Social media is a double-edged sword. The sooner you realise this hard truth, the better it is for you.
Please don’t be so naive as to trust people who sing hosannas about social media. Yes, social media has its perks and benefits, such as fame, recognition, relationships, and even money for content creators. But it comes at a cost—your time, energy, health, and critical relationships.
That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise when I see few initially enthusiastic friends who embraced social media around the timing of their book launch develop cold feet later to go on a digital detox. Or when I see fellow authors who go on an intended social media break when they want to focus that time writing their next book. Time is money.
On the other spectrum, I have non-writer friends such as Shaili (name changed), who work in the IT industry. She barely has time for social media, and its existence is practically immaterial in her life. She could easily quit and be as prosperous as she is right now. But Shaili chooses to stay on social media, checking on her friends’ updates once in a while, but mainly looking for resourceful groups and connections that will help improve her wellness and quality of life. She swears by her health and fitness social groups. She is a content consumer and not a creator.
But what if you’re a content creator like me? Can you afford to take a break from social media?
I’ve been contemplating going on a social media break for a long time, as long as 2-3 years. It has affected my health, productivity, and even the quality of my key relationships. It’s also a part of my work that makes it difficult to cut off entirely.
After much contemplation and trial and error, I think I’ve found a sane middle-ground solution that’s worked for me. Here’s it:
1. Rethink Social Media
There is a common myth about social media: People’s online feeds and persona are fake.
My interpretation and understanding are that it isn’t. If you’re a fake person in real life, you will be the same even on social media.
If you think the real world is filled with people being ‘real,’ you couldn’t be any further from the truth. People have masks, and very few people are who they proclaim they are, be it offline or online.
I’ll take two Bollywood actors as case examples. Salman Khan is an ambassador for “Being Human” and Kangana Ranaut for women empowerment. Their public persona, be it online or offline, is primarily tied around their brand image. Yet, people can dissect and form their individual opinions.
You cannot be something you’re not in real life or social media for too long. People will see through you sooner or later eventually.
Social media is not this evil platform filled with fake, selfish people. It is simply a reflection of the real world we live in. You will bump into all kinds here, which is why you need to have boundaries in place for your wellbeing.
2. Understand Your Goals For Being On Social Media
I am always surprised when a couple of my friends who rarely or never post on social media ping me to comment on my latest social updates.
“But I thought you never log into your accounts?”
“Of course I do. If everyone creates content, who will consume them? You need an audience like us to consume your content, right?”
My friend’s response gave me a whole new perspective. She was clear about her intent on being on social media. She was strictly a content consumer on social media to check out the latest trends, updates and shop online.
As a content creator, I understand my goals for being on social media: To create valuable content for my target audience and build my community.
As an author, I cannot sell my books on social media, but I know it’s a great free marketing platform for creative artists.
As a marketer, I have a separate set of goals for why I’m on social media.
Similarly, it would be best if you listed your reasons for being on social media. Accordingly, you can choose to quit or continue as frequently or infrequently (Hello, Digital detox!) as you like based on your schedule and lifestyle.
3. Choose Your Social Platforms Wisely
You would have noticed not everyone is a rockstar on all social platforms. While some content creators may be rocking it on Facebook, they’re not that great with Instagram. Those who have a cult following on Instagram may not have that kind of a following on Facebook. (Please note it’s another story altogether though for those who buy their followers across platforms and have a PR team to handle their accounts.)
That’s because every social platform is wired differently and for different purposes. You can’t be expecting to tie the knot and sign up on Tinder first when you could as well head over to Shaadi.com and get your goals accomplished much faster.
Understand how each social platform works before deciding if it’s the one for you or not. Based on your goals, choose the right social media platform/s for you.
4. Monitor Your Time And Usage
Social media is a productivity killer unless you put a thick leash on it. This self-imposed restriction on my time and usage has helped me use social media with caution, purpose, and moderation.
My end goal is not to spend more than an hour on social media each day. And that includes post-publication, promotion, and community engagement. There are days I don’t publish or interact with either, and that’s my quiet detox.
I no longer feel guilty about not replying immediately to comments, DMs, or going incognito on some WhatsApp groups. I will surely reply, but it may take as soon as within 24 hours to up to a week. I don’t have that kind of time, energy, health, and bandwidth for continuous social media usage. Yes, I’ve lost a couple of crucial acquaintances because of it, but my wellbeing and sanity are more important than a few vital social connections.
I find Twitter the least time-intensive of all social platforms, and so I use it the most. It doesn’t affect my schedule as much as other more high-maintenance platforms would. It’s why I don’t initiate DMs or post as frequently on other social platforms.
Also, since I’ve been consciously trying to sleep early nowadays and have a consistent sleep schedule, I’m trying to log off all devices at least 30-60 minutes before sleep.
Such monitoring and limited usage might cost you a few connections and even slow down your growth compared to your peers.
But it’s important to understand that life’s not a rat race. And neither are you a rat.
You’re a human being who needs ample rest and love. Everything else can wait and will fall into line eventually.
Do what works best for you without guilt and remorse.
5. Make It Fun And Work
Work becomes drudgery when you’re not having fun. Any kind of work, as mundane as cleaning your closet, becomes a thing of joy when you do it enthusiastically and with a fresh bout of energy.
The keywords are energy and enthusiasm. When you bring those two in anything you do, it transforms into a magical experience.
Another upside is the community and the tribe that you build along the way. I’ve discovered so many good, talented, and inspiring people on social media. There’s so much learning from merely observing, interacting, meeting, and even collaborating with them.
Social media has thrown open the doors to diverse career opportunities for me. It happened when I was having fun on it and using it effectively.
I’ve been approached for blogging and social media workshops for children and adults. I’ve been asked to speak on the craft of writing. I’ve been approached for interviews to inspire and motivate other writers, bloggers, and digital creators. I’ve even had a fruitful long-term work opportunity from a random WhatsApp group conversation with a stranger. All this while I wasn’t actively looking for work.
Make social media work for you, and have fun while doing so.
Social Media: Is It The Beauty or The Beast?
My final thoughts would be to have an open mind about social media. Accept and understand it for what it is.
If social media is not for you, that’s perfectly fine too. In fact, I secretly envy anyone who’s not on social media and living a quiet life.
Social media is not as glorious as some of its die-hard supporters would claim it to be. I’m sure they’re sacrificing a lesser known aspect of their life in return for staying on top of social media. It can be spell disaster for your health, relationships, and mental health if you go overboard.
On the other hand, social media is not as fake and demonic as is the popular misconception, as it is only an extension of the world we live in. Social media has some fabulous advantages and opportunities in store for you too.
Learning to strike a delicate balance can be tricky but not impossible with mindfulness, and perseverance.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on social media. Do you love or loathe it, and how do you manage this beauty or beast?
* I’m taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa.