I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like a hypocrite standing SO firm in my belief that social media is the worst and now writing a post that I will share on social media to give you advice about using social media. I still believe that social media can be the worst, and now I also believe I’ve learned a thing or two about using it to enhance my life after detoxing from it for 2.5 years. And no, not just because I watched Netflix’s The Social Dilemma like everyone else. It’s all about setting boundaries.
In March of 2020, I decided to begin a Communication Master’s Program; frankly because I had been teaching almost three years and wanted to move up on the pay scale. Communication seemed close enough to journalism — an undergrad degree I had started and changed — so I figured I’d just be finishing what I started and learn how to be a better yearbook adviser. I began thinking about getting back on social media for human connection during the pandemic, but with racial tensions skyrocketing and a notorious election coming up, I knew my mental health wouldn’t benefit from creating new accounts and logging back on.
The 2020-21 school year was one heck of a school year for everyone (see Teaching in a Pandemic), but for me personally in yearbook world, I experienced both my greatest failure and also my greatest success. The program had accounts on Twitter and Instagram before I took over, and my students and I never prioritized using them for marketing or really at all. God had a plan, though. He knew COVID-19 would financially impact businesses like my yearbook program. He knew I’d be in my master’s program and take two courses called Media Management and Media Promotions. He even knew I’d have a freshman join yearbook with a passion for managing social media. Ultimately, He knew that the illusion of control I have when I continue to pursue degrees in the thing I’m so passionate about would steer me right back to blogging, being obedient to His call on my life. All along, all I needed was the gift He has given me — writing — but I suppose it makes for a better story when I can reflect and fit all of the pieces together.
After applying what my professor, professionals in the field, my student, my blogging bestie Maggie, and God have taught me, here’s how I plan to set boundaries on social media the third time around (yes, I detoxed once before in high school; read more here). Third time’s the charm, right?
1. Turn off notifications
This one is a no-brainer, in theory. The switch is right there under settings. It’s as easy as doing anything else on your phone, right? Realistically, unless you’re waiting for an important call or text, all notifications are pretty toxic. They keep us chained to our phones. We don’t know how to not check our phone when we hear it ring or feel it buzz, and while one person’s like or comment can make your day, another can just as easily ruin it. We already spend so much time just on our phones in general that it’s wiser to…
2. Set time limits
Apple released Screen Time as a parental control feature in 2018, but goodness gracious don’t we all need that?! Sure, if you’re setting screen time for yourself, you obviously know your passcode and can ask for 15 more minutes, but you are forced to think twice before you do that. Personally, I set my social media limit to one hour a day. If you have an Android, sorry; someone who knows more, please comment and let us know if Android users can do something similar.
3. Don’t follow everyone
Let me write that again: You DO NOT have to follow everyone! If someone’s content isn’t serving you, encouraging you, or making you feel joy, why are you following them? So they’ll follow you back? Because you just like to creep on them? Because you envy them? Take care of yourself and guard your heart.
Though I’ve been absent from Facebook and Instagram, I actually got really into YouTube during the last 2.5 years, and I’ve really tried to curate the accounts I follow. In fact, when I created my @lessonslearnedlifeloved Instagram, I intentionally followed some YouTubers and not others, and upon reflection, I realized I chose to follow the ones who posted uplifting and encouraging messages, oftentimes faith-based (let me know if you want to see a list of my favorite YouTubers in a future post!). By no means do I only consume Christian content — I’d argue that’s impossible — but I found it interesting that my brain remembered those creators over others. I encourage you to clean out your friends and the accounts you’re following regularly. If there are going to be real world consequences, including anxiety, after you unfollow someone, they weren’t a friend or worthy of a follow to begin with.
4. Take advantage of a post-scheduling tool
Admittedly, this is a tool I’m still learning about, so I’m open to any insight you have. My mind was BLOWN when my professor assigned us a social media promotion project and I discovered the Facebook Business Suite, which allows you to manage, schedule, and track posts on both Facebook and Instagram. At that point, I was using my yearbook program as my business for class projects, but I remember my professor saying that we could also brand ourselves. LOL that I thought that was a stupid idea for me, someone without social media, back in May — God knew this blogger wasn’t ready for it yet!
The benefit of using a post-scheduling tool is that you can be in the moment in the real world rather than stressing about posting. This was EVERYTHING for me because I work in a building with no service, so all I had to do was sit down at home and schedule everything out for the week then relax. You might argue that sometimes you HAVE to get that story or post out in the moment, and to that I would ask if you truly think everything you see from the influencers you follow is in real time. Unfortunately, I think the suite only works with a Facebook page versus a personal profile, but today we’re all out here trying to promote something about ourselves — consider creating a page. I know there are other post scheduling tools too, including one built into Canva. Drop the names of others below!
5. Actively, authentically engage
This one is new for me, and it’s actually a boundary I want to expand. It’s all in the name: social media. As toxic as we have let it become, the original intention was to connect people who couldn’t physically be together. I am a loyal subscriber to many YouTubers, and I’ve never commented on a single video. In fact, I’ve only liked videos or comments a handful of times, and even then, I feel weird. However, I’ll read through the comments, sometimes just to look for drama. Other times, I find encouraging stories there, and I think those people — along with the creators — are incredibly brave. Those people are doing social media right!
This is ironic because In real life, I’m always referencing something I’ve watched or heard and pouring into someone else what a creator has poured into me. I also remember real life me the last time I was on Instagram desperate for likes and comments but hardly ever taking the time to engage with those same people. How selfish — and hypocritical of me — is that? Blogging is content creating too, and by posting I’m starting a conversation, but I’ve never been good about continuing it. Engagement is a key metric when it comes to social media promotion. Though I give all the glory of my blog to God, it does make me feel good when I get compliments about my writing or someone comments that something I’ve written has impacted them. In real life, I would thank them and we’d likely have a conversation. Online, I’ve given a measly like and maybe said thank you. Engagement needs boundaries, however, because spamming someone’s account isn’t healthy, and sometimes it’s hard to engage with every single follower. We’re all humans, and we deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. If you’ve followed my blog for a while and made a comment that I never interacted with, I apologize and I promise to do better moving forward. I plan to set time aside, within my daily hour limit, to actively and authentically engage with my followers.