In March I took a sabbatical from social media. During my time away, many of my friends were curious and asked me about it. I could tell they were interested and some even expressed jealousy, wishing they could do the same thing.
The experience allowed my brain to relax and focus on other things for a while. I re-introduced myself to simpler forms of entertainment like listening to music instead of podcasts, reading books instead of blogs, and just sitting quietly with my thoughts.
True, at times it was difficult. Lots of people sent me messages or emails saying, “check out this funny video,” or “you'll never believe what happened on Facebook.” I want to say that I wasn't tempted, but I was.
In the end, I'm glad I did it, and I have come up with 8 Rules to stay happy and healthy online. Here are the first four.
Rule 1: Set self-imposed time restraints
Social media is like cheesecake, it tastes fantastic but that doesn't mean you should eat it all the time. For me, I had allowed Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter to become my default go to when I didn't have anything else to do. Sometimes I felt like a junkie, needing a funny video fix or wondering if anyone had liked or commented on a recent post I made to Facebook or Instagram.
When the apostle Paul wrote, “I have the right to do anything—but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor 6:12b), he was speaking about moderation and honoring God with our bodies. However, the principle of moderation and control applies to our time too.
If the internet and social media cause you grief, it could be from overuse. Set self-imposed time limits on sites like Facebook and Youtube, so they don't control you. You might even go so far as to say, no social media usage after a particular time of the day, so you can invest time in your spouse or your family.
Rule 2: Avoid arguing
The internet is the worst place to have a decent discussion on a complicated or divisive topic.
Everyone agrees that issues such as racism, abortion, and politics, in general, are very nuanced. Those nuances do not translate well in chat groups, comments, or shared posts.
So many of my friends have different opinions about what's happening in the world, and there's very little purpose typing disparaging comments back and forth on social media. Trust me—no one's mind has ever been changed by looking at a meme.
Avoid arguing, but if you do need to have a discussion, have it in real life, perhaps over coffee. You'll be able to find common ground when you can look at each other in real life.
Rule 3: Don’t gripe
Social media is not the best place to share your acrimonious ideas on politics (see above
It's tempting to use social media as a place to vent, but continuous venting turns people off. We all have a bad day from time to time, and there's no problem with blowing off some steam.
However, if every post is a gripe, a complaint, or a cynical viewpoint, you'll end up alienating people. You may also draw negative people into your sphere of influence and let's be honest—you probably have enough negativity in your life already, right?
Rule 4: Don’t compare yourself to others
According to several recent reports, there is a definite link between excessive social media usage and depression. Maybe you've experienced this too. How many times have you scrolled through your feed, seeing all the photos of people hanging at excellent restaurants or beautiful beaches, all the while smiling next to friends as if their lives are a non-stop night of fun?
Remember, looking at social media is like watching the preview of a movie. The movie looks impressive until you finally see it and realize that they must have used every good scene from the movie for the preview!
People only post the best highlights of their lives on their social media profiles. Plus, they often use filters or other editing software to make themselves look good. The truth is that their lives are just like yours. They have ups and downs like everyone else—they don't post when they are feeling down.
I hope these ideas are helpful to you. I will post the next 4 “rules” next week. Until then, have a wonderful week.