Building a healthy & balanced relationship with social media

If social media (specifically Instagram) and I had a relationship status it’d fall under ‘It’s complicated’.

In the beginning, as with most new relationships – we were all about each other.

I was intent on engaging with others which helped me rack up followers, connect with like-minded people, and slowly gain the coveted title of “influencer”.

And it felt really good to be recognised as someone “with influence”.

It made me fell validated – worthy, even.

It pushed me to try new things and continuously up my game. Which led me to seeing more and more growth.

And it all felt really good.

Then, as with most relationships – something changed.

I can’t give you an exact date or event when this change occurred. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. Rather it was a small and gradual shift in my attitude and mindset.

My desire to gain more followers and more notoriety started to become overwhelming.

To the point where I was starting to judge and prioritise any new connections I made based on how much of a new following they’d help me gain.

Not only was I starting to think I was better than someone because I had more of a following – but I’d also think I was less than someone else because they had more than me.

I was tracking my numbers relentlessly. And if I saw even the slightest dip, I would mentally beat myself up – telling myself I wasn’t good enough.

I began experiencing a lot of anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem.

Which I will admit wasn’t all due to being on social media – there were other things going on in my life as well. But the way I was using social media wasn’t helping.

I’ve learned over the years that I’m very prone to “comparisonitis” – which is defined as “the compulsion to compare one’s accomplishments to another’s to determine relative importance”.

Or basically having the mindset that ‘everyone else is better than me’.

And social media had become the ultimate feeding ground for that tendency.

I was pinning a lot of my self-worth on my “success” in comparison to others on social media.

It wasn’t healthy and it didn’t feel good being involved on these platforms anymore, which is why I dropped off for extended periods of time.

But ironically enough, during those times I would avoid social media knowing that it was wreaking havoc on my mental health – I also missed it.

I missed the inspiration I gained from it, I missed the connection with family and friends, I missed the opportunities to connect with other cool and interesting people in the world, and I missed being able to share my own voice – however small it may be in comparison to others.

Which is why, with bringing back the blog and knowing that it’ll mean getting involved with social media again – I want to find a better way.

A healthier, more balanced way to use it where I’m not obsessing about how many likes/followers I’ve gained. And I’m not feeling down about myself scrolling through photos of others, or needlessly comparing my feed to that of others.

That’s not the relationship I want to have. I want social media to be a positive presence in my life, not one I dread, but feel obligated to go on because of all the emotions it makes me feel inside.

And while I applaud those who can completely block, deactivate, and disconnect from social media entirely, I’m not looking to go to that extreme.

I do see the value in social media – as long as it’s used in the right way.

So I’ve decided to create a plan for building a more healthy, balanced, and positive relationship with social media.

And because I know there are a lot of people out there who have similar feelings and experiences – I thought I’d share ☺️

4-Step Plan to Having a Healthy, Balanced, & Positive Relationship with Social Media

Step 1 – Set boundaries for when it’s okay to use social media and when it’s not.

I used to be of the mindset that I had to be on social media all the time in order to get anywhere. So any “down time” I had, I was going on and scrolling.

Now I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with using your spare time to peruse social media. But it became more and more of a all encompassing habit for me. Breakfast, lunch, dinner – I’m on social media. Riding the bus – on social media. Watching tv or even a movie – I’m on social media. Laying in bed getting ready to go to sleep – on social media.

It got to the point where I felt like I was prioritising living and connecting in social media world, over what was actually happening in the real world.

Which is why I believe having some boundaries is important.

It doesn’t have be anything incredibly strict. For me, I’m trying to only go on, once maybe twice a day to respond to comments and see what others have been posting. It’s usually sometime in the morning after breakfast or in the evening after dinner. Or when I truly have down time and not just procrastinating doing things I actually need to get done.

I try my best to not be on my phone in general when Mason is up and about and I no longer sleep with my phone in the bedroom.

Finally, I’m becoming more of an advocate for later grams and even “later stories” (is that a thing? I’m making it a thing.) Taking a photo or video and then leaving it till later to edit, filter, and post so I can continue to enjoy the moment IRL.

Step 2 – Be intentional when logging onto a social media platform

This goes hand in hand with step 1.

Now that I’m not spending as much time on social media, when I do I want to make sure I’m using that time effectively.

I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful to identify and be aware of my purpose before logging onto any social platform.

Whether it’s to connect with old friends, find new ones, chat with family, be inspired, grow my brand, find a recipe, figure out what to wear, or even just get a little distraction from life.

I believe asking yourself why am I doing this and what do I hope to gain is key in making sure you’re using social media in the way YOU want, without letting what other people are doing take over.

I think identifying my purpose before logging on has also helped me become more aware of when I cross over from engaging with people’s content and just mindlessly scrolling.

When I’ve reached that point, I know it’s time to sign off.

Step 3 – Be selective about who you follow

Knowing that I have the tendency to fall into the comparison trap and that it can significantly affect my self-esteem, I’ve become very selective about who I’m following and why.

I used to follow a lot of accounts, I figured the more I followed the more people would follow me.

But it got to a point where going through my feed wasn’t fun because it was full of all these accounts that I didn’t have a real connection to and it would cause me to miss out on those updates that I actually wanted to see.

Then there were also those accounts I was following that would spark feelings of jealousy, FOMO, and low self-esteem. Making me dread going through my feed in fear I may come across a post that would make me feel less than.

And It’s nothing against any of the people who ran those accounts, but for my happiness and wellbeing I had to stop following them.

Because it’s about building a positive relationship with social media, and there’s nothing positive about feeling jealous or down on yourself after seeing someone’s post.

So you heard it hear folks: It’s okay to unfollow accounts that consistently don’t make you feel good – for whatever reason.

Step 4 – Remember social media is often one dimensional

Yes, sometimes seeing other people broadcast their successes and post magazine-perfect moments of their lives might make your daily life pale in comparison. But you must remember these moments aren’t representative of someone’s whole life.

Even with Insta Stories where it’s supposed to be real, unstaged and “in the moment” – you only see what others want you to see.

You only see the angles, clothes, images of their kids and parts of their homes that they want to reveal. You can’t be aware of any other problems, pain, or insecurities they may have unless they share it.

And I’m not trying to say social media is full of fake moments and inauthentic people. Not at all!

I’m simply pointing out that we can’t assume we know someone’s entire story from a single post or even their entire feed. There’s always a lot more to life.

And that’s where I’m at right now.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is a process and changes won’t happen overnight. There will be good days and not so good days. I’d definitely like to revisit this and update you on my progress later on in the year.

For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts – feel free to leave a comment down below.

Until next time – cheers!

Ashlei