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On Finding Peace in the Sea of Negativity Online

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

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.

Twitter

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?

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16 Comments

  • Reply denaldd

    Aku tutup akun IG akhir 2015. Awalnya niat ga nutup, cuma deactu

    November 4, 2018 at 7:28 pm
  • Reply denaldd

    Kepencet send belum selesai nulis 😅 aku tutup akun IG akhir 2015. Awalnya cuma deactive saja beberapa bulan karena mau fokus persiapan ujian Bahasa Belanda. Trus setelah selesai, mau aktifin akun ternyata ga bisa. Aku mikirnya mungkin kelamaan deactive. Ya sejak itu akunku ga ada lagi dan ga ada niatan bikin lagi sampai sekarang. Bersyukur juga ga punya IG, karena takutnya aku oversharing tentang keluarga. Jadi aku tutup akun IG lebih ke aku pribadi. Supaya ga oversharing. Kalau twitter, ke arah sini aku lebih berhati2. Yang paling nyaman buatku saat ini ya ngeblog.

    November 4, 2018 at 7:35 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Wah sama Mbak, aku juga sampe sekarang paling nyaman ngeblog, Twitter malah udah jarang main karena banyak orang emosian di sana haha. Kalo Instagram masih suka main karena aku suka foto, walaupun udah ga seniat dulu. Ngepost juga hati2 banget, banyak yg dipikirin haha. Yah selama ini sih masih menikmati, tapi ga tau ya ke depannya gimana 😀

      November 11, 2018 at 10:01 pm
  • Reply aggy87

    Love this Dixie. When they introduced the mute button on Twitter, I started using it and it just felt so much better to mute certain people. With Twitter sometimes I feel the need to chime in an argument because it gets me so much, but I always think twice these days because being in a tweet war will just make me emotional and that’s no good for me. The same goes with Instagram, I am always trying to be selective on who to follow. I haven’t tried the mute for stories, so thank you for the extra advice!

    November 5, 2018 at 10:27 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Thank you Aggy. Mute button is the best! I sometimes feel the responsibility to share my thoughts when I see an argument that feels so clearly wrong, but lately I avoid being dragged into unnecessary drama and negativity. I’m super selective about Instagram, and I want to keep it that way. Hope muting the stories makes IG better for you 🙂

      November 11, 2018 at 10:03 pm
  • Reply Phebie

    I’m a very picky person so I don’t randomly follow (or unfollow) an account. But I understand basic human need for attention and self actualisation. Sometimes I gave likes and comments even if I don’t really a big fan of her post, I just want to be generous. That’s all. I think if we can overcome our feeling and emotion, any post or pictures will look neutral. Don’t make it too personal. But off course I’m not talking about offensive pictures

    November 5, 2018 at 10:46 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      It’s good that you can be generous. For me, I only like a post/picture if I sincerely like it, and same goes for comments. I only comment when I have something to say, but each to their own 🙂

      November 11, 2018 at 10:06 pm
  • Reply Lorraine

    We think alike on this matter Dixie. At the moment I have had enough of the negativity on Twitter. Perhaps this comes from the characteristic of the medium itself. Almost realtime exchange of tweets, most of the time spontaneous replies/mentions where others could easily chime in without having read the whole convo first. It seems like most tweeps love to prove their right in case of seeking for healthy discussion. On the other hand, Instagram is my happy place because of my locked account and me being selective like you to choose who to follow and to interact with.

    November 5, 2018 at 2:18 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      That’s exactly how I feel about Twitter. It feels like people want to get their messages across, and some even want (or maybe hope) to change minds. In a time like this I feel that we need healthy discussions, but unfortunately not all people can keep a cold head. It’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction on Twitter, and even easier to get tangled up in a matter with strangers from somewhere across the world. Instagram is also my happy place as I’m being strictly selective there (and I intend to keep it that way).

      November 11, 2018 at 10:14 pm
  • Reply ohdearria

    Thanks for the info about muting post and stories on IG. I was looking for something like that, glad you share it.

    November 8, 2018 at 3:01 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      You’re welcome Mbak Ria 🙂

      November 11, 2018 at 10:14 pm
  • Reply Bama

    Generally I only follow people whose social media accounts are filled with contents that I like — travel, photography, history, and … cats! But sometimes it’s inevitable to have those whose posts are mostly negative connected to me, i.e. some old friends from school. There were times when I was so tempted to mute them, but then I realized that I would’ve lived in a cocoon where I’d feel that everything was fine. I did end up muting those whose rhetoric was just unbearable to read. But in general I keep my feed diverse, and when people start an illogical argument, I just step back and divert my attention to something else.

    November 11, 2018 at 2:36 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      We have similar interests (except for me it’s dogs instead of cats). I think we have a similar take on this. I sometimes find it hard to keep a balance between wanting to find peace and getting a real view of things around me. For now, I keep Instagram as my happy place where I don’t mind living in a cocoon, and Twitter for a more realistic view of the world and things around me.

      November 11, 2018 at 10:18 pm
  • Reply Wati

    God morgon, Dix!

    I love your entry. It’s deep and insiktfull (Eng: Insightful). Haters are just people with low esteem. People just do not need to put down others in order to lift themselves up. Do not let their negativity distract you from anything. Focus to your goals in life! It is the best thing to do really.

    Sekedar cerita tentang media sosial, baru-baru ini di Stockholm ada acara Pasar Malam. Ketika disana, melihat beberapa wajah yang sangat familiar. Mereka tidak kenal saya, tapi saya merasa kenal mereka. How so? Karena foto dan cerita perjalanan, cerita kesukaan, cerita kehidupan sehari-hari di media sosial. Orang kadang pikir kalau mereka tidak memperlihatkan banyak tentang dirinya di media sosial. BUT, kalau ikuti dan cukup sering baca, walau tidak baca secara rutin, akan ada benang merah dan hints banyak tentang kita.

    Jadi, mengutip Edmond Locard, the pioneer of Forensic Science yang disebut Sherloc Holmes of France, his theory about excngane principal ” Every contact leaves trace”. Interaksi dengan internet akan meninggalkan jejak. Ketemu dan interaksi dengan orang di dunia nyata akan juga meninggalkan jejak. Jejak-jejak ituakan memberi gambaran yang menyeluruh tentang kita. Itu seperti puzzle. One piece, two pieces, lama2 jadi a whole picture.

    Saya delete Facebook Dec 2015 dan sampai saat ini tidak kangen dengan feed disana. Kalau sekarang punya instagram, isinya foto pemandangan juga berusaha tidak terlalu personal, tidak ada wajah apalagi anak. Tetapi saya masih takut tetap kelihatan segi personalnya. Setiap kali mau upload foto, walo hanya foto pemandangan, masih pikir dalam dulu. Sekarang sudah mulai timbul pikiran untuk juga delete akun instagram. Mungkin ini efek latar belakang pekerjaan, atau kepribadian, atau keduanya.

    Kembali ke soal negativity, semakin berusia, saya males banget sama drama. Gak ada waktu untuk urusi negativity dan tantrumnya orang gak kenal. Buang-buang waktu banget. Sekarang lebih mudah untuk move on sama yang begitu. Haters will always hate, gitu.

    November 11, 2018 at 6:47 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Wah bener banget tuh Edmond Locard. Aku juga sekarang mikir panjang Mbak sebelum posting, lha hal2 kecil aja semacam umur, interests, kegiatan, dll bisa dipake buat tindakan kriminal. Aku pernah baca kasus kriminal (beneran kejadian) yang bisa terjadin karena pelakunya ngumpulin informasi korban dari semua yg korban post di social media-nya. Beneran bikin parno. Aku juga ga terlalu suka post tentang keseharian, walaupun ga bisa dipungkiri kadang suka juga ngeliat keseharian orang di internet (ngeliat keseharian orang sih suka, tapi buat diri sendiri ngga deh).

      Yang bikin dilema, di zaman sekarang, social media bisa ngebantu banget untuk nunjukin skills & experience. Tergantung bidangnya ya, kebetulan buat aku, blog & akun-ku di social media ngebantu banget untuk dapet kerjaan yg sebelum ini. Jadi sekarang aku harus bisa find a balance, karena buat aku kayaknya untuk abstain sama sekali belum bisa (paling engga untuk sekarang, ga tau mungkin nanti bisa berubah).

      Semakin tua emang semakin males sama drama ya Mbak, menguras emosi dan waktu soalnya, rugi bangeet. Mending tenaga sama waktunya dipake buat ngerjain yang lain. Kalo udah ada yang negatif2 aku langsung menyingkir deh pokoknya.

      November 11, 2018 at 10:35 pm
  • Reply Wati

    Iya tentu saja, setiap orang punya kebutuhan dan kesukaan sendiri. Saya tidak juga sedang kasih kritik ke mereka yang tidak melakukan sama seperti saya. Menemukan balance, itu yang ideal. Sayang sekali saya masih belum bisa.

    November 12, 2018 at 7:16 pm
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