By learning the ins and outs of how to approach social media, you can use these powerful tools for networking and inspiration.
In our modern world, nearly everyone is active on some form of social media. Whether that be sharing the various events of one’s life on Instagram, keeping in touch with friends on Snapchat, or gaming whilst streaming to friends on Discord, everyone has either heard of or utilized social media apps in their day-to-day life. And, while these apps can be a positive force in communication, they can also have negative influences as well. Learning how to use social media for good can help in your time management, self worth, and overall well being.
While social media platforms are designed to allow friends to stay connected, the sites can have pitfalls if not used properly.
For example, for most social media sites, you can set privacy; however, most are typically public unless you take this step. Research shows that many public organizations survey social media accounts, including college admissions officers and the police. Public accounts can be utilized for admission decisions, or even lead to the removal of students from a school for inappropriate posts. (1) Additionally, public profiles are prone to become victims of cyberbullying, which over 37% of teenage students reported experiencing in 2019 alone. (2) Cyberbullying can take the form of harassment, mistreatment, hurtful comments or text messages, or even threats and stalking. While the level of intensity varies across each case of bullying, being subjected to any form of bullying can cause issues with self esteem, anxiety, loneliness, or depression.
Social media, at times, further encourages these problems. Teenagers tend to compare themselves to others around them, or even their friends, and as a result lose out on the benefits these platforms present. Instagram, especially, has caused heightened loneliness, envy, body image issues, lower self esteem and associated health concerns. Yet there are ways to mediate, or even eliminate these dangers entirely.
Managing Social Media
Social media tends to be a game of reduction–reducing negativity to a point where it might be there, but you won’t see it too often to influence you. Here’s a couple recommended strategies to accomplish that.
1. Set Time Limits
On your phone, you have the ability to set time limits on apps. These limits can either be just a reminder that you can bypass and continue to use the app, or have a password that you might have a friend or family member set to keep you accountable. You can customize the amount of time on the limit and the rules it puts in place. Some apps even include time limits within their software, like Instagram.
Additionally, setting a limit on what time of day you can use it is immensely helpful. Not hopping on your phone right in the morning or before bed can improve your sleep and daily perspective. You can utilize the same phone settings to change what times apps are available.
Setting a time limit consciously reminds you of how long you’ve been on the app. Oftentimes, we might get so sucked into scrolling we forget how long we truly spent and start to ignore our real world responsibilities. Setting a limit can, at the very least, provide perspective on what you’re spending your time on.
2. Take A Break
Along the lines of setting a time limit, even just taking a break from social media for a few minutes can help tremendously. One option is apps like Fitbit or Headspace that provide a one minute deep breathing or meditation exercise to center yourself before moving onto your next task. Getting time away from the platform can help get your mind away from the potentially toxic environment it poses, even just for a minute or two.
However, while a break for a few minutes has an influence, taking an even longer break can pose the same benefits to a greater extent. Some people take a day off each week or a couple days each month to stay away from social media. A “social media detox” can improve sleep, stress, psychological distress, and overall well being. While taking a day off every week might not be your style, however long you choose to take off, it certainly will improve your health and give you more time to spend with those you love.
3. Reduce Negative Influences
There are a couple negative influences you might consider removing. First, go through the list of people you’re following and remove any individual you don’t want to see on your page for any reason. Some platforms even let you mute certain profiles so you can still maintain the connection without harming your mental health. Either way, keeping the connections you truly want is the purpose of social media. If you don’t want to see something, you don’t have to!
Furthermore, you might consider reducing your own followers. Are these people on your list individuals you want to see your content? If not, you are in control of who can and can’t see what you post. Maybe a certain post should only be visible to certain people–either post it for those specific people or reduce your followers. The best way to improve your social media is to customize it to how you want.
4. Downsize Platforms
You might find yourself spending 30 minutes a day on Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. By itself, spending thirty minutes on one app is fairly harmless, and might entail watching two fun YouTube videos or catching up with friends for a few minutes each day. However, when you’re on 3 or 4 apps for that amount of time, you end up pouring hours into social media.
Reducing the myriad of platforms present on your device can help you better choose where your limited time should be spent. Pick the apps you think are most damaging and either hide them or delete them, and see how much it helps. Or set a very small time limit on those apps, like a minute or two each day just to see what’s going on and leave it alone. But, prioritizing what apps matter can help reduce the apps that are most prominently affecting you or not benefiting you.
5. Limit the Personal Information You Post
Protecting your information is critical, not only from a cyberbullying standpoint but in regards to your safety. One simple recommendation to remedy this is posting about vacations and things you’re doing after the event, so that your location isn’t visible at the time of the occasion. Try not to feature posts with street signs or addresses of places you tend to frequent, or use an eraser tool to blot out any hints to location before publicizing.
Additionally, ensure safety in what is visible in your profile. For example, Instagram makes even private accounts’ username, profile picture, and description visible to the general public. You might consider just having your first name associated with the account, and be careful with the photo you pick for yourself. Ensure your profile description is very discrete, i.e. naming your school by initials rather than the full tag or not including certain aspects of your life within the tag. If your friends know who you are, you likely won’t need to include much for those people to locate you.
There are some programs inherently designed for use in a more positive way, rather than a maze to induce you to participate more.
An example of this is LinkedIn. The app is designed for working professionals to maintain relationships and also allows a space to positively spread brands or job opportunities. LinkedIn is set up where you can make your resume available in a creative way, making yourself presentable to employers and maintaining connections with colleagues.
You create your own page with an about me section, a list of your previous experiences (Internships, Jobs, etc.), your current or previous education, any licenses or certifications you may hold, and additional sections in volunteering you’ve done, skills you possess, your publications, organizations you’re a part of, awards, and languages you speak. Through LinkedIn, you’re not only able to add more information than you could typically fit in a 1-2 page resume, but you can also elaborate on certain areas and present it in a visually appealing way.
Similar to other social media platforms, you have the opportunity to choose a profile picture and background, but the style of those photos tends to differ in function and purpose. Rather than choosing a casual selfie or funny photo you and a friend relate to, LinkedIn typically features professional headshots and backgrounds. Considering the website is to attract employers, and often can be linked on your resume you send to potential jobs, there is a certain standard in a LinkedIn profile versus one on Facebook or Instagram.
LinkedIn is also educational. For instance, you might have found this article from LeadYouth’s LinkedIn page! Many websites provide helpful information on their LinkedIn account that is filtered out more than posts on other platforms, because of the purpose intended for a post. As well, you can not only make connections with people you know, but you can follow organizations or causes you might potentially be interested in. LinkedIn provides job resources and employment opportunities, coupled with some of the positive features of other apps like a chat box and meeting people.
YouTube is another app with the potential for good. The video making platform can provide study inspiration, help you stay informed with the news, or help you learn how to put together a desk. Not only are there dozens of educational resources on the platform, but it also has leisurely videos that can still provide you some benefit. You might watch a short video of an artist making a painting for creative inspiration, or spend some time learning a new hobby through a tutorial. While YouTube has a wide variety of videos, you tend to be recommended content based on videos you’ve already enjoyed, leading to a positive reinforcement of content you truly want to see.
Question and answer forums, like Quora or Reddit, can also have the potential for good. Providing an internet resource from people in situations just like your own, users can pose questions in forums made up of individuals with similar interests. Of course, these platforms hold the same issues as any platform in regards to not every forum truly acting educational, but if you control your pages and follow the right people you can use the sites to help with homework or answering queries. You can also contribute to conversations in areas you are interested in to help others, contributing to the greater good.
Lastly, websites like Pinterest and, to a lesser extent, Tumblr, can provide creative inspiration. While not entirely educational, the websites tend to display a better part of the internet, where creatives can show their work and people in similar fan groupings can look at what they’re interested in. People frequently collect photos on Pinterest for vision boards of what they want their new experiences in life to mirror–new year, new school, new job, etc.–and help you to shift your mindset on life to one that’s more positive.
Social media allows its users to share content, stay connected with friends, learn new skills, and market. Yet, the key is knowing it can also have its flaws if misused. Reducing negative influences can improve your health, safety, and well being, and allow you to manage your life instead of social media managing you.