There are positive aspects to social media, definitely, but it can also suck away a lot of your time, motivation, and positivity. So how do you balance it?
First of all, you do balance it. You think about how it impacts your day; what the impact of different services have on you; how you feel depending on what you’re encountering in your timelines. You deserve to have this part of modern life feel good and help you be who you want to be, whether that means you end up engaging with social media a lot or not at all.
Think about different ways of using social media as ladders. There’s the short ladder that gets you out of a hole, that helps you break your isolation. That can be a really good use and if you’re going to use social media at all, make sure the services you use and especially the list of things each is showing you meet that basic requirement.
This can be a very difficult minimum standard to maintain on services like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that don’t give users control over what appears in their timeline. If you’re seeing promoted posts or viral content instead of the posts of the people you care about, reconsider your use of that service; its interests do not align with yours.
Even on services like Mastodon or Discord or Slack, where algorithms aren’t obscuring the posts of those you follow, examine what is appearing in your timeline. Many excellent people you like a lot do not feed you what you need or want.
Unfollowing isn’t rude; it’s self-care.
Unfollow that funny friend who’s burbling constantly about a new hobby in which you have no interest. Turn off boosts from that one who’s boosting magazine-loads of content into your timeline. Filter out keywords. Drag all your little-used Discord channels atop each other to create a server folder. Mute channels you don’t actually care about keeping up with. And especially turn off notifications; everything on social media can wait until it’s a good time for you to have a look.
The short ladder can be your friend. It’s good to have a way to climb out of your own head and make a connection with others, find a laugh, and be reminded of interesting things to learn or ways you can help in the world.
The next ladder is the one that gets you out of your bubble. Follow people who teach you about stuff you want to understand better. Let real voices of other people’s lived experience help you unlearn your biases. Follow people who are elsewhere in the world and see how life in different countries can be different. Follow hashtags which bring images of landscapes different to your own and gain a window on the world. Bonus points for places with very different climates and opposite hemisphere views of the seasons. Let this mid-size ladder be the one you use when you’re feeling good but need inspiration and insight.
The long ladder is generally to be avoided. When you’re up at the top of it, you mostly see other people balancing at the top of their long ladders, trying to achieve the greatest visibility, but constrained in their choices and distanced from normal life. Don’t fixate on follower counts or other metrics; keep your life goals oriented to what you’re doing when you’ve stepped away from social media.
If you find social media eats up too much of your time, prune and prune heavily. Use fewer services. Follow very few accounts. Find interface preferences and apps which let you view just your follows and don’t automatically display the stream of activity and trending posts. You can like people and subjects and services and still not give them more of your time than you want to allocate in your day. Prioritize your real priorities, and configure things so the easiest thing to do is support them.
Make it easy to keep the ladder short; just enough to trot up out of your hole and then move on in an enlivened mood.