Over the last two decades, a lot has changed. The Internet has become mainstream, smartphones have become the norm, and social media has become a popular way to connect and get together. That is a lot of change for a relatively short amount of time on the evolutionary clock for humans. That’s why it’s not a surprise if you’re struggling with some aspects of this.
If someone would have told you 20 years ago, that you would be constantly connected to the world through this tiny little device that fits in the palm of your hand, you would have thought they’re insane. If they would have said that you’d be watching other people’s pictures, words, and meals through this device, and liking them and commenting on them, you wouldn’t have understood what they meant.
Technology has progressed a lot very quickly and its accessibility to the average person has done the same. We have been thrown into the deep end with it all and been told to simply learn to swim in it. It’s no wonder that you might find days when it feels like too much.
It’s harder to switch off. It’s difficult to know how exactly to behave online. It’s challenging to deal with the critique and negative comments that sometimes come to us from complete strangers. It’s weird to want to have more likes and followers. It’s confusing that some have actually turned this into a lucrative career.
Should I post more? Should I post less? What should I say? Is that photo good enough? Do I look good in that selfie? Why has she got more likes than me? Why has he got more followers than me? Should I be real? Should I be funny? Should I be a totally different persona?
The questions are never-ending and the self-doubt creeps in from many angles if you let it. But you don’t have to. You can learn to build a positive relationship with the online world and the social media in it. You can learn to set boundaries and live offline without losing your face online. You can learn to use it as inspiration and fuel.
Here is how:
1. Remind yourself that the online world is not the real world.
This sounds like common sense (and kind of is) but it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in it. Yes, we can read the news and watch snapshots of people’s lives. But, both are subjective. The news is presenting what they know to be true in the matter that they think will get the most viewers. A lot of people on social media are doing the same, whilst sharing a highlight reel of their lives. Don’t mistake this for an accurate representation of their supposedly near-perfect lives. It is simply the best bits of their life and, just like you and me, they have their own challenges behind the scenes.
2. Start and end your day offline.
Start your day by connecting with yourself and your world, rather than the online world. Spend the first 30 minutes (or more if you can!) of every day doing something that fulfills you and your soul. Meditate, exercise, journal, or even simply be. Whatever you do, do it for you. Do the same in the evening. Spend the last 30 minutes of every day (or more if you can) offline and off any screens. Spend it reading, talking to your partner, cuddling your pup, or simply holding a hot cup of nighttime herbal tea. That way you wind your body and mind down, preparing them both for a night of quality sleep. If you want to take it a step further, you could even make your bedroom a technology-free zone. I’ve done exactly that and it’s pure bliss.
3. Don’t engage with trolls.
The more time you spend online, the more likely you are to come across people who are critiquing, being negative, or downright vicious towards other people or you. These people have forgotten that there are real people behind the screens reading these hurtful comments and accusations. These people feel so bad about themselves that they feel the need to make others feel bad too. Do not engage with them. Giving them attention will only give them fuel to keep going. Instead, have the strength to ignore them and focus your attention on the positive voices in the mix instead. If you’re on the receiving end of them, remind yourself that it’s not about you, it’s about them. Block them from being able to see your feed or comment on your posts or page.
4. Have regular digital detoxes.
Remember that you are in control of your life and how much time you spend online. Remember that you can switch off when you want to. Remember that you can switch off for a whole day (or more) if you want to. Maybe a Sunday? Or even half a Sunday? Do this regularly. This means no social media, no internet browsing, no email. If you can’t switch off from everything, try to at least switch off social media. Once your daily detoxes feel more comfortable, you could extend it for a whole weekend, a whole week, or even a whole month. Let your feelings dictate what you think you are capable of handling. Do this especially on holidays if you can. It’s not really a real holiday if you’re having to check your email or be reactive to what’s going on. Finally, remind yourself that this is about your mental health. You need to learn to allow yourself to switch off. You need to give your brain and mind a rest if you want them to keep working well for you.
5. Limit how long you are online.
If you are going to go on social media or read the latest news, give yourself a time limit for how long you do it for. Otherwise, you might get lost into a never-ending journey of clicking for more. This will only lead to frustration in the long run as you feel like you’ve wasted valuable time reading or scrolling random things when you could have spent that time doing something that actually fulfills you or matters to you. You’re also much more likely to end up with information overload and feeling bad about yourself. The latter is especially true if you’re scrolling Instagram and your feed is full of influencers.
6. Eliminate boredom scrolling.
You know what I’m talking about. You’ve finished work, you’ve eaten dinner, you feel a bit too tired to read, and you can’t find anything good on Netflix to watch. So, instead, you grab your phone, go on your preferred social media app(s), and just scroll. Scroll without direction, without purpose, without a real cause. Scroll simply for the sake of scrolling. Scroll for boredom. If you ever find yourself doing this, stop. This is not doing any good for anybody, especially you. Instead, sit still in silence. Listen to a song. Put a podcast on. Do something that inspires or educates you, or something that helps you to connect to yourself or to be mindful.
7. Avoid going online when you’re feeling low.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, sad, or low in any way, avoid going online. This is when you’re much more likely to get stuck into the comparison trap and end up feeling self-conscious about yourself. This is also when you’re more likely to over-dramatize the news and suffer from feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. If you’re feeling low, call a friend or family member instead. Go for a walk in the fresh air. Take a hot bath in aromatherapy oils. Watch your favorite feel-good movie. Dance to your favorite song. Or simply have a good cry. It’s ok to feel low sometimes, it’s a part of being human. Simply avoid the online world during these times as it can quickly become the big, bad overwhelming wolf.
8. Don’t feel obliged to post.
What you put on your website, blog or social media is up to you. How often you put new things on there is up to you too. That’s the beauty of it. It’s yours. That means you get to make up the rules. You get to decide which conversations to join or not join, and which causes to passionately speak up about or not. It’s your feed and you own it. You get to do whatever you want with it whenever you want to. That includes deciding who you follow and unfollow too. Make your feed something that lifts you higher and inspires you forward.
9. If you have nothing positive to say, it might be better not to say anything.
This might sound harsh, but you don’t want to become a troll yourself. It’s surprisingly easily done, especially if you’re having a bad day or if you see someone talking bullsh*t about a cause or person that you believe in. But it’s simply better not to. Engaging with negativity will only add more negativity to the mix and is more than likely to backfire. If you do want to say something, try to say something constructive. If you want to defend someone who’s being trolled, approach with caution. You might be better off alerting that person that there is a troll on their post in case they haven’t seen it yet and they can then remove them or block them from the situation. You can even send that person a message of support reminding them that they matter and that the troll’s words or actions don’t. This isn’t about eliminating opposing views or stalling discussion, but it’s about doing it from a place of respect and compassion. We are all allowed to have our own views and opinions, but we shouldn’t be attacking each other for them.
10. Your likes or followers are not a reflection of your worth.
This sounds so superbly simple written down but it’s so easily forgotten. Someone who has more likes on a post than you is not better than you. Equally, you are in no way better than someone else if you have more followers than them. We are all human and we are all equal, despite the hierarchical nature of our societies. We are all enough exactly the way we are, irrespective of what’s going on on our social media feeds. At the end of the day, we are all the same and we are all one, both online and offline.