Stepping out of the echo chamber on social media
Social media accounts often begin to reflect exactly what you want to see and want to hear. After all, this is pretty much exactly why most of us make them. We follow the people we like, repost the stuff we believe in and post the best snippets of our lives. Social media can become a space for the best versions of ourselves and of other people.
It’s unsurprising then that our social media accounts often start to channel our own thoughts and feelings back at us. Whilst this can be affirming, and often really helpful in developing networks of activists, campaigners, and communities, it can also give us a blinkered vision and prevent us from looking a bit further afield to understand how others think.
Further, it can also reiterate parts of our thoughts and feelings that are not making us happy. The idealised lifestyle of a full-time Instagram model is unlikely to fill us with feelings of high self-esteem and joy in our own lives. The social media echo chamber can, sometimes, overwhelm us with feelings of inadequacy, polarisation and unhappiness.
There are ways to step out of this, however.
- Unfollow any account that doesn’t challenge you or bring you joy. It’s good to read other perspectives and be challenged intellectually by things that you see, but it is not always super helpful to follow people who encourage feelings of inferiority. Try to figure out why you follow each account that you do. Does it educate you? Is it bringing you joy? Does it offer you something? If not, just unfollow!
- Make sure you know if there are certain topics or images that you find triggering or upsetting. The role of the internet in perpetuating feelings of inadequacy can mean that people struggling with eating disorders or self-harm can constantly come across triggering imagery and content. Mute words on Twitter and unfollow accounts on Instagram to make sure that social media isn’t becoming a triggering space for you.
- Nonetheless, it is also important to remember that sometimes the internet and social media spaces can offer a chance to meet others that are experiencing similar things to you, and can allow you to form networks. It can sometimes be hard to differentiate between communities that make you feel safe and networks that feel more dangerous. Checking in with friends and family that you see in real life and taking a break from the online spaces can help you figure this out.
- Following on from this, it’s important to take time away from social media. Screens can affect your ability to sleep too, so maybe try taking a few hours off social media before you go to bed. Practicing mindfulness (more information can be found here) may ground you in your physical self and your needs.
- Have a disconnect day/week/month! Whilst for some people it can be really difficult to disconnect entirely from the internet due to work or school requirements, managing to set some time aside to fully disconnect can have huge benefits. This could help you to figure out which spaces online are positive and which feel a little more negative, what you really want from social media, and how comfortable you feel online. Take some time for yourself!
- If you are meeting up with anyone that you have met online, make sure you go with other people. A group of people is best, and meet in a public place close to your home.
- If you feel like the social media posts you are engaging with are making you unhappy, remember that you can disconnect. The current trends of today make it difficult to do so, but think about deleting your accounts, giving yourself limited internet time, or getting rid of it entirely! You can always talk to your doctor about this if you need to.
- If you are struggling online, remember to talk about it in your day-to-day interactions with friends and family. We are all online, but we all have very different experiences online, so make sure you communicate how you are feeling about your online spaces to each other.
- The Guardian have written briefly about the relationship between mental health, the internet and body image. They advocate for taking a break from social media
- More information can be found about the balance of taking a break and making sure you can still communicate with important networks can be found here.
- Mind also offers an overview of mental health and internet use, so check it out here if you’d like to know more.
By: Iona Taylor