Everyone will tell you that what you see on social media isn’t real. But do you still struggle to decide which #ootd to post because you don’t know which people will like more? Do you find yourself subconsciously comparing yourself to that influencer that seems to have it all?

Social media has affected us in many ways, from how we form opinions to what drives us to purchase something. But as much as we wish it weren’t this way, it can do us more harm than good to our mental health—if we let it.

So instead of letting it control us, here’s a breakdown of how you can make social media work for you before we end up living a Black Mirror episode!

Curate Who You Follow

Image: Unsplash/Katka Pavlickova

 

Your social media feed is just like the people who you’d rather eat at the lunch table with. The first step is to first take a look at your current social environment. Does who you follow now invite negative or positive vibes? Do they, like how Marie Kondo puts it, spark joy? If not, it’s time to get down to curating your feed!

This may seem like an obvious point, but we sometimes have to be reminded that we have power over what we see online and the emotions they evoke.

That one toxic relative who constantly spouts close-minded views that nobody asked for? Block. Know someone who is constantly IG Story-ing about how perfect their life is, making you doubt yourself and your journey? Mute. Followed this influencer three years ago who currently doesn’t resonate with where you are in your life? Unfollow. It’s that simple!

Don’t Stress On Missing Out

Does it seem like the moment you switch off from social media, something big always happens? Welcome to the terrible world of FOMO.

Our constant need to know everything down to the T isn’t just something we do. It’s an actual thing that neurologists consider an ‘online social exclusion.’ Researchers found that when social media users are left out from events, online groups and more, there was an increase in brain activity in the same region associated with depression.

Image: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

 

But hold up—how does one know if they have FOMO? Simple: do you check your friends’ social media on loop, especially if they went hipster café hopping without you? We feel you, dude. It can be tough feeling like you’re missing out on something fun or exciting.

So, it’s time to change some habits:

  • Stop doing things just because others are doing it: Instead, try it out if you genuinely like that activity or place!
  • Practice not attending to every notification: Every time a notification pops up, don’t immediately check it. Wait 10 to 15 minutes before opening it – this way you lose the sense of hunger of wanting to be in-the-know all the time.
  • Try getting your friends to get off social media with you: Not for good, but the next time you all have a get together, don’t attend to your phones! This way everyone gives 100% of their attention to what’s happening IRL.

Opt To Shut Off

Can’t seem to put your phone down? Well, it’s simply because most social media interfaces and phone notifications are designed to be ADDICTIVE. There’s one show on Netflix called The Social Dilemma that pens this perfectly: “If you’re not paying for the product, then you’re the product.” Now, there’s a way to not let them control us too much.

Regardless of the phone model, just head over to your Settings and click on Apps. From here, you can curate which app gets permission to do what. Pick the apps you most frequently use or are distracted by, and limit notifications to only pop out when you’re using the app itself.

Obviously, there may still be apps that you absolutely have to get notifications from, which is fair enough. But honestly, who needs to be notified every time their favourite influencer posts on Instagram and Twitter? That’s right, no one.

But say you really don’t want to do that, or there are too many apps to manually turn off. Then just go cold turkey and turn on Airplane mode! Who said you have to be travelling on a plane to use it? Whenever you want to only hang out with friends or focus on something entirely, just tap once on Airplane mode and there you have it, you’re off the grid!

Set Boundaries

It’s not a sin to be online, but there are boundaries to observe! These days, people often scroll through social media to destress. However, if it comes to a point where social media ADDS to your stress, maybe you should scrap social surfing altogether—or at least minimise the time spent doing it.

This was my weekly usage on Instagram alone! It’s obvious that I spend more time on the weekends.

A simple way to do this is just to “hide” your social media apps. Putting them in an obscure folder on your phone makes you less inclined to immediately tap on the apps the moment you look at your phone.

Need extra reminding? Download apps like Forest or Study Bunny that help you focus. Many of them use positive reinforcement to build good habits, by rewarding you if you use your phone less! This may seem like a small effort, but it’s these tiny things that can help improve your mental health in the long run.

Don’t Believe Everything Online

Hands up if you’re guilty of spending time on MTXX brushing away your pores. 🙋🏻‍♀️Photo editing and filtering are so standard now that pretty much everyone from Kylie Jenner to your random aunty does it! But changing your social media habits extend to making sure you also create content that is a reflection of your reality too.

Image: Unsplash/Linda Xu

Ever wondered why you get only 100 likes despite having nearly a 1,000 followers? Yeah, me too. As much as we don’t like to hear it, ‘likes’ have now become the modern-day social compass according to this 2016 study. These tiny hearts on our mobile phones have dictated how we perceive life and our mental health stability.

But as much as influencers make a “perfect life” seem totally attainable, the fact is that it’s often made-up! Just take a look at Danae Mercer. She’s a journalist who debunks social media myths, from a gravity-defying bum to the lie that no one has cellulite.

Danae showing how different poses are when you pose a certain way.

Source: Danae Mercer

A final note…

No one looks perfect all the time. If you still feel pressured or upset by other online personas, consciously remind yourself to never let numbers define your worth. The next time you feel like deleting a photo because of the likes, challenge yourself by keeping it instead. If you manage to do it, then celebrate it as a small triumph! But even if you didn’t, just keep trying till you get there.

If it’s proving hard to do still, there may be another way! Instagram started beta testing a new feature in 2019 where one could hide the number of likes they see on their posts and the main feed. So far, trials have only been done in a few Western countries and Japan. If all goes well and this feature becomes official, you could give it a shot! Maybe then some of us won’t be too attached to the idea of how many likes we can get.

 

There is no set way on how to ‘Marie Kondo’ your social media feed. There are only guides like this and what you think is best for yourself to help propel forward. Ultimately, it’s also best to remember that when it comes to doing a social media cleanse – it’s not going to be easy. There are days when you lapse into your old behaviour, and that’s totally fine. It’s just about taking conscious steps to be better at the end of the day.