The damaging effects of social media are well-documented. Most of us have read endless studies on the way it can play on people’s anxieties, insecurities, and ultimately their happiness. Many people have spoken out about their personal experiences and struggles, the latest of whom is Selena Gomez. The actress turned musician recently toldVogue why she went from being the most followed person on Instagram to “ghosting it a bit, under the radar.”
“It had become so consuming to me,” she said. “It’s what I woke up to and went to sleep to. I was an addict, and it felt like I was seeing things I didn’t want to see, like it was putting things in my head that I didn’t want to care about. I always end up feeling like s*** when I look at Instagram.”
It’s easy to see where Gomez is coming from. A quick scroll on Instagram can leave you feeling inadequate, hungry (all those artily snapped brunches…) and fraught with FOMO - let alone a venture onto Twitter where trolls lurk at every corner.
No wonder a report from the University of Copenhagen last year found people who took a week-long break from social media were more satisfied with life and had a higher wellbeing than those who stayed plugged in.
Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. For all its harms, social media can be a source of utter joy. Take it from someone who knows. I used to be easily affected by anxiety induced from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - partly due to trolls, and partly due to having impossibly attractive glamorous friends whose lives always looked much better than mine - to the point where I took a six month break from all of it last year.
This year I’m back on, and instead of feeling negativity whenever I scroll down my feeds, I now spend most of my time laughing and smiling. I’ve completely changed the way I use social media, and I’m now so much happier than I used to be. For anyone else who feels the same way, here are my tips:
The easiest way to turn your social media into a source of joy is to introduce some humour into it. Whether your feed is currently full of gym workouts, celebs or just your friends, choose some comedians to follow. On Instagram, I like Celeste Barber, who mocks celeb poses, ant artist Liana Finck.
Start appreciating memes
If you don’t already love memes, it’s time to start. Memes have come a long way since they first launched onto the scene, with their Game of Thrones images and large white writing. Now there are memes that anyone can relate to, memes to send to your friends to make then laugh and memes that no one but you will truly appreciate. Some classic accounts to follow are @mytherapistsays and @classical_art_memes.
Ditch the haters
As simple as it sounds, stop following people who make you feel bad about your life. In recent months I’ve had to unfollow Taylor Swift (too smug), a university friend (annoyingly cheerful) and a colleague (we get enough of each other at work). You might feel cruel as you do it, but chances are they’ll never notice, while you will start noticing the effects immediately.
Expand your mind
Much has been written about the filter bubble, where we all follow or like things that already interest us, and then end up in a narrow bubble full of like-minded people. The only way to pop it is to try and follow accounts, or befriend people, who you have nothing in common with. For example, National Geographic, Mars Curiosity Rover and sports accounts have all helped me expand my mind.
Live in the past
If all else fails, go back to happier times. Follow the heroes of your past, or fan fiction accounts dedicated to the TV shows you can’t get enough of - from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Seinfeld.