If you’re like me, social media has been a bit of an escape during 2020. It was the last thing I would do before I went to bed, and the first thing I did when I woke up. Whenever I had a moment not filled with some kind of tangible stimulation, I would reach for my phone to get some in the digital form. Which was sad because my online life these days is about as exciting as my actual life. The wake-up call was when my (very direct) partner said to me ‘your Insta is embarrassing, what are you even doing on your phone anyway?’ I had to think about my response for a second. My screen wasn’t occupied by friends’ updates or messages from family. And whatever occupied that little rectangle at the time was certainly not interesting, or even relevant – because I had no way to justify my lack of attention to whatever it was I should have been doing. Eventually I realised that I had a minor problem. I was mindlessly scrolling.
Social media is a great asset. How amazing is it to be able to share a memory instantly with family and friends anywhere in the world?Especially now that we can’t see everyone as much as we’d like to. It has enabled billions of different voices to tell billions more stories. We can sneak a peek at the lifestyles of the rich and the famous (if that’s what you’re into) and immerse ourselves in worlds that might otherwise be out of reach. If you can imagine it, it exists online – and we’re delivered it as frequently as we choose. But with such abundance of information and entertainment it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
There is a common understanding that social media can affect your health in a number of ways. And the big players seem to be doing something about it. Instagram abolished likes from public view in 7 countries, aimed at alleviating common user pressure that the content they post might not get enough of the good stuff. There have also been some more subtle changes – alerting users that they might be about to get stuck in a ‘scroll hole’.
Scroll hole: There might be a better term, but let the record show I coined this one.
The infinite scroll interface developed with the rise of mobile-first web design. Soon enough, it was a part almost all digital media. Content will simply keep coming as long as your thumb is moving. More ‘suggested for you’, more sponsored content. More titles on Netflix that could put you in a state of overchoice, also known as choice overload – we simply cannot make up our minds due to the constant flow of options.
I don’t personally believe that this is ‘deception by design’, but it was helpful to be able to define the problem I didn’t know I had until recently. So I decided to do something about it, the next addition to my campaign to slowly and steadily make long term changes to my life.
My first experiment; I muted everyone I followed (sorry friends and fam) eliminating content from my feed without deleting it, or any of my friends and followers. The urge to open each social media app remained initially, a Pavlovian reaction in awkward or boring situations – I reach for my phone and gravitate towards whatever ‘feed’ seems appropriate. But soon after realising that my feeds now contained nothing except ‘suggested for you’ content and advertising, and even though I didn’t sign up to any of it, I was still compelled to scroll more. It was the proof that I had some kind of addiction to social media.
We can all live without it, but sometimes calling it quits simply isn’t an option – I actually need these tools for their original intended purpose; staying connected. So what are some options for cutting back?
Follow more useful and unfollow the useless
Use your scroll time to view something interesting and important. Follow causes, news outlets, artists, musicians and other creatives. Social media can be a brilliant self-betterment tool. Think of those 1 minute Tasty videos – there are thousands of short, time lapse instructional videos, articles and instructions to do just about anything!
Take the time to tell Social media sites what they’re doing that you don’t like
This has made a moderate impact on what appears on my feed, but it was a slightly annoying task telling FB about everything that I didn’t like.
Delete the apps but keep the contact
Facebook and Facebook messenger are not mutually exclusive – you can have one without the other. What a great way to keep in touch without being overwhelmed by content. Or depending on how badly you want to control your social media time, you can delete the apps from your phone and try to only browse on your computer at home.
Tell your friends you are taking a break
It’s a bummer when your bestie doesn’t like your Insta brunch pics, so let your online pals know you want to distance yourself from social media for a bit. That way, they know you’re still thinking of them, albeit less digitally. You will be surprised by the support you receive, often by your peers who are experiencing something similar.
Share in other ways
A family friend recently told me she wanted her newborn to choose whether she wants to be on social media or not. Obviously that decision isn’t going to be made for quite a few years, so she decided that a private blog page was a great way to share her pics and stories with her close (but not local) friends and family.
WordPress, WIX and Squarespace are all fantastic (and free) resources that can get anybody publishing web content quickly and easily.
Have you experienced something similar with social media? We’d love to hear about it! Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Group Marketing Lead