Silencing Social Media


The bondage of social media has become increasingly detrimental to our mental health. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat - and everything else those 'young folk' use - have been ushering people into debt, self-loathing, and depression. There have been countless articles about such cases: social media users going into debt to appeal to their followers; users who've allowed the pressures of social media (and the very present reality of social media bullying) to drive them to depression and/or suicide. As great of a tool as social media can be for brands, businesses, and artists, it can tear us apart individually. 

Even if the role social media has played in our lives aren't as drastic as the above, we all can admit, that since its inception, social media has played a role in our pursuit of validation, our goal-setting, and quite possibly, our self-destruction. 

We're constantly exposed to people's portrayals of success (however accurate or inaccurate they may be) and compare ourselves to those we see. We create #RelationshipGoals, #BodyGoals, #CareerGoals, #FriendshipGoals, and #FoodGoals based on the messages other people are posting. We want to be like them even if we don't know them - and when we fall short, we consider ourselves failures. We begin to assess ourselves with a lens that isn't ours, based on the lives other people live. 

We consume this content for hours each day and wonder why, when we log out, we're unfulfilled, invalidated, and insecure. We spend more time observing other people's lives than we do living our own. This is bondage. We are directly controlled by the influences of social media. Our decisions, actions, and thoughts are dictated by what we see on these platforms, and we've become so reliant on them that it's become hard to break free. Social media, in many ways, has become an addiction - both for the people pursuing a life of perfection, and the ones falsely portraying that life. 

Don't fret, though. This post is specifically for you. Here are a few habits to help you break bondage, and silence social media...for good.

Be gracious with the unfollows. So often people think you should only unfollow people you don't like, or who don't serve a purpose. This couldn't be any more untrue. I've had to unfollow many people who do serve a purpose, but who I've spent much time comparing myself (or my brand) to. People who, every time they appear on my timeline, I'd feel insecure or lose confidence. People who, every time they appeared, I'd say something bad about in an attempt to uplift myself. Those habits aren't rooted in anything healthy, and when I noticed these thoughts I knew I had to get them (the thoughts and the people) out of there. Not because I didn't like the people I was unfollowing - most of them had incredible hearts and posted wonderful (authentic) content - but because I was treading the thin line between admiration and hater-ation (and we can't have none of that in this dancery). 

The truth is, any person, place, or thing, that makes you feel discontent with your present place - consciously or subconsciously - deserves to be unfollowed. Any person, place, or thing, that heightens your insecurity deserves to be unfollowed. It's not out of hate for them, but out of love for yourself. The unfollow doesn't have to be forever, but it does have to be for now.

Take breaks when necessary. There is such a thing as social media burnout, even if you use it as a platform for business (there's a reason automated systems were introduced). Too much of anything can be bad, so it's important to give yourself a break from social media. Whether it's one day per week, or one month per year, taking a break gives you time to recenter yourself and actually experience some of the things you post about. It gives you a lengthier duration of time to reflect, reset, and refocus your energies and existence. Social media can be 'noisy', so giving yourself a break from that helps provide mental clarity and the silence you need to regroup. 

Taking a break also sets you free from the strongholds of social media. It gives you time to breathe, and reduces the opportunities you have to compare yourself to someone else.

Monitor your use. This is critical to avoid the over consumption of people's social media fallacies, and their destructive effects. Instead of spending more than half your day on social media, dedicate only certain hours to it. This allows you to get on for the reasons you need, and nothing too additional. Monitoring your use forces you to be intentional about your use during those moments. Not having 5 hours a day to surf social media statuses, helps you focus more on what you're actually using it for. If it's for engagement, you better engage with the people you need to in the time allotted. If it's to post information, well, get to it! This time constraint helps you stay focused on the matters at hand, rather than the endless abyss of people's lives.

Don't engage if it's not authentic. Social media metrics have changed so much over the years, it's hard to tell what will get you seen and what won't. Currently, many of the metrics are based on engagement. Posting a million times a day will no longer get you to the top of people's feeds, but engagement will. Social media sites are now providing its users with the things they want to see, based on the posts and accounts they engage with the most. (And by the time you read this, this metric may also change). This means, you must engage with your audience. 

This isn't particularly a bad thing, but for some it means forcing dialogue. My advice: don't force dialogue. If you find engaging is more of a task than a natural response, don't do it. No one on social media - not even social media itself - can make you do anything. Especially not when your mental health is on the line. Engage with the people you want to engage with, not out of necessity, but out of desire. Start conversations with the people you want to start conversations with. Like and retweet the things you want to. Stop placing an unfair burden on yourself by feeling like you have to respond to everything, or be friends with everyone. Your social media is just that, yours. Don't feel obligated to use it in the way the metrics are mandating, especially not if it takes you from who you are at your core. Social media is not worth selling your soul for. Continue to be authentic, with both your engagement and what you share, and people will find you. 

Stop the idolatry. #RelationshipGoals. #BlackWomanGoals. #HairGoals. Sure, goals are great to have, but when our goal is to emulate the people we see on social media, we quickly find ourselves in the land of idolatry. If there are social media lives you're obsessed with, stop obsessing over them. I know, it seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how much time you spend fixating over that one person's post, or searching for their page because you don't follow them but want to keep tabs anyway. People only post on social media what they want others to see. When we idolize what they show us we miss a huge part of what's really happening when the phone's turned off. Stop allowing what people post to dictate the satisfaction in your own life. Stop comparing what they show you, to what you actually have. 

Start by reducing your search from 5 times per day, to 2. Then from 2 to 1. Then, none. Block them (if you must) so that you're no longer able to see their posts. Do something that will help you quit the bad habit of searching and indulging in their lives. 

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about freedom and how it manifests. I've recognized that one of my most enslaving habits is my use of social media; it may be yours too. If freedom is liberation from all bondage, then addressing social media bondage must be included to ultimately free yourself. 

You may not feel like you're bound by your social media usage, but I urge you to truly assess your use. Do you check your account every 5 minutes because you're afraid you may have missed something? Do you compare your photos to others? Do you wonder if your life seems exciting enough, or do things to make it more exciting? All these behaviors are toxic. Living for the approval of others can be damaging. And publishing your life, every second of ever day, can certainly threaten your freedom. It's time to lose those chains. 

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