Sure, social media is great for a lot of things. Like keeping in touch and finding inspiration and like-minded people. It’s fun, quick and lightweight and that’s why you probably have not just one outpost for your social self, but several, on different platforms. And that's cool, but: You can have too much of a good thing and if you are on a mission to simplify your life, a quick social media detox definitely deserves a spot on your to-do list, especially if you are already experiencing early symptoms of 'social media burn out'. Such as: Becoming overwhelmed by all of the messages and comments you still have to reply to, feeling guilty about not posting as often as you had planned, or lower confidence levels from too much comparing your own life to stylised Instagram shots of beach-y sceneries and hotel pools.
If that sounds like you, this post will show you a simple 3-step technique that you can use to re-think and streamline your social media usage, without taking out any of the fun. We’ll look at the whole thing from a minimalist perspective, which is all about reducing what isn’t adding value to your life, to add more of the stuff that is.
Note: The detox in this post is tailored to those of you looking to simplify your private social media usage only. If you are a freelancer, professional or small business owner and use some platforms as portfolios, to strengthen your brand or attract new clients, you'll obviously have very different criteria to decide what's working well and what isn't when it comes to social media.
Click here to download the printable worksheet version of the graphic below with tables and space to note down your answers. Scroll down for more details on each of the three steps.
Step 1: Assess how your current usage is making you feel
As a very first step you need to take a closer look at both the benefits and downsides your current social media usage is giving you, so you can isolate whatever isn’t working out. On the graphic above and the worksheet you'll find a list of ten typical positive and negative emotions/scenarios. Using a scale of 1 to 10 (1= never/ not at all and 10= always/ a lot), estimate how often or to what extent you experience each of these, separately for every platform i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any others you use.
That exercise alone should already give you a much clearer picture of the value each social media platform is adding to vs. stripping from your life. Additionally, you can also calculate the total positive and negative scores for each of your accounts to compare them. If the positive score for Facebook for example is considerably lower than its negative score, consider going on a temporary Facebook hiatus, even just for a couple of weeks. Why waste your time on something that's not adding anything to your life or even makes you feel bad about yourself? Your time is too precious. Same goes for platforms without major downsides, but also no benefits.
For all platforms with a mixed score: Continue with steps 2 and 3, which will help you tweak the way you are currently using them in a way that will both up their benefits and reduce downsides.
Step 2: Define a clear purpose for each platform
To simplify your life using minimalism means above all one thing: Becoming ultra aware of what it is you want in life and making conscious decisions, rather than letting everything just kind of pile up. For example: Instead of clogging your brain with endless news articles and tabloid junk that doesn’t even interest you, you figure out what you want to learn or are passionate about and then select your reading material accordingly. Instead of living in a house full of stuff, half of which you forgot you even owned, you take the time to declutter your living space, until it only contains things you love and need.
Social media minimalism works the same way: Stop documenting your entire life on Facebook/Instagram just because every else is doing it and stop aiming for x-number of tweets per day because you heard that’s a good amount. Instead: Come up with a clear purpose for each platform, whether it is to communicate with your friends, find inspiration, practice your photography, keep informed about a certain topic, and so on. Keep it short but concise, i.e. you don't have to write a complete mission statement, just make sure you are super clear about WHY you are using Facebook, Instagram, etc. and what you want to get out of it. If you can't think of a good reason, again: Consider taking a break.
Note: Although it can be, your purpose doesn't necessarily have to be productive. Social media is supposed to be fun, it's your free time after all and so if you want to use Twitter primarily to ogle the lives of interesting people, that's cool too. Just make sure it is actually fun for you and doesn't give you any of the bad emotions listed in step 1.
Step 3: Tailor both your own posts and who you are following to your purpose
Once you have defined a clear purpose for each account/platform, take a moment to figure out how you could tailor your current usage a little better to that purpose. That includes both what you are consuming (i.e. who you are following/subscribed to) and what you are putting out/creating yourself (i.e. your tweets, photos, status updates, pins).
For example, if you want to start using your Instagram account as a motivation to practice your food styling skills, stop pushing yourself to also post regular personal/life updates as well and find more accounts of great photographers and stylists for inspiration.
If you lose hours and hours on Twitter stalking celebrities, even though your main goal was to stay up to date with your city’s literary scene, swap the Rihannas and Roitfelds for some interesting novelists.
Or perhaps your Instagram account has left you feeling a little down because you follow an unhealthy number of perfectly curated ‘inspirational’ accounts and you now want to start using Instagram more to share photos with your inner circle of friends instead. Easy solution: Stop following people that make you feel bad about yourself and focus on your real-life friends. Maybe even consider going private.
Got any other tips on how to prevent social media burn out? Tell me in the comments!