by Jonathan Pishner

How to Ruin Your Mood Using Social Media

It’s official.  Social media is here to stay.

Overall, this can be a great thing.  You can use social media as an extremely powerful tool. It helps old friends reconnect. It helps new friends stay connected. It helps you plan events, or it can serve as your resume or art portfolio. It can do all kinds of wonderful things for you.

However, it is important to know how to utilize this tool because it can also be dangerous.  Many people use social media in a way that destroys their mood, their productivity, and their self-esteem.

Before we dive in, here is an important piece of knowledge: Our brain is wired to spot problems. This was useful when we were in dangerous environments. We would spot the threat, and run from the bear, or notice when our crops had a plague, or when a member of tribe was sick.

This is an extremely valuable survival tool.

However, this also means the same technique is still in use in our brain whether we want it ot be or not, and it has NOT adapted well to our current environment.

If we know our brain is designed to spot a problem, the rest of this information becomes very important. In our current age, it is essential to know how this impacts our social media usage.

Now, let’s look at what a problem-oriented brain sees when you open up your Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat.

In just 30 minutes of scrolling, you’ll see an absolute flood of content.  You’ll see politics, cute kitty videos, scandals, family pictures, bad jokes, people yelling at each other over nothing, and on and on.  And on.

After that 30 minutes, how are your thoughts?  If you’re like most people, you will feel like the world sucks and that America is going to hell as fast as it can get there. And you’ll either think that every one of your friends is happier and more accomplished than you, or that everyone besides you must be an idiot.  Or maybe both.

Imagine what that set of perceptions does to your mood, your productivity, and your general outlook on life.

Don’t blame yourself.  Your brain is designed to spot and remember the problems.

So, if you want to make sure you have a rough day, just scroll through your social media feed like always.  No further effort is required.

But, if you’d rather make use of this excellent tool, while ALSO still feeling ok afterward, let me offer a few tips.

My goal isn’t to say “Don’t use social media.”   It’s too late, we’re stuck with it. It’s better to know how you can use it safely and effectively without damaging your moods and outlook on everything and everyone.

 

Step 1:

The unfollow button is your new best friend.

Liberal use of the “unfollow” function on any social media is absolutely essential to correcting this problem.  Remember, your brain is designed to spot problems, so it automatically absorbs ANY negativity it is exposed to.

You already know that one person in your feed that is always posting about how awful life is.  It’s time to click that “unfollow” button.  You’re not deleting them as a friend. You’re just making it so you don’t automatically see their feed anymore.

It’s ok to not participate in someone else’s bad day.

How many pointless outrage posts do you see?

Unfollow.

How many times do you get told the world is ending?

Unfollow.

Does it look like everyone around you is happier and more successful?  Probably, since social media gives us a skewed view of a person’s life.

If you feel worse from looking at someone’s content, you know what to do.

Unfollow.

Ok, so I unfollowed a ton of people and pages, what’s next?

 

Step 2:

Well… we can’t have an empty feed.

Did you know that some social media allows you to purposefully select pages that go straight to the top of your feed?  On Facebook, it’s called “prioritize”, and it’s in the News Feed preferences.

What is the type of content that helps you live the life that you want? Is it feed related to your own business growth, healthy living, or closest family members? Maybe you want cute animal videos to make you feel better during the day; whatever suits you!

So what messages would be helpful to YOU?  Do you want to see family photos? Follow and prioritize your positive family members

Motivational messages?  Select pages like GoalCast.

Advice on business?  Perhaps Forbes.

Or maybe you just want to hear from happy, positive people.  You know who this is on your friends list. Make them appear first in your feed!

This step takes the most time, but if you spend 30 minutes optimizing your feed to YOUR wants and needs, you’re making sure that your future moods will be much better when you open it up.

As a bonus, you’re also training your social media to show you content that is helpful.  Remember, social media WANTS you to use it, so if you show it that you engage with positive content, it will show you more positive content.

Your social media just wants your attention, it doesn’t care about your moods.  So train it by giving attention to the content that is helpful for your life.

 

Step 3:

Resist temptation.

One of the things that makes social media addictive is because they track what you engage with in the feed. Let’s look at Facebook.  As of this writing, viewing something for 1.5 seconds is considered as to have “engaged” with it. If you are scrolling, and you stop at all, this illustrates to Facebook that it caught your attention.

Facebook then tracks that and continues to give you more. If you stop at something negative, it will start to give you that content.

One of the ways to combat this is when your brain spots the negative, you have to resist the temptation to pause, and keep scrolling. This can be pretty tough.  Remember how our brain is wired for survival? It’s designed to spot the negative. But remember, if you click on it, or even stop at all, it will be tracked, and they will feed all the negative content you can take.

 

Optional Step: Social Media Strategy

If you want to really use social media well, and eliminate the things that create the problems, this step is for you.  Create an actual social media strategy.  You probably employ some kind of strategies in other areas: what you eat, what you wear, how to exercise.  So go ahead and take the final step by creating one more strategy that gives you some great benefit.

What roles does this social media thing play in your life? Why do you REALLY have it?  The reason most people ruin their mood with social media is because they don’t have any idea how to add it into their life, or how it even got there in the first place. They randomly pick up the phone and view whatever these apps throw at them.

Our brains were not designed for social media.

But….

You can use these apps to great effect if you craft a strategy.

What kind of things would go into a strategy? Here is a simple framework for your social media use:

  1. What do you want to use the app for? Friends, business, reconnecting, art portfolio, etc. Consciously decide why you even have this in the first place.  Whatever you decide, it should add real value to your life.
  2. How much time do you allot yourself per day to engage with this? Make this a conscious decision. We decide how much sleep we are going to get, or how many hours of work we will do, or how long we’ll visit with friends.  And yet many of you probably just pull up your favorite social media app at random, or out of habit.  Decide on an amount of time that you allow yourself to engage with it.  Depending on your purpose, will depend on the time needed. Is it for work, fun, social calendar, or something else?
  3. When is the best time? Facebook is literally in your pocket ALL DAY LONG. If you are going to have a good strategy, you need decide WHEN this will happen. Breaks at work, only during work, only at home?
  4. Decide what kind of content you will allow to impact you.  Your brain absorbs what it sees, so there is no benefit to absorbing massive amounts of negative content.  Select people and pages that provide helpful or realistic content.  If you allow negative content, make sure you have a purpose in allowing it.
  5. Be disciplined and stick to your strategy, and forgive yourself when you slip up. These programs are designed to override your good sense, be addictive and take advantage of your brain works. That’s why you go back to them over and over again.  Be aware that your brain will try and trick you into engaging with clickbait stories, and resist the urge.

 

Reminder: If you try this, you may not be successful the first couple rounds. That is OKAY. You are trying to beat hundreds of data points and accumulated hours of research specifically dedicated to keep your attention. This can be tough to beat. One person will not usually get massive wins the first time. However, if you understand what your brain is doing, and why it is doing it, it is easier to fight against.

Remember, social media CAN be a powerful tool if you use it well.  Make sure you’re using it effectively and intelligently, and not letting it use you.