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How I’m Making My Social Media Less Toxic, And You Can Too!

There are very few certainties in life; one of them is that social media is everywhere in today’s world, especially for people my age. Another is that it can be INCREDIBLY bad for our mental health and wellbeing. This bizarre entity that allows us to show off this performance of our perfect life can add so much stress and pressure. We all know that “it’s not real!” but that doesn’t stop us from feeling bad about other people’s posts of their perfect lives or wanting to convince other people about our perfect lives. It triggers this irrational part of our being that we know is bad for us, but we can’t stop anyway. 

However, it’s also a really cool way to keep in touch with people you would otherwise completely lose contact with. It’s an easy way to show people things you’re proud of (you know, like sharing articles on Facebook!). I don’t want anyone to ok boomer me, I think that there are so many benefits to social media that often go overlooked because of all the rhetoric surrounding its toxicity. 

There’s no doubt that social media can be a toxic space that really hurts our mental health, but it also has its benefits and doesn’t need to completely get the ax; it can just use a few tweaks.

These are just a few things that I’ve done that help me, but by all means, ~find your own journey~ and do what you need, and what works for you.   

Unfollow, block, mute

Does it make you feel good to be exposed to this content? If not, unfollow it! I guarantee you, it will not matter in the long run. If you don’t feel like you can comfortably unfollow someone, maybe it’s a friend who can just sometimes post things that are triggering or hard for you to engage with, the mute function is your new best friend; it allows you to silence someone’s posts without completely unfollowing them. If someone is really going to the extreme, block them. Separate yourself from content that isn’t going to be good for you, there’s no reason to engage if it doesn’t feel good. 

Follow accounts that do make you feel good

Once you’ve gone through and taken out all the bad stuff, fill your feed with things that do make you feel good. In 2020 we are straight vibing and we are only exposing ourselves to that positive energy we’re carrying with us. My personal *good vibes* IG account starter pack right now consists of:

@mayormax1: The elected Mayor of Idyllwild CA, who also happens to be a Golden Retriever

@simonemariposa: An awesome body positive influencer

@respectfulmemes: A self-explanatory gem

@chrissyteigen: Of course.

@i_weigh: Jameela Jamil’s organization for “radical inclusivity” (and while we’re here, @jameelajamilofficial)

@tsa: Ok so if you haven’t heard of this before, I just need you to trust me and go and check the official TSA Instagram right now. Yes, that TSA. 

@hercampuswisco :)

Turn off your notifications

If we’re all keeping Instagram on our phones for its REAL use (sending memes to our friends) then this isn’t too big of a step. I know sometimes when I post something, I’m constantly checking the notifications, keeping track of “oh how many likes? Who liked it? Oh, those two liked it at the same time, are they together right now without me? Why isn’t this picture getting any likes, my calf muscles look so good!!! Why don’t I ever get as many likes as she does? Am I repulsive? Maybe I should just throw my phone away.”

You know, typical stuff.

A constant stream of notifications can just be a constant stream of those thoughts, but just turning off notifications can be a really useful step in taking that out of the forefront of our minds. 

Limit your editing

We all know to remind ourselves that no, everyone else’s life is not perfect, and they aren’t necessarily posting their most accurate self on social media. However, it can be harder to remind ourselves when we’re doing it. I don’t want to look back at my old posts and long for a way that I never even actually looked.

Don’t take yourself too seriously  

There are enough things that put pressure on you, you can let this one go. It’s really not that deep, once you step back and just let that stuff go, or at least try to, you’ll feel so much better. I promise you, this stuff really won’t matter too much in the long run; have fun!!

Take a break if you need to

I know it can be hard, and it doesn’t have to be a complete stop. Maybe start with time limits- something like no social after 8, or no checking between classes (you might be able to use your phone to help you set those limits too). Start with maybe just a few extra hours off, then maybe days, weeks, whatever works for you. The @48hourchallenge sets the “Offline 48” challenge for people to do a “digital detox” by going offline every Saturday and Sunday.

Full send it

Delete the app! If you need to completely get rid of it; do it. I promise it will be okay, the world will keep turning, people will still be your friend, you won’t be a pariah. If you decide to go back it will still be there, and if you don’t then life will still go on. It’s really easy to forget this, but by and large, this stuff really does not matter too much and has minimal real-life consequences. Cutting yourself off is not the only answer, but it’s really okay if that’s the right answer for you.

Of course, nothing is a hard and fast rule, and you know yourself best. These are just some helpful guidelines that I try to set for myself to stay mindful while I’m scrolling. 

Katie Semack

Wisconsin '21

Katie grew up in New York City and is a senior at University of Wisconsin- Madison studying Political Science and Communications. Her favorite pastimes include doing yoga, watching Golden Girls with her puppy, Gatsby, and empowering other women. 
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