Be honest, how have you felt after spending time on social media lately? Is your experience fun or frustrating? Does social media leave you feeling energized or drained? If you’re feeling more drained than energized after spending time online, know that you’re not alone. In fact, after recently polling my Instagram audience, nearly 90% of you recently reported feeling drained.
Where does this sense of overwhelm and exhaustion come from? I’ll give you a giant hint: it likely has much to do with the nearly $2B dollars that is being pumped into your social media feeds as we speak in the form of political advertising for the 2020 election. This year, the projected spend on Facebook’s suite of platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, is set to exceed that of the previous two election cycles. Based on historical data from 2016 and 2018, we also know that 54% of this advertising spend occurs within the last 10 weeks of an election. So, with just two weeks to go until the November 3rd, we’re smack dab in the middle of a hyper-polarized social media environment fueled and funded by the presidential candidates.
If you’re using social media right now, you are being influenced by the direct or indirect impact of these political ads, so it’s no wonder that tensions are running high.
When does this craziness stop?! It’s hard to tell, but the chances of all this hectic energy disappearing on November 3rd or even November 17th are slim to none. A safer bet will be to assume that the last three months of 2020 will be just as unpredictable as the first nine (sorry).
In order to feel better about our social media experience, it’s important to take matters into our own hands by bringing social media back into balance. When it’s in balance, social media educates, entertains, and connects us. When out of balance, social media can negatively impact our wellbeing. If your social media usage has shifted from fun and insightful to frustrating and anxiety-inducing, it is time for a social media wellness check.
You may be wondering what social media wellness means. Simply put, social media wellness is when your social media is in good health. Key indicators include:
If your current experience doesn’t quite match these wellness indicators, don’t worry. You’re in the right place.
To achieve social media wellness, we need to strike balance, and balance is born out of boundaries. Here are three ways to establish healthier social media boundaries right now.
1. Auditing Content Sources
The first way to bring social media back into balance is through auditing your social media content sources. Whether you realize it or not, we curate the content that we consume.
From the accounts we choose to follow to the posts and ads we read and engage with via liking, commenting and sharing, all of these actions help inform what we see in the future.
It’s also important to realize that your newsfeed is completely individualized based on your historical behavior. Why? The social media algorithm, or formula, has been built to optimize for engagement, which means platforms like Facebook and Instagram serve up the content that they think you are most likely to enjoy with the goal of earning more of your time and attention.
This concept is great in theory, but it tends to go awry when curiosity gets the best of us. It’s easy to get led down the wrong rabbit hole online, fast. The Social Dilemma on Netflix speaks to this directly by highlighting how conspiracy theories grow on Facebook. If you haven’t seen this documentary, imagine that your curiosity gets the best of you and you watch a conspiracy-theory video on Facebook. This action indicates to the platform that you’re a prime candidate for more of these videos, and Facebook will start to populate similar content in your newsfeed. The more of these videos you watch, the more of them you’ll see. Before you know it, there’s lots of theory floating around in your feed, and it becomes more difficult to discern the truth.
The good news here is that we do have the ability to course-correct the social media algorithm at any time, by cleaning up the profiles and content we consume.
If you’re ready to clean up your newsfeed, start by making a Yes List. This is a list of things you want to see online and should ladder up to your ultimate purpose in using social media. Example:
My Yes List
Now, it’s equally as important to outline the things you don’t want to see, by making a No, Thanks List. Are there brands that make you feel bad about yourself? News sources that stress you out? People who throw you into comparison mode? Memes that are funny but suck far too much of your time? It is okay to say “no, thanks” and cut your digital ties. Examples:
My No, Thanks List
Once you’ve established your Yes and No, Thanks Lists, go through each of your social media accounts, and adjust your connections to align with what you ultimately want to consume.
Similarly, be sure to like, comment, and share the content you’d like to see more of and avoid engaging with things that no longer serve you.
This process of cleaning up your newsfeed by auditing your content sources can be done on an ongoing basis to keep things in balance.
2. Schedule your Consumption
I don’t know about you but there have been many mornings where I’ve found myself doing a bit more ‘rise and scroll’ than 'rise and shine'. Opening up social media first thing in the morning for a dose of dopamine feels good at first, but it can quickly derail. When indulging in this behavior, I’ve found that it delays the start to my morning routine by keeping me in bed longer, and fills my mind with racing thoughts.
To layer onto this common morning scrolling habit that at least 50% of Americans have, general social media usage trends have shifted significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and people are spending more time online.
Previously, the best time for brands to post online to increase the likelihood of users seeing their content was before and after traditional work hours: between 7:00-9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m. Now, a new Sprout Social study is reporting continual usage between 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., demonstrating that as we spend more time online for work, we are also spending more time on social media. COVID-19 has literally changed the way we use social media.
To break the cycle of using social media first thing in the morning, or all through the day, schedule your social media usage time. That’s right, literally schedule social media time on your calendar. This method may sound a bit rigid, but it’s highly effective. If you schedule meetings, errands, and happy hours on a calendar, why not social media time too?
There are a couple ways to think about scheduling social time. Depending on your required level of social media connectivity, you may consider either time blocking on a daily basis, or day blocking on a weekly basis.
Time Blocking Daily
One way to approach social media time is to schedule time on your calendar each day when you plan to use the platforms.
For example, if you have a morning scrolling habit like me, try on a plan for no social media until lunchtime. If nighttime doomscrolling disrupts your sleep, try cutting your social media time off two hours before bed.
For those of you that require more connectivity because you use social media for business, also consider batching your daily duties by scheduling a block of time on the calendar for publishing, and another block of time later in the day for responding. This helps break the pattern of going on your apps every time there’s a new notification.
Day Blocking Weekly
Another way to approach scheduling social media time is to take full days on or off. Heck, maybe there’s even a block of days during the week where you’re completely offline.
If you’re someone who enjoys a regular reset, taking one full day each week to refrain from social media can work wonders.
Examples of day blocking schedules are:
Whether you choose to schedule social time daily or carve out certain days of the week to use social media, identifying a plan that works for your schedule is the quickest way to success. Most importantly, don’t forget to schedule your “on time” or “off time” on your calendar, because as they say, what gets scheduled gets done.
3. Cap Screen Time
After you’ve cleaned up your newsfeed and scheduled your social media time, seal the social media balance deal with an extra layer of accountability by setting app time limits.
Did you know that your smartphone tracks your screen time including how long you spend in each app, the number of times you pick up your device, and the number of notifications you get every single day? Let me just say… once you know, it’s impossible to unknow.
The average user spends about 28 minutes per day just on Instagram. My daily average is much higher, around 2 hours on a good day. But it gets worse…I also spend 9 hours a day on screen between my laptop and phone, pick up my phone 120 times per day, and receive 92 daily notifications. This alone is enough to stress anyone out- election or no election.
Take a look at your screen time report, and use the information to your advantage. To find your screen time report in the iPhone, go to “Settings”, “Screen Time” and “See All Activity” to view a breakdown of your average screen time and your most used apps.
Once you identify how much time you spend, and where, decide how much time you’d ideally like to shave off of your current usage. With this awareness you can start to set boundaries by implementing “App Limits”, which are located in the same screen time section of the iPhone.
Attention is our most valuable asset, and setting app limits helps to reclaim some of that precious time. To put the power of app limits into context, if you spend 2 hours per day on your favorite social media app and set a goal to cut that time in half, that’s an extra 7 hours per week that you can spend any way you wish. Right now, as we navigate through a hyper-polarized environment, it’s safe to say that your mind and body will certainly thank you for those reclaimed hours.
When it’s in balance, social media educates, entertains, and connects us. When out of balance, social media can negatively impact our wellbeing. When you reach a point when social media feels more frustrating than fun, more draining than energizing, it’s time for a social media wellness check.
Set boundaries to bring your social media experience back into balance through auditing content sources, scheduling social time, and capping screen time. It’s important to take matters into our own hands and control the things we can, especially in these next few weeks leading up to and after the 2020 presidential election.
I’d love to hear how you’re feeling after putting these boundaries into play. Keep me updated on your social media wellness journey by tagging me using @avabeilke and #Heart❤️CenteredSocial.