How to take control of your social media consumption
Last year I spoke at General Assembly on social media self-care, an idea that was sparked as a result of a burnout and struggling with anxiety. I sat alongside a wonderful panel full of Australia's leading Community Managers, Social Media and Content Specialists who all shared experiences of times where self care became imperative in order to fulfil their day jobs properly.
Working in social means the notifications never stop. I currently manage 7 Instagram accounts and have access to 10 Facebook pages. Social media marketers and community managers spend hours a day online and are exposed to a lot of content online due to the nature of their role.
There is brand management, the viral content that goes bonkers on a Saturday morning (a CMs dream, yes, but requires out of hours moderation), the brand crisis comms, out of hours events that need to be live streamed and the angry customer trolling the page constantly.
Unlike traditional marketing functions, a community manager does not leave their work at their desk. It's in their pocket, on their laptop, tablet and personal phones. We are now only starting to see the affect of the attention economy on our mental health. It's not great, who woulda thought?!
I spend 5-8 hours a day online Monday - Friday, and a good chunk of my weekend freelancing for Social Thought and TEDxMelbourne. That's a lot of time online. Around March this 2017, my news feed looked like this.
When this article showed up, I felt relief. Thank goodness - I knew where to hide if Melbourne was hit with a nuclear bomb. I had to live in an apartment with a concrete stairwell. Okay then, I would move house.
I realised I had spent hours and hours scrolling on Facebook seeing crap like this for months. Subconsciously soaking it all in.
The world was a horrible scary place. Or… what I had “curated” the world to look like. I had created an echo chamber of panic porn, outrage, pain, rubbish reporting, dickheads arguing and chuck in some #fakenews just because. (Side note – don’t google panic porn).
The world isn't sunshine and rainbows, but the world I was experiencing online was a horrible, scary, unsafe place and I started to believe that.
I was anxious. The anxious thoughts spiralling around made me feel even less in control. My anxiety affected my sleep, my energy was zapped and I could not be creative in my role. I started to change my behaviours to accomodate anxiety and fear. Something had to change.
How to take control of your social media useage:
Along with seeking professional help to manage my anxiety, I took control of my social media usage and implemented four things to curb this vicious cycle and have a more pleasant time online. Here's the four things I changed which have made a notable difference in my day to day management of anxiety as well as be more present in life.
1. Train your Facebook Algorithm
We are social media professionals, yet often forget when we are consuming the content that we understand how these algorithms work. Also worth a mention: Facebook and other researchers have discovered the content we see in our newsfeeds can affect our mood, confidence and mental health. No surprises there. Do a clean up of your Facebook newsfeed and get rid of the crap that makes you feel like shit.
Do a review of the pages you like. Unlike those that no longer serve you.
Use Facebook’s Friends Organizer Tool to star the people that matter.
Stop clicking on content you don’t love.
Hide the content that you really don’t like (and friends too!).
Business Insider was gone. Trump news - click no more. I stopped reading the comments on news.com.au posts (never do that). Almost instantly my newsfeed was a happier, more positive place full of birb memes, interesting articles on self care and haloumi recipes. Good times.
2. Use technology to be a conscious consumer – avoid the mindless scroll, stop the auto clicking and be present.
We live in the attention age where your attention is worth dollars. The term 'attention slavery' is being used by Technologists like Craig Mod (check out the Hurry Slowly episode: 'I want my attention back'). It's no wonder there has been a resurgence of being present, unplugging and disconnecting. These apps are designed to keep you scrolling, clicking and consuming content inside them for as long as possible. They are built with audio developed to sound pleasing to reward our pleasure centres and click again and again. Get back in control of your behaviour.
Here's three strategies you can implement to avoid mindlessly reaching for your phone and scrolling in newsfeeds.
Easy win: Move your Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Snapchat and Instagram apps into a folder on the last screen of your phone. This stops you auto-clicking on the apps when you are bored or need a distraction. Once you've become accustom to where they are and find yourself auto-opening, move it again. I get about 1 month out of each 'movement' of my socials folder.
Breaking the habit: Moving your apps give you an extra nano second before you realise you're in the Instagram newsfeed for no reason. Every time you subconsciously open Facebook or a social app – think – what do I want from this? Distraction? Entertainment? Validation? No - sorry, look at a tree or do some thinking instead. This will become more of a habit the more you practise it.
Hardcore: Download an app the limits social time/internet browsing. There is plenty out there. Offtime (iOS, Android) to block apps and filter notifications, Moment (iOS) to set daily limits and time your usage (it's scary), SPACE (iOS, Android) for a life/phone balance to stop you spending too much time on there and Kill Newsfeed for blocking the Facebook newsfeed on Chrome. Forest is also fun - you plant a tree and grow a forest based on how much time you spend din focus mode not touching your phone. I use a combination of Kill Newsfeed for my personal laptop (I implemented it in September 2017 and haven't looked back), SPACE for phone usage and moving social media apps off your home screen of your phone into a folder on the third screen.
3. Use the business tools when you are in business mode
For social media professionals or entrepreneurs it can be hard to seperate your personal and professional social media usage. When you're working on clients profiles or online for work, use the social tools provided for business use.
Download the Facebook Pages app for iOS and Android to manage your business pages and put the Facebook app in a folder on another screen that isn’t your home screen.
Use Facebook Business Manager and import all your pages there, that way you don’t have to go to your personal newsfeed. Don’t stay logged into your personal accounts at work and turn your push notifications off for your personal accounts (or all accounts).
Staying in business mode doesn’t mean you don’t see content that can cause anxiety but it helps staying out of the rabbit holes we can get stuck down.
4. Push instead of pull: Pick your preferred news source and use that instead of ‘trending’ sections.
I used to wake up and check the trending sections every day looking for bad news. This mentality was not the greatest way to wake up every day. The trending sections of Facebook and Twitter can be a dumpster fire (Facebook announced it's killing it's trending section - good riddance).
The trending sections are often are not moderated by people, the sources of content unreliable and unusual weird crap. Hashtags and #breaking news can become a place to mindlessly scroll, consume much of the same-same content and over exposing yourself to negative news and distractions.
If you see something that interests you on a feed, use it as a prompt and go to your preferred media outlet. Be in control of what media you consume, not the other way. Think if this as a push rather than a pull.
Take back control of your social media usage
Tidying up your algorithm and the content you are served gives you more control what you are exposed to daily. Select what sources you expose yourself to.
Being a conscious consumer of social media, actively deciding when you use it for and why means you are spending less time engrossed in a hand held device.
Breaking the habit of mindlessly scrolling can save time, emotional energy and bring us back to a community that doesn't need to be entertained or distracted at every moment.
Having a healthy relationship with social media and the internet is crucial for a sustainable future for the industry of community managers, social media marketers and humanity in general.
If you are struggling with anxiety or feeling down there is lots of useful information available from Beyond Blue.You can get free support, advice and action from someone at 1300 224 636.