Are you using your social media accounts intentionally?
Social media often gets a pretty bad reputation from people. We’re often told that we shouldn’t be on our phones, that calling someone is more valued than texting them, that if we all just “unplugged” for awhile, we’d feel better. I won’t deny the benefits of in-person communication and social activities, or getting off your computer or phone long enough to take a walk or ride a bike. But is social media really as bad as some make it out to be?
I’m probably very biased, because I work professionally in social media marketing & content creation. It’s my job to keep up on digital trends and tools, to follow certain hashtags, to monitor SEO so we can ensure that we’re reaching an audience that is simultaneously both wide, and very, very targeted. Take my opinion with a grain of salt if you want, but I think that if you’re using it intentionally, social media can be one of the best tools you have at growing professionally, socially, and maybe even spiritually.
What Does ‘Using Social Media Intentionally’ Mean?
What do I mean by “using social media intentionally”? Let’s start with mindfulness. Studies have shown that mindfulness plays a huge factor in the average person’s day-to-day life and mood. Mindfulness is the state of being, well, mindful.
It’s got a lot to do with inner calmness and stability, and with being more or less unshakable by what’s going on around you because you’re so solidly in the present that you can figure out how to handle nearly anything. You aren’t distracted from the now by being concerned about anything other than what’s in front of you. Being aware of the present, or “in the moment”, is something that so, so many of us struggle with.
The ‘Mindfulness’ Buzzword
If you’re anything like me, you spend about half your time worrying about the future, and the other half replaying the stupid things you did in the past and wondering why you’re such an awkward potato. This is the opposite of mindfulness, because when your brain is constantly occupied by the before/after, it’s not at all focused on the current now.
When I talk about using social media “intentionally”, I’m sort of applying those same mindfulness principles to things like Facebook and Instagram, with more thought behind each decision made. When I scroll through my Instagram feed, I’m not feeling bombarded by negative feelings about myself or comparisons, because I’m intentionally choosing to engage with whatever I’m seeing in a way that is healthy for me mentally. I make the decision, in the moment, to respond positively – or neutrally, or even negatively, depending on the content.
It isn’t that I’m forcing myself to feel something I don’t. Instead, I’m choosing to rewire my thinking processes away from thoughts of jealousy or shadiness or unworthiness. and focus on feelings that are more productive and beneficial. If I’m unable to – if the content is particularly triggering, or if I just can’t feel anything but badness about it, I will choose to unfollow it. Curating your feeds so that you’re only seeing things that are safe for you is a very important part of using social media! (More on that below!)
I’ll break it down a little bit more before I go into curation & the benefits to using social media intentionally:
I’m on Instagram, and scroll through to see a photo of one of my most gorgeous friends rocking a new outfit and brand-new car.
At this point in my life, I know that I can’t afford new things. This would be an easy situation for me to feel down about myself, my life, my inability to have nice things, or even to feel resentful and jealous towards my friend.
Instead, I acknowledge whatever initial feelings I have in the moment, and then I make a choice. Is it my friend’s fault I don’t have new things? Nope. And why do I even feel bad? Haven’t I had nice things before at some point, and won’t I likely have them again? Absolutely. And don’t I enjoy seeing my friend have nice things, and be happy, and enjoy their life – even if I’m not in as good of a situation myself right now? Of course! So I double tap that like button, I comment about how rad her new outfit is, and I exhale any negative feelings I may have been feeling!
Mean ol’ Uncle Joe is posting racist rants on Facebook again. You feel obligated to remain friends with him because his wife, your aunt, is super sweet and you see them every year during holidays – but he’s exhausting to see updates from, and sometimes the things he says makes you feel really anxious and uncomfortable.
Option a): Hide his updates! You can do this without unfollowing someone on pretty much every social media platform, and it won’t tell the person (or anyone else) that you’re hiding their stuff.
Option b): Delete his racist butt! Just because someone’s family doesnt mean they get a free pass. Sometimes you have to remove people from your life (or social media accounts) because it’s better for you, and that’s totally okay!
So, now with those examples of what I mean by using social media intentionally, let’s get on to the tips!
4 Ways You Can Use Social Media More Intentionally
1) Curate your feed & friends lists.
Curating your friend’s lists so that you’re only following people that inspire you or that you love is so important for maintaining a positive mental space when perusing your feed. I follow most people back, but there are some people I choose not to because of the things they share that may be harmful for me in some way. (See example 2 above for a situation in which this could be necessary!)
2) Monitor your usage.
Alright, I know I’ve already gone on and on about the benefits of social media. Does that mean I think you should be completely involved to the point of blocking out the physical world around you? Of course not! Limit your usage as much as you feel is necessary & comfortable.
Remember that mindfulness thing we talked about earlier? We’re going to want to practice that when browsing our social media channels moving forward as well. This will prevent us from losing hours mindlessly scrolling without really seeing what we’re thumbing past. Try to be aware of the amount of time you take your phone out and open Instagram without thinking – you may surprise yourself with exactly how much more time you’re spending on social media than you think.
Additionally, it doesn’t take rocket science to not be a jerk. Using your phone when someone is mid-conversation with you (unless the situation warrants it, like you’re Googling something or checking movie times, etc), or in the middle of a movie at a theater, or something like that is rude. Using social media intentionally means intentionally not being a brat, and this extends to your online interactions as well – which ties in to my next tip, yay!
3) Interact with accounts and people that inspire you.
Social media is exactly that – social. Yes, it’s happening through a screen, but it’s still social interaction with other people who may be interested in the same specific things you are. Finding people and accounts that inspire you to be the kind of person you want to be or create the things that make you happy or whatever floats your boat is a crucial part to enjoying your time spent on social media, and feeling like it isn’t just a waste.
I follow lots of artists or quote/meme accounts that post positive, uplifting messages and artwork that makes me want to make art of my own. I love these people and accounts, and make sure to show that appreciation and love by interacting with them whenever possible.
Interaction (or, “engagement” in the social media marketing world) is such an important part of using social media. Read people’s captions, watch their stories, read their new blog posts, retweet & share their links, do unto others. If you have something to contribute, leave a comment! If you loved someone’s recent blog post, share it on Facebook with friends who may like it, too! It’s easy to support people if you want to, and it’s usually very, very appreciated – and can often lead to reciprocated support for yourself as well!
4) Post authentic, quality content.
When you’re posting just to get new followers or sell something, it shows. Self-promotion is wonderful, but if all you’re doing is trying to promote yourself and you’re not contributing or supporting your e-community in any other way, it’s likely that people will have trouble really committing to you and your brand – whether that’s as an artist, a blogger, an author, an influencer, whatever. Similarly, only reposting things belonging to other people will often not help people connect to you as a person. For most people, it’s really nice to see into the lives of the people they’re interacting with, and to get to know the kind of person they are behind the selfies and memes.
That isn’t to say that memes and selfies aren’t quality, because if you follow literally any of my social media accounts, you’ll see that I believe quite the opposite. But sometimes a bit more depth is great, too – like a caption sharing something personal about yourself that the photo may not convey otherwise, or even just more intention behind the types of things you’re sharing beyond just “point and shoot ’cause I’m bored and post”.
People want to interact with you, so let them. Give them something to grasp on to, to chat with you about, to build a relationship with you over!
Do you feel like you’re already using social media intentionally? What other ways do you practice mindfulness in the digital world? Comment below and tell me your secrets!
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