As someone who works in social media for a living, I know how discouraging scrolling can be at times. Or even just feeling blah after being online for twenty minutes. At this point, we get it. Our online lives aren’t us, or even close to it.
The images, statuses, and profiles are just tiny pieces of information, leaving room for everyone to piece together what they think is the rest of the story. We have become socially aware of the highlight reel that fosters a lack of reality within social media. But why is it that we can still walk away with a sense of lack when scrolling?
When interviewing several artists for my website Pop Design Shoppe (in the fields of music, art, and fashion) most noted that they felt discouraged in their industry as a result of social media comparison. This got me thinking about what people are taking away from their time online. I’ve always loved social media for its power to spread messages virally (either visual or textual) but also its artistic component, something that comes naturally to me. I love editing photos, creating a visual aesthetic for my brand, and seeing what other creators put out there. But even for me, someone who works in professional social media management, I’ve found myself drained many times by trying to keep up in an instantaneous and unrealistic virtual world.
Scroll through the grids of many popular boutiques, influencer profiles, or brands and you will quickly see agency created imagery, drone shots, and perfectly edited beach shoots.
Photos that teams of people and professional tools create, even if they’re designed to look casual or authentic in nature. When the world of advertising meets online consumers, a lot of content can quickly become discreet commercials mixed amongst user posts. So don’t beat yourself up if your iPhone shot isn’t quite as artistically developed as many of your favorite profiles, especially if these people or brands are monetizing the content.
It’s not all bad news though. Social media brings together people in a way that’s never been done before. I’ve been able to connect with so many great business professionals online, as well as leverage both my personal and professional identity. I’ve always loved self-publishing because it made me feel like I had a voice to say anything on my mind, leading me to question what message I want to vocalize online.
As we all experience the ups and downs of this somewhat new virtual world, I’d like to bring focus back to the positive. Not everything we see online is positive, nor is the engagement of its users (hello comments section). But where do we draw the line, and how can we make social media overall a more positive experience rather than a draining one?
When the mind is left unattended, its focus isn’t to keep a positive thought pattern. If you are not consciously making an effort to choose positive thoughts, you may, by default, end up thinking negatively. Subconsciously scrolling online can leave you walking away with a list of negative thoughts if you don’t choose to be aware. As an experiment, scroll through your feed for a few minutes, being conscious of your thoughts, and notice the stories or conclusions your mind comes to. With so much room left to the imagination online, making up stories in regards to our own worth or insecurities is not uncommon.
You can’t control what others post, but you can affect how they make you feel…which inevitably starts with your feelings about yourself. Although we’ve moved more towards more authenticity online, there will always be people, companies, comments, or photos, that can make you feel smaller in comparison if you allow it. Being present and truly aware of where your mind takes you is a big part of staying positive online.
To keep myself from getting too distracted, or scrolling a little too aimlessly, I’ve created a list of ways to stay positive on social media. Just like staying positive in real life, it can be discouraging or even a little depressing to scroll at times. But having personal limits, purpose, and a lighter outlook will help any of those who may have been finding it a challenge.
Resist the unconscious urge to open and scroll when you’re bored (and try to stay away at the very start and end of the day).
This is a hard one to beat. When you’re bored that an easy solution becomes to open an app and scroll endlessly, making a boring Saturday night feel even more boring in comparison to what others are posting online. It can be easy to compare when you’re feeling bored or unsatisfied in some way. Even though you know their Instagram life isn’t a true representation either. So why do we beat ourselves up about it?
When you’re out doing something that brings you joy, its not quite as detrimental that someone else is out enjoying themselves too. When we play the comparison game, on or offline, we will always end up feeling inadequate. Many companies also promote this socially to us big-time, by promoting certain ideals or expectations as a means of gaining customers interest to their products (but that’s a whole other story).
Just like anything in life, balance is the foundation to keep you from feeling burnt out on social media. And starting your day with a scroll is an easy way to feel distracted and cluttered. The way you start your day sets the tone for the whole day, so checking likes or last night’s stories first thing in the morning isn’t necessarily going to put you in the most focused mindset, Try setting time aside later on in the day or set to ignore notifications if you find it difficult to stay off. It can be addicting to feel like you need to be involved but it can lead you to feeling constantly distracted or validated that your online contacts are engaging (or aren’t). But this removes you from what’s going on in real life.
This same rule applies at the end of the day, when reflecting and disconnecting is most valuable. Spending your last few minutes browsing posts can leave you feeling overstimulated or not able to fully disconnect from the online world. Since the begining and end of your day are so pivotal to both your day and your mental health, its important to use the time for something more beneficial if you’re looking to feel more on track.
Have a purpose on social media (when both browsing and posting)….and engage!
This is where you need to take a closer look at accounts you’re following. Try finding people or accounts to connect with that inspire you in some way. (This tip goes with #3). Staying connected with accounts that uplift you rather than breed negativity are the ones you should fill your feeds with. It can be easy to get caught up in filler or fake news but if they leave you feeling drained after a 20 minute session, they should get the cut. This includes toxic high school friends or any negative past relationships.
For the people you do follow, don’t just lurk through all the posts. What’s stopping you from liking their photo or commenting if you support them? Sometimes I noticed that I wouldn’t like posts from people if I didn’t want to be noticed that day, but this leaves you feeling even less connected. Don’t be invisible, support others! An easy way to make social media a positive force in your life is to engage instead of lurk. Researchers have found that people who comment and connect with others online are happier on social media than people who scroll without engaging.
Turn your envy into inspiration
Hate to break it to you, but going online to envy on the Instagrammer that has the relationship, car, business, vacation, or body you want will not bring any of those things to you. Hating on someone that has the things you desire is only a waste of your time and energy, and leaves you feeling worse about yourself rather than better. Instead of using our energy to be envious of others, we can use that same energy to bring our desires to us knowing that we are just as capable and use those people as a source of inspiration.
Think before posting
On your own account, think about what you’re sending out to the world. Are your posts positive or negative? Before you click post, consider whether it’s making you feel good, serves purpose, or overall has a positive implication to your audience (rather than wasting more energy seeking likes, comparing, or overthinking).
Let go of your attachment to the outcome, don’t expect a certain number of likes or use it as a measure of success
Unconsciously, you might think that likes equate validation and that the more likes you get the more liked you are as a person or the better you looked in a photo, leading you to become more dependent on likes as a source of approval. Although it may sound silly to think that likes could be an indicator of validation, it can be easy to get caught up in seeking approval from others; online or offline.
Just becoming aware of the feelings you’re taking and receiving from the online world will help you make better decisions as a user. So if you’ve been fixating on the likes or followers, try taking a break or refocusing your content. You will feel happier when you have confidence and believe in what you’re posting, and when you don’t feel the need for it to be liked. Just simply reminding yourself that you don’t need this image or post to be liked, before posting, can be really powerful.
Content courtesy of Michelle Finn, Founder of Pop Design Shoppe
CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR, MICHELLE FINN
Michelle has a strong marketing background in a versatile set of roles including social media, events, and field marketing. She fell in love with design and combined it with her skills to create her business, Pop Design Shoppe. In the future, she hopes to continue her work within design or the arts (including interior design, fashion, the visual arts, and event design). She wants to continue working on projects that create impact. Her perfect day includes a morning workout, sunny day at the beach (preferably with her dog joining) followed by an evening out with friends at an event.