In the last few months, I’ve seen a lot of friends who take a step back from social media. Either they deactivate or delete their accounts, or log off without knowing when they will come back.
And I completely understand. Social media can be overwhelming, and can hugely affect your emotion or even worse, mental health.
It came as a surprise to me that I was still feeling fine with social media, despite some negativity that surround them. Then I realized, I’d been using the unfollow and mute buttons quite generously, and in doing so, have really curated what I see online.
Here’s my two cents about 2 of social media platforms that I use regularly, Instagram and Twitter.
Instagram has often been blamed as the culprit of unhappiness and mental health issues. When all you see is the glossy pictures from around the world, it’s easy to feel that your own life seems bleak and uninteresting in comparison.
I get a pang of envy too sometimes. Despite knowing that it’s only the highlight reels that I see, my mind is so attuned to comparing what I see on Instagram with my real life. Thank goodness this doesn’t happen very often, and I’m pretty happy with my feed on Instagram.
Choosing Who I Follow on Instagram
This is where it gets personal and subjective.
For me, I treat Instagram as a place to find inspiration. I follow accounts that are inspiring and aesthetically-pleasing, but still has a certain amount of ‘realness’ or something that I can relate to in my day-to-day life. For example, I follow travelers who take me into their journeys behind the pretty pictures (like @freyadowson, @saramelotti_, or @lostwithpurpose). I deliberately avoid travel accounts with over-the-top settings or made-up scenes, because I have no interest in those and I know it’d be easy to fall into the comparison trap if I see that every day.
There are other people that I follow because I enjoy the work they’ve created (like @georgiarosehardy, @alex_cameron, or @emmablocksillustration), even though their works often don’t resemble anything in real life. There are accounts that I follow for ideas on what to read, cook, paint, or visit for holidays.
There are also feel-good accounts I follow because their photos/videos can make me smile (example: dog accounts). I make sure all accounts I follow have the content I want to see for ideas and inspiration, and they have positive tones/vibes.
‘Sending signals’ to Instagram
When you like, comment, or spend a long time on a post, Instagram takes these ‘signals’ as an indication that you like what you see, and so it will push more posts from that account, or what Instagram thinks is similar to the posts/accounts you engage with (as they suggest on the Explore page).
The problem is, Instagram doesn’t always get it right, and this is where I get a bit savage to make sure they ‘know’ what my preference is.
I know the kind of accounts that I have no interest to see on my Instagram: fashion, make-up, kids/parenting (no offense to parents out there), or luxury lifestyle (maybe someday, when I’m super-rich). I want to tell Instagram that I’m not interested in these types of accounts, so if I see a picture like this on my Explore page, I’ll tap that picture, go to the 3-dot button on the top right, and tap ‘See Fewer Posts Like This’.
How I curate my feed on Instagram: ‘See Fewer Posts Like This’ for uninteresting content (left), mute post (center), or mute stories (right)
After doing this for a while, Instagram has got my ‘signal’ and now everything there is what I’m interested to see. The Explore page is no longer a nuisance, but rather a curated source of inspiration.
Muting Things I Don’t Want to See
I don’t always like everything that someone posts on their account. Sometimes I only like the photos on their feed and not their stories. In this case, I’ll mute their stories.
In a tricky situation where I only follow someone just to avoid unpleasant situations (and not because I like their content), I mute both the posts an stories.
Your time and energy are precious, don’t waste it on things you don’t like.
If the negativity on Instagram comes from overly glossy, curated content, on Twitter it’s the opposite (at least for me). I’ve seen a lot of negativity on Twitter in the shape of ferocious and toxic words – emotional debates, long rants, personal attacks, you name it.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind a little bit of rant here and there, but when someone does it constantly, it’s a real turn-off for me. Likewise, I don’t mind arguments and debates as long as people can be rational, civilized, and sensible.
All the Negativity
Sadly, it doesn’t always happen like this. And it still makes me wonder about how people can be so negative and bitter online. A while ago I saw someone tweeted about common attitudes of a certain group, highlighting all the negative stereotypes of people in this group. Her followers chimed in, adding more things from their observations.
The tweets, which I think were intended as a piece of entertainment, rubbed me the wrong way. I was on this person’s side, and while I agree with all her points, I didn’t like the way she delivered these – it was full of mockery and vanity.
She could’ve delivered her observations without attacking this group and without being patronizing. She could’ve educated people about why these attitudes and behaviors were bad or even dangerous. She didn’t do any of these, and I saw her tweets were just there to ridicule these people.
And I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Why? Why would someone waste their time and energy to attack or ridicule people they don’t know? Does that make them feel better?’
Here’s the thing.
You can have an argument without being condescending. You can counter someone’s opinion without being an asshole. You can disagree with someone without attacking them. You don’t have to be so aggressive and negative.
Using All the Necessary Buttons to Shield Myself
For me, if a person was horrible (either by being rude, violent, or overly negative), I’d immediately unfollow, mute, or block them (depending on my relationship with said person and the severity of their negativity). If their tweets contain any hate speech, I’d report and block them.
Honestly, these buttons are great. They keep my sanity intact.
And one more thing when it comes to social media, especially Twitter: You don’t always have to argue with someone or explain yourself. If it costs you your peace of mind, you can leave it.
The Risk of Creating An Echo Chamber
Unfollowing, muting, and blocking people might keep your sanity, but this ability to curate what you see online comes with a price: creating an echo chamber.
By choosing what I want to see and shielding myself from things that I don’t, I’m only exposed to people with similar minds, principles, and opinions. I might be living in peace, but I wouldn’t have the real view of a situation. This can be especially misleading (if not dangerous) if you’re dealing/working with matters like politics, or anything that requires an unbiased, objective look.
But since my personal account is just a place for me to have fun and find inspiration, I don’t need to worry so much about this. My peace of mind is my priority, and if unfollowing/muting/blocking someone is what it takes to keep it, then I’ll keep using those buttons.
So far it’s been working well, but if someday it doesn’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to take a step back.
How about you? How do you find peace online when using social media?