and ruin it all. “Inbox Zero” wasn’t the badge of honor – a full inbox, however, was. Hearing the words You’ve Got Mail were like digitized music to your ears.
You had MAIL!!!
On your COMPUTER!!!
Ah, the olden days…
My family got America Online – or AOL for the kiddos reading – in 1997. Soon thereafter, my tweenage self found a special corner of the not-so-dark internet that seemed to be reserved especially for me: the musical theatre message boards. In each thread detailing touring companies of Les Misérables and each challenge asking your Top 25 cast albums, I found a community where I was able to be ME. Never once did I think twice about who I was talking to or the validity of the information shares – and I certainly didn’t ever consider that I could fabricate a personality online that was different from than who I was IRL. The outside world what where I pretended. This new, magical online space was where I could fully exhale and bring all of my nuances, quirks, and passions to the (pixelated) table.
One of my most vivid and impactful memories of the dawning of the internet is when my high school English teacher had to explicitly tell us that Wikipedia was not a reliable source to credit in research papers. WHAT?! There is stuff on the internet that isn’t true?! There are people who aren’t who they say they are?! Well geez. This takes the fun out of things. No more message boards, I guess.
The digital socialization that happened in the message boards and chat rooms of the late-’90s was the precursor to what we now know as social media. I remember MySpace, I remember Friendster. LiveJournal, anyone?
And then, the summer before my first year of college, I signed up to get an invite to an exclusive website connecting me to all my future classmates. It was called The Facebook.
The internet – and social media – have evolved a LOT since the 90s and early 2000s and the days of yore when Facebook had a THE before it and only allowed you to update your status in ways that completed the sentence “So-And-So is…” And with that evolution, we’ve had to reinvent what it means to be MINDFUL, over and over again.
Maybe you’re already mindful IRL. You’re present in your conversations, you live for the now, and you’re all about savoring the moment. Some might have trouble tuning into life when today’s technology provides such a fun distraction – but for you, the fun is right in front of you in real time.
But here’s the hard reality: social media, smartphones, and being in-somewhat-constant-contact are not the exception anymore, they’re the norm. Whereas outlets like Instagram and Twitter were once fun escapes, they’ve become a vital component of connection in the world we live. And while we’re not necessarily living for another moment because of social media…the moments we are living for are the same ones we’re expected to stop, drop, and document to keep our “brand” alive, both online and off.
Whether you’re looking to grow your business, or are the average social media user catching up on cute baby/puppy pics and posting funny memes, the social media overwhelm is REAL. So many people to keep up with! So much news being thrown at us! It’s almost too much to handle, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to savor the moment.
And then, enter the For-Now-Normal of the last few weeks. With so much on hold, it can seem like social media is one of the ONLY things that’s kept on chugging and churning as expected. Maybe your social media usage was mild or moderate before all this…but day by day, you’ve seen your screen time go up and felt your anxiety follow suit.
It’s not just that social media is a distraction – it’s that it makes us question how true our truths really are.
Just like a baby slowly learns that crying isn’t just a mode of calling for help but a surefire way to steal mom’s focus, social media can suck you in and make you feel as if every update, every post, every link and every Boost is a make-or-break scenario.
While I’m all about the power of a double-tap, it’s vital we learn to build healthy relationships and set boundaries on our smartphones. Here are six solid social media tips + strategies to follow (no pun intended) so you can have your life and post it, too.
6 Ways To Set Boundaries On Social Media
SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS WHEN SCROLLING:
1. QUESTION NEWS SOURCES.
Many times we’ll see a headline, gasp, and share so someone else can share in our rage/elation. But how often do you look at the URL where it came from? Is this source credible? Is it from a viable news outlet, like the New York Times or CNN, or is it from a site called something like icantbelieveitsnotbetter.com ?? It’s called “click bait” for a reason: its main point is to lure you in so you will click and BITE.
You can usually see the news source in the link preview. Train yourself to look at THAT first – yes, even before thinking about the headline – then decide whether you’ll click and share. If it’s real news, there’s a good chance it’s being reported on a more credible news site where you can find real reporting – if it’s not, then it’s not worth reading anyway (no matter HOW much it’s playing to your emotions).
2. PRACTICE COMO: CELEBRATION OF MISSING OUT.
Feeling envy bubble up when you see someone else doing something you with YOU could do or have, too? True jealousy, by definition, is a reaction to the threat of LOSING something you have. Envy, however, arises when you find yourself LACKING something someone else has. (*If you’re unsure which is which,here’s a primer on distinguishing the two.)
If you find yourself being envious of someone else on social media, ask yourself what about that thing resonates the most. What is it you want? And then CELEBRATE it for the other person. When you choose to celebrate what you want, even when someone ELSE has it, the universe takes a little mental note that you know that opportunity isn’t a limited resource. If you see scarcity, you get scarcity. Only those who recognize that there’s space out there for them can actually FILL it. Plus, in the words of Call Your Girlfriend hosts Ann and Aminatou’s Shine Theory, I don’t shine if you don’t shine.
3. ENGAGE WISELY.
It’s called SOCIAL media for a reason: it’s supposed to encourage us to be SOCIAL. Would you socialize with someone that made you feel icky? Differing opinions is different than downright bad vibes. Choose wisely what and who you engage with. Make sure your engagement does more good than harm. Basically: If it’s not the kind of social interaction you’d want to have offline, then why are you having it online?
SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS WHEN POSTING:
4. BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE.
Posting reactively is the adult equivalent of the temper tantrum. We see or experience something and get so overworked and overwhelmed that we share something, ANYTHING, to let others know how we feel.
Before you lose your cool on the web, ask yourself if what you’re posting is the Communicative Quad-fecta: Kind, True, Helpful, and Necessary. If it’s not, then maybe give yourself a time-out (counting to 20 taking slow breaths helps) to refocus and regroup.
5. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY.
Like, really, what you truly want to say. When you post a photo or update, what’s the overarching message you want to share with your followers? Do you want to share a snapshot of something you love, spread joy, inform others – or are you trying to keep up with other people’s posts, or use social media as your emotional dumping/venting ground? Do you want Likes and comments, or do you want to impart an actual, meaningful message? Quality over quantity, especially when it comes to social media.
A great picture or quote should support a main message or tell others about who you ARE, not steal the show and tell others what they AREN’T. Set a clear intention before you post, and be honest with yourself about WHY you are posting what you’re posting. And guess what? You DON’T have to keep up with the social media joneses and flood the feed. Authenticity in intention always trumps abundance in action.
6. SET IT AND FORGET IT.
After you’ve posted, let it be! It’s tempting to check your activity log every half-minute, refreshing the page to see if someone else has “Liked,” commented, or retweeted what you’ve shared. Not only is this a time-suck, it’s a strain on your emotions. If you don’t get a surge of attention within minutes, it can seem as if what you had to say or show was not a success, leading you to doubt your credibility, obsess over what you did right or wrong, and agonize over how you can tweak your strategy moving forward. It becomes an abusive relationship that makes you feel like crap.
To keep yourself in a proactive space, it’s vital to set boundaries with your social media. Make a pact with yourself to only check your various social media outlets for activity at specific, limited times throughout the day. Respond, comment, and strategize during these times and these times only, during quiet moments when your attention is not needed elsewhere. Take your pic, share your post, then go make your mark on the world – no filter necessary.