We choose what we see

Repeatedly linked to anxiety and depression, it seems Theodore Roosevelt was right about comparison – the negative aspect of our social media apps – saying that it was “…the thief of joy.” 

Not being a huge fan of social media myself. But connected nonetheless. There have been times when I’ve either switched my profile to private or deleted it all together.

Unsure of why I was using it or even what I gained by doing so. Sure, there were moments I’d feel envious of others and rubbish about myself: be it about body-image, lifestyle or success.

But, mostly, I just found it tricky to use in the right amount. It was all or nothing, as I have a tendency to think this way.

Now, as a freelance writer and mother of two, I don’t have a great deal of time to write, and Instagram can serve as an easy way to procrastinate. So, whenever I spent too long on it, I ended up feeling unproductive and resentful of the time I’d lost. 

In the past, this has led me to deleting my account. But often, after a while, I felt the loss of not being online: I really missed the creative inspiration that I get from some parts of social media. Not to mention the connectivity to others, both personal and professional. 

Learning to use it wisely 

Research carried out earlier this year by Sydney’s University of Technology, found that viewing body positive (BoPo) Instagram content may actually improve women’s body image. In the study, it was discovered that women who viewed body positive posts felt increased satisfaction with their own bodies. Not only that, they were more appreciative of their health overall.

Therefore, if positive body-image can be attained by viewing certain content, how about other areas of our mental wellness, such as fulfilment? 

Surely, if we can create a more positive experience on Instagram, and make it work to our advantage, then perhaps we can use it to actually improve mental wellbeing

Coincidentally, when I decided recently to make my Instagram profile public (so that I can share my work more, as well as to document my life), I also gave my feed a good clear-out. 

Life as a journey

Years ago, when I first opened the account I, like many others, was keen to follow anyone and anything that I was even remotely interested in. The result was an overwhelming feed filled with updates from everyone, on everything. Most of it not particularly relevant to who I am now or where I am heading. As humans, our lives are constantly evolving. When we strip back to who we really are, in this moment – in light of our life experiences  and we really look at what we, as individuals, are truly interested in (and not just what’s ‘in’), it may only be a handful of areas that spark excitement.

Likewise, with family, friends and acquaintances: do we really need to know everything about everyone that we’ve ever met? Or are some of these ‘friendships’ ineffect just old scars that we keep picking?

As well as sometimes being anchors to the past, I also found the social norms of social media quite confusing. Most of the time, I was more than happy to follow or be followed by someone. But sometimes I didn’t necessarily want to engage too much with their posts, or them to mine.

Thankfully, there are now many tools that can be used to navigate this stuff more easily. Such as on Instagram, you can mute other people’s accounts without unfollowing them. It is also possible to hide your story from specific followers or make a post only visible to a select audience

Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that there is nothing wrong with politely ignoring a conversation or sensitively withholding your posts from others.

We are the company we keep

I find it helps to think of my feed as if it were my living room. It is full of all the people that I follow, and they’re all talking very loudly. 

Now apply this scenario to your own feed: would you really invite all of those people into your home? If not, then maybe it’s time to mute or unfollow. If a brand or a person makes you feel somehow unworthy or unsure, then what do you gain from following them?

The key to a positive feed is to be more mindful of the updates we choose to be aware of. The great news is, as the curator of our feeds, we can engineer a unique experience, tailored to our individual tastes.

Why not chose to create online experiences that not only motivate us, but that also protect, and perhaps even enhance, our self-esteem?

How to do it?

• First of all, start by deleting anyone or anything that you know for sure is detrimental to your mental health. If you’re unsure, then mute it. 

• Next, we want to build a brilliant feed, but without it being overwhelming. Here we need to think about the topthree areas of interest. Have a good browse and be selective. Only follow people or things that are truly significant. Perhaps think of capping the amount of followed accounts to 20, or even ten.

 It is important to look at your feed as ever-changing. Be prepared to edit as and when required, such as if you’d like to include new interests, friends etc… 

In a nutshell, if someone or something is making you feel uneasy, it doesn’t need to be justified, you can simply decide not to see it. 

Quality over quantity

Once that’s all done, it’s then up to you how long to spend engaging with it? 

If, like me, you get easily lost and side-tracked, then perhaps try only looking at social media during particular times of the day and for certain reasons. If you need to, you could set an alarm to remind you to stop. There are also plenty of apps that can assist with overuse of social media, such as Offtime. But even just turning off notifications can help enormously.

A healthy relationship with technology is a wonderful thing, as long as we remember that life really is what happens while we are scrolling. 

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