If you want someone to convince you to stop using social media, I am not your girl. I won’t tell you to delete Instagram, to limit your TikTok use with a timer, or to condemn society for making it such a big part of our lives. While there’s nothing wrong with these approaches and each come with their own benefits, today, I’m sharing a different approach. Social media is already a big part of our lives, and I’m not one to waste my energy trying to swim upstream. The only way to move forward is to work with it by maximizing the rewards and minimizing the risks.
How do we make that happen? Social media positivity. I’m sharing how to boost the feel-good effects of social media (they do exist!) and giving you tips to help you feel more connected, empowered, and inspired when using it.
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
What is social media positivity?
If you step away from this article having learned one thing, I want it to be this: Using social media in a passive way is a key contributor to the feelings of depression and loneliness we often associate with our feeds. It makes sense logically, but it’s also backed up by science. When we lurk, when we scroll for hours on end without having a single conversation or interaction, we end up feeling emptier than when we started.
Social media is meant to be social.
Humans are wired for connection—we’re social animals, after all. When we use social media to connect on a deeper level, we feel less alone and it actually supports our mental health. Remember: How we use social media influences the emotions we experience when scrolling.
Don’t Be a Voyeur
A couple of years ago, I listened to an interview between the psychologist and author, Guy Winch, and Esther Perel, a leading psychotherapist. Their conversation forever changed my social media habits. This was one of my key takeaways:
Guy: There’s a lot of research about what it is about social media that creates loneliness, and it comes down to how we use it. In other words, it’s the passivity with which many people use social media. Passivity, meaning they just scan other people’s feeds. They’re not commenting, they’re not posting, and they’re not interacting with social media. They’re just using it in a voyeuristic kind of way.
Esther: And why does that produce loneliness?
Guy: Because you’re actually not interacting, because you’re not getting feedback on you.
Engage, Engage, Engage.
If I follow you on social media, trust that you will hear from me eventually. It doesn’t matter if we only met once, if you have hundreds of thousands of followers, or if we haven’t spoken in years. I can’t consume without engaging, especially after hearing the words above. It’s one of the reasons Diane Cari and I have an inside joke and how I received my very own personal book recommendation from Ryan Holiday. Take it from someone who knows: By consistently communicating and engaging with others’ content (in a kind way that respects boundaries), your scrolling sessions will be transformed for the better.
Show The Real You
There’s a quote I love from Arlan Hamilton, author of It’s About Damn Time, that always reminds me how important it is to show up both online and in real life as my true, authentic self: “Be who you are so that the people who are looking for you can find you.”
We will never be able to capture our “real lives” on social media, but I don’t know if that would be healthy either. There are things that are too private, too personal to share. And anyways, most of us reach for social media to be uplifted or inspired, not brought down by other people’s problems. But there are simple ways we can peel back the curtain and show a little bit of #realreality.
Posting a picture of your messy kitchen right after you post a picture of a gorgeous meal hits different. These little bits of reality seem like nothing, but they communicate that there is MUCH more going on behind the scenes that you don’t see.
Limit Social Media Around Loved Ones
I am SO guilty of this. I’m dripping in shame as I admit that I often catch myself scrolling socials right next to my husband in a zombie-like state without noticing. Time passes by in a flash, and I’m left feeling so empty, lonely, and even a bit depressed. Sound familiar? Mental health researchers call this phubbing and have shared that when we use social media around friends and family, it promotes feelings of loneliness and depression.
Spread Social Media Positivity
A genuine compliment that’s specific and from your heart can make someone’s day, week, or even change the way they think of themselves. Remember: Your words are powerful.
Something I promised myself a long time ago is that if I see something beautiful, I will not hold my tongue.
Whatever you call the opposite of a social media troll (a social media fairy?) is what I aim to be. An accessible way to do this in your own life (and one of my favorite ways of spreading social media positivity) is to leave aggressively kind (it’s a thing!) reviews on Google if there’s a restaurant, store, or coffee shop where I’ve had a particularly wonderful experience.
Use Social Media To Know Yourself Better
Ever save posts, videos, or Reels without ever referring back to them? There’s a treasure trove of inspiration to be tapped into! I like to go through my saved folders and make sure things are organized in a way that inspires me. I constantly import my favorite images to Pinterest or remove things that no longer excite me. It’s so important for us to have clarity about the things that excite us.
There are countless amazing accounts to learn from on social media. You can get inspired by fun new recipes or dive deep into NASA’s latest discoveries. Some of my favorite follows are Maria Popova, creator of The Marginalian, Wired UK, and All You Can Face.
Use Social Media to Express Yourself
We each have a deep need to be seen and understood—it’s a human truth. Amanda Palmer defines this beautifully: “There’s a difference between wanting to be looked at and wanting to be seen.” Expressing ourselves and sharing our lives is a beautiful thing and there’s no shame in that.
Use Social Media as a Creative Outlet
Do you have a hobby you’re passionate about? Starting a new Instagram or TikTok account dedicated to your niche hobby can be so fun! Most of us have many interests and it can be hard to connect with our family and friends about this without feeling like a bore. I’ve started more Instagram side pages than I can count and I can confidently say I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for that creative outlet.
If someone has been giving you a funny feeling or their content no longer resonates with you, unfollow them. To be clear, I’m not saying that you should unfollow people whose opinions differ from yours. In fact, I try to practice the opposite. There’s much to be garnered from perspectives, ideas, and experiences that contrast your own.
It’s a bit of a careful dance, but trust your intuition and unfollow anyone who makes you feel that your life isn’t good enough or that you’re less-than. If their content sends your brain into a negative spiral, it’s not worth the drain.
Share Things That Inspire You
We all influence. To influence is to be human. We’re doing it already and we’ve done it way before social media took over the world. The key is remembering that you have a choice: How do you want to influence people? Owning this power and choosing to use it for good is the best way forward. I’ve stumbled into wonderful parts of the internet because a friend chose to share something on social media, and I hope to do the same for others.
Those are all the social media positivity tips that help me scroll my feeds and post with confidence, compassion, and a whole lot of inspiration to guide my way. Any ideas I missed? Signed, your social media fairy.
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