Okay, obviously I’m joking about the living part.
I spend a lot of time online though. I mean so much that I’m too scared to look at the app on my phone that tells me exactly how much. I don’t even know what it’s called.
But you know what, it’s not so bad.
That does not seem to be a popular opinion.
Lately, there has been a lot of media coverage of the negative aspects of social media.
Instagram has removed it likes in an effort to tackle comparison on its platform.
Taylor Swift even wrote a song about people giving out online.
Where Facebook recommends puppy videos to me, others seem to be getting into constant rows over politics.
It got me thinking. What are the things that make my social media experience so good and others so toxic or at least mixed?
That’s not to say I don’t have bad experiences, I do. But I don’t consider them indicative of social media.
So I sat down and had a think and then I made a list.
What can possibly go wrong if you write a list?
At the end of the day, this is supposed to be fun. For some people it’s entertainment, others are trying to do their dream job. Either way, it’s supposed to make you happy, not angry.
So here are 6 things I do on social media that keep it fun.
1. I remember that social media is real life.
This is tough. It doesn’t look like real life. I can’t see the person I’m talking to. I have none of the cues I have in real life engagement and in some ways, it’s easier.
All of this makes it easy to forget that whatever the platform, real people are reading, you are talking to a real person, not a machine.
Most of the things we do are done on a sort of autopilot. We make quick judgements and we react at the moment, especially in times of high emotion.
So take a minute next time to intentionally remember that there are other very real people on social media, and they are more than a profile picture.
2. I follow pages that make me happy.
When I get a new interest I often search for pages on Facebook and Instagram so that when I’m bored and passively scrolling I am seeing things that make me happy.
Lately, Facebook has been recommending a lot of videos about cute dogs based on what I engage with.
Leaving that creepiness aside, I do love dogs and a good puppy video will make me happy.
3. I don’t follow people/ pages that make me unhappy.
About a year ago I was on Facebook and somebody I was genuinely friends with started posting stuff that I considered offensive.
I didn’t want to unfriend this person because I had an offline relationship with them, so I unfollowed them.
This is a good option if the person is a family member, a genuine, real friend or colleague.
I know a lot of people would not do that, some might consider it mean but you know what it’s my device, it’s my environment and if I am upset by something, it is my responsibility to ensure that the content I see remains within my control.
And if someone unfollowed me or even unfriended me for the same reason, I say good for them.
I know people who do clear out their friends’ list from time to time. I never have, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea.
This also applies to pages. If you feel that a page you follow makes you unhappy, unfollow it.
I follow news sites and sometimes I notice that they make me angry or sad more than they do anything else and I unfollow them.
I have recently added a couple back into my feed on Facebook and Twitter so that I can keep up with things going on in the world. I think that’s important.
But if I feel they are having an unnecessary impact on my emotions, they will be removed.
Remember, you have every right to keep you digital environment within your boundaries, the same as you would your living room.
4. I don’t get into arguments
This one is going to be hard to take.
You are on Twitter. You are scrolling and all of a sudden you spot someone saying something outrageous and you are well, outraged.
You decide to respond because they can’t just say that. Maybe you made a perfectly reasoned argument with perfectly articulated points as to why they are wrong. Maybe lots of people agreed with you.
If that is the case and you feel happy every time this happens, great, you do you and feel free to skip this next part.
If not (and I suspect this is the case for most people) consider something.
Twitter rants don’t convince anyone of anything other than that they are right.
Persuasion is a much more complicated process involving many factors. Social media is an increasingly important factor in persuasion, but all arguing via tweet does is make you unhappy.
Now I hear you say ”so we should just let them spread hate then?”
And my answer is no, of course not. The problem is when you engage with them you increase their platform. Social media does not categorise bad engagement separate to good. When you comment or share you keep them trending.
Even if you share a screenshot on your own post, you are giving them the attention they wanted all along, and you’re not convincing them or people who are with them of anything.
Create positive posts. Join campaigns and act.
My favourite thing to do to better the world is to volunteer with your local youth club. They are the future you know. When you engage with young people you are literally affecting the future.
People who sit around shaming others online are not acting, just typing, they rely on attention to thrive, don’t give it to them.
I’m certainly not going to.
Some people love to argue, what about rarely matters, but if you don’t, just feel like you should, I’m here to tell you don’t have to and there are many other, more effective ways to save the world than to tweet.
5. I talk to the people I want to talk to
If you are honest, do you really want to have a conversation with the man who tweeted that all women should have kids?
No, of course you don’t, nobody does.
As we have established, it does no good and it just makes you unhappy
I have friends online, I have friends offline who I talk to online and I also join groups.
I am in groups according to my interests, like blogging, makeup, plants, cross-stitching, books.
I get to talk to people all over the world who are interested in the same things as me, how cool is that?
When I was researching this post, I googled, does social media make you unhappy?
I’m always reading or hearing that research says it does, though most of those saying that don’t say what research.
As I’ve said before, reliable sources give their sources.
If the article does not say how they know something, they are just making sweeping statements about what they’ve heard. It doesn’t make it true.
I read an article this morning in Psychology Today (who are a fantastic source by the way) called ” Does Social Media Make you Lonely?
The article says that it depends on what you do on social media. If you just scroll watching other people with their friends then yeah you will be lonely.
If you participate and social media is not a substitute for face to face relationships, then no.
The article goes into much more detail so have a look if you want to know more. In fact, always click the links provided on whatever online source you are reading and make sure you are reading something worth reading.
As an aside I think that feeling like you can’t trust information online contributes to negative feelings while online.
I think the fact that I participate increases my enjoyment of social media.
6. All of my notifications are off
Yes, that’s right all of them, all of the time.
Before this blog, I had personal accounts and I used to keep the notifications off to stop it distracting me from study, housework, or whatever I was supposed to be doing.
Since I started writing online and getting involved in the blogging community, I get a lot more notifications and while I love the interactions, it can be distracting.
Sometimes it distracts me from writing the actual blog posts.
So a few weeks ago I turned off my phone’s notifications. All this does is stop it from pinging and coming up on my screen.
I still participate, I still talk to people, approve and answer comments and all the stuff I used to.
It’s just that I can also focus on other tasks when I need to and I think I feel less anxious.
I have no evidence for this but I think that notifications do something to our brains, like it creates a sense of urgency. It makes us feel like we must act on it now when in most cases we don’t need to.
The internet is hard to navigate because there are so many people and they all seem to be angry.
The truth is there is no “everyone” when it comes to the whole world.
I think a good rule of thumb is to think, what would I do offline?
If you wouldn’t like someone constantly ringing your doorbell or your phone, why would you allow your notifications?
If you wouldn’t want to have to see pictures of things that make you feel bad about yourself, why allow it on social media?
I’m sure when you make friends at school or work, you found the people who were like you and talked about stuff you wanted to talk about, who were fun, well online should be no different.
As with anything, these tips are just what I do. If you don’t agree with me you don’t have to.
If you have other tips and would like to share, leave a comment, I’m sure others would love to read them.