In case you haven’t heard, social media has garnered quite the reputation. Whether you’re talking about the perniciousness of Twitter-fueled outrage, the placidity of hashtag activism, the propensity to waste hours of your life, the easy propagation of fake news, or the paucity of meaningful conversation, social media is often viewed negatively.
But social media isn’t all bad. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be. In its best moments, social media still accomplishes its purpose quite well: connecting people in ways that were unthinkable just decades ago. For example, social media helps my family stay in touch with one another, even though we’re spread across four states, three time zones, and some 6,250 miles of distance. The immediacy and accessibility of social media platforms lets us communicate with one another in close to real time, helping us remain close.
Of course, not every use of social media leaves us with warm fuzzies. Undoubtedly, everyone reading this can recall at least one time when they’ve considered deactivating or otherwise no longer using a particular platform or application. My suggestion is this: establishing a few good social media habits can help us stay sane and lead to generally positive social media interactions.1
First, decide when you’ll be on social media. Too often I’ve found myself simply opening Facebook or Twitter without really thinking about it. Rather than defaulting to social media during downtime, aim to intentionally decide when you’re going to check it. This may also involve setting limits for yourself about how long you’ll be on.
Second, limit what you see. Do you get on social media only to find yourself upset at someone or something? One of the great tools social media platforms have developed is the individual curatorial power—being able to decide what you see. When you selectively unfollow or unlike certain people (or pages),you might be surprised how much more meaningful and pleasant social media can be.
Third, send an affirming message. Rather than reacting with a scathing comment or argumentative message, take a moment to send someone an affirming message.2 This can serve as a tangible reminder of the blessing of technology. Plus, limiting your online venting and vengeance might help make you a kinder person.
Fourth, follow some outside-the-box voices. This intentionally stands in tension with the second suggestion above. Listen to some people with whom you disagree, people who broaden your perspective and force you to think. You have to find the right kind of voices, people who can do this without causing you too much conflict. But this can be a helpful exercise for reducing online insularity.
Fifth, take a Sabbath. Take some time away from social media—and maybe don’t announce it to the world. A true Sabbath rest balances the rest of our time. Too often, people treat social media as an unmitigated evil; taking a Sabbath treats social media not as evil or good, but as something that must be measured and ordered to its proper end.
Sixth, have that conversation in person. Rather than trying to communicate important information via social media, use social media to communicate that you want to talk in-person with someone. Then go grab coffee together. Face-to-face conversations are more meaningful and civil; especially for important conversations, face-to-face is best.
What habits do you suggest for staying sane while using social media?
This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.