With so much going on in the world, many of us feel we have a responsibility to stay up to date on world events that can potentially impact our families. But consuming a steady stream of sensationalized headlines and political conflicts can leave us feeling overwhelmed with social media overload.
Sometimes I find myself missing the “old days” when we read the newspaper in the morning and just watched the evening news later in the day. Now there’s a 24 hour news cycle of news stories, headlines and images that are carefully designed to make us react.
The next time you’re consuming media content, whether you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching the news, be aware of how each story is impacting you. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Now think about what impact they’re having on you. Do you feel discouraged or depressed after you close the browser tab?
Mark Manson states the following in his excellent article In the Future, Our Attention Will Be Sold:
Social networks are the business model of the attention economy. They are wholly dependent on eyeballs and clicks to make all of their revenue. To do this, they design algorithms that show you the most interesting and attention-grabbing information available in your social network. If your newsfeed was full of the boring and drab day-to-day stuff, you’d stop looking at it. So instead, Facebook shows you the most extreme occurrences in your social network for the simple reason that the extreme events draw the most attention.
This has drastic effects not only on our perceptions of society as a whole, but also on how we perceive our personal lives.
For me, social media used positively can be a good thing but I’m learning how to implement boundaries. As a special needs mom with chronic illness and a woman in recovery, it’s easy for me to feel isolated at times and social media offers a great place to connect with old friends and those who share my interests. Not only that, but it helps me to stay current with disability advocacy issues. But when I find myself using it to procrastinate about other things that I really should be doing, numb out or if I feel depressed after getting online, it’s time to reevaluate how I’m using it.
Learning how to practice mindfulness in my social media consumption has been really helpful. I’ve learned how to implement boundaries. For example, in 2008 when I first got my Facebook account, I got into a few stupid arguments that placed a strain on real life relationships. I don’t always want to know my friends’ political leanings but I’ve had to learn to live and let live. I very rarely comment on public threads or memes that I know are designed to provoke. I hide people from the news feed who constantly post stories that are triggering. I do try to stay informed on what’s important but don’t get sucked into everything.
How to Avoid Social Media Overload
1. Schedule Time for Social Media. Don’t check social media on autopilot. Create a plan that gives you certain times and days that you to check in on social media. If you don’t want to get sucked into the abyss, it’s really important to set boundaries.
2. Use Automation Wisely. If you’re a business owner and need to get on social media daily, learn how to automate social media tasks. You can automate post scheduling so you don’t have to do that every single day.
3. Focus on What Matters Most. If you’re a blogger or online business owner, when it comes to doing tasks on social media, money-making tasks should come first, then relationship building, then personal activities. If you focus on just whatever is in front of you when you check your social media, you’ll get sucked in. Develop a plan of attack.
4. Outsource. Find someone to help you with social media if youíre using it for business. There are many social media managers who are good at helping you do the job properly. If that’s not your main money-making activity, let someone else do it. (Shameless promo: I’m a virtual assistant and can help you lighten your social media load. Learn more here!)
5. Use the Right Tools. Sproutsocial.com, Hootsuite.com and similar tools can help you manage your social media, keeping you from being overloaded by information that doesn’t matter to you. Social aggregators can put all the information in one spot for you, making your tasks much faster.
6. Turn Off Notifications. There must be parts of your day where social media doesn’t come into play. When you’re in a meeting, when you’re with your family, when you’re out with friends; when you’re driving, or when you’re in the bathroom. These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. Just turn it off!
7. Avoid Multitasking. Sometimes when you try to do too much at once, you end up sucked into the social media black hole because your brain is trying to get a break. Instead, when you’re on social media, only do the social media that you’ve planned.
8. Be honest. Many times being busy feels good. It feels like you’re doing something and accomplishing something. But, the truth is, not all activities that make you busy are productive.It’s important that you develop the ability to be honest with yourself about why you’re really on the phone.
9. Practice Mindfulness. Whereever you are and whomever you’re with, be fully present with them. Practice the presence instead of being distracted by your phone. And when you do get online, take note of how you’re feeling first. If you’re already feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, it’s probably a good idea to do something else for awhile..something physical and tangible like going for a walk, journaling to get out of your head. If you’re looking to numb yourself, remember than social media can be abused just like any other substance like alcohol or food. And when you’re using it for the wrong reasons, chances are you’ll feel even worse afterwards.
I hope these practical suggestions help you to be more mindful about online activity and avoid social media overload.