Social media can be a wonderful thing. It allows us to stay in touch with friends, interact with people around the world, grow in our passions, and even make a difference in the world.
Amazing potential… or dire consequences.
Personally, I’ve been using social media to spread the inspiration of minimalism and intentional living for over ten years. And along the way, I’ve developed ten rules to help me use social media in an intentional way and keep it from becoming too much of a distraction.
Maybe you’ll find them helpful.
10 Rules for Using Social Media Intentionally
1. Jump in, jump out.
It was Leo Babauta who first used the illustration of a river to describe social media.
Jump in, enjoy the water, and then jump out.
When you jump into a river, you don’t try to catch up with all the water downstream that passed by before you got there. You just enjoy the water rushing over you at the time.
Don’t feel like you need to endlessly scroll trying to catch up with everything that happened or was posted when you were offline. Just enjoy the conversation right in front of you—and then jump out. Set wise boundaries.
2. Create, don’t just consume.
Our time on social media (or the Internet in general) can be used to consume or create.
We can watch endless Tik-Tok videos or scroll through countless photos—all while the hours tick by. (consume)
Or we can use social media to encourage friends, post inspiring quotes, share exciting news, write positive messages, or engage in healthy conversation. (create)
Be a contributor online. Not just a consumer.
3. Use social media platforms you enjoy.
New social media platforms emerge all the time and for different reasons. Over the years, I’ve seen quite a few come, and quite a few go. Some platforms get popular for a while, and then quickly fade into ghost towns. Others become popular and remain there.
If you want to use social media intentionally, use the social media platforms that you enjoy the most. Sometimes, especially when people want to use social media for business purposes, they try to be on every platform. Some experts even encourage it.
But you’ll be more effective if you use the platforms you actually enjoy. Stick to those.
*If you are a parent of a child on social media, I do encourage you to know the different social media outlets that your kids are using and be familiar with them. But being familiar with a platform is different than using it frequently.
4. Change the culture of social media, don’t be changed by it.
There are a lot of unhealthy activities on social media: divisiveness, arrogance, bullying, jealousy, insults, one-upsmanship, trolling, misinformation… just to name a few.
You can feed into that culture by taking part in the filth… or you can work to create a new culture on social media. The fourth rule to use social media intentionally is to change the culture rather than being changed by it.
Work to change social media? Yes. Bring positivity to it rather than participating in the negativity.
Will you change the entire platform by acting differently? No, but you will change the experience for a few people around you, and maybe they’ll change the experience for others around them, and maybe they’ll…
5. Take an extended break every two years to evaluate your usage.
Take one month off, every two years, from social media entirely. The time away will help you evaluate how social media has been influencing you (positive or negative) and allow you to make important adjustments if you’ve allowed it to take over too much of your life.
*If social media is required for your work, limit your usage to only work-related activities for that month.
6. Don’t compare your worst to their best.
Steven Bartlett once said, “Trust me. Nobody is as successful as Instagram makes them look and nobody is as pretty as filters make them seem. The only healthy and worthwhile comparison is you yesterday vs you today. Focus on that.”
Remember, everybody is painting a picture on social media of what they want you to think their life looks like. But nobody is posting about their lowest moments. And nobody is posting photos of themselves eating potato chips all alone in front of the television—they wait until they are out to eat to take pictures of their food.
Meanwhile, you see every aspect of yourself: the highs, the lows, the good, the bad, and the downright unattractive. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your worst moments to their best on social media.
7. If you’re following news, read more than headlines.
News headlines by every major media outlet (and most minor ones) are split-tested on social media to see which headline gets the most clicks and drives the most traffic to their website. Even here on Becoming Minimalist, while I don’t test different headlines, I do try to choose headlines that people will find interesting.
If you get your news from social media, never judge a current event by the headline alone. You often need the entire story (even from different angles) to know the full story.
Equally, don’t just trust what one person says about a current event without looking up the information yourself. Not every summary you read online is true.
If you’re following news, read the entire article, not just the headline.
8. Keep the same standards online as you do in-person.
The adage of “it’s easy to hide behind a keyboard and type out insults to strangers on the Internet” is entirely true. I realize it didn’t just start with the Internet. Before social media, people were sending anonymous letters to the editor, I’m sure.
But social media has made it easier for everyone to hide behind a keyboard and act in a way online that they would never act in-person. Or, at the very least, it’s become easy to say things to people through a screen that we’d never say to them in person.
Act the same way online as you want people to remember you offline. Keep your integrity and honesty both offline and online. Remain consistent and kind. Contribute substance to the conversation.
9. Seek to understand those with different opinions.
The world is a big place, so is social media where almost the entire world is represented. The town square of social media includes people from nearly every background and experience in life.
See it as an opportunity to learn from others rather than needing to convince everyone you are right all the time. You may be right, but can still learn a lot from others by seeking to understand how they arrived at the opinion they hold.
10. Privacy is still nice. Keep some.
There’s still something to be said about personal privacy. Share your life with others online, sure. But keep some privacy among the people you hold closest. Not everything you do has to be broadcast to the world.
I work hard to live by these ten rules for social media.
I encourage you to do the same and discover a more positive approach to social media (and the Internet in general).
And of course, never let social media take precedence over the relationships right in front of you.