Social media has a huge place in most of our lives. It is how we stay connected to the world around us. It is how we keep in touch with family and friends. It is also how we run into some unfortunate habits. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to the best version of those on our friend’s list. We try to live up to unrealistic expectations and somehow feel that we are “behind” or “less-than” those around us. It can also send some of us into complete frustration when what comes across our newsfeed isn’t what we want to see.

The issue isn’t with social media itself. It is how we choose to use it. There also is no blanket answer that can solve this problem as it is different for every individual. For this reason, we need to reevaluate our relationship with social media. We need to see where it is adding value to our lives and where it may be detrimental. This evaluation is user-specific. How I use social media and where I find value is most likely different than where you find value.

I have gone through a few different “seasons” of social media use and frustrations. I see myself in many friends and family as they pass through the seasons themselves. One season of social media frustration shows itself during Presidential election years. People will voice their opinion about how much they hate seeing political posts come across their newsfeed. I was this person every election up to this year. I feel that I have come through that season. I now understand a very important fact. How people choose to use social media and what they choose to put out into the world is completely their business. How I react or respond to it is the only thing that I can control.

Social media is just an extension of life. In real life, we always say that we cannot control the actions of others but can control our reactions. Why should it be any different on social media? Why should we feel that we can demand that others use the platform the way that we wish them to use it? I saw a post once that wished people would post more dog photos instead of political posts. What if someone didn’t like dogs? What if they had just lost their fur baby and was going through turmoil. That post of the dog may affect them very much the same way that a political post may affect someone else. We cannot determine what others share, but I argue that we can find ways to sidestep it and not let it affect us.

Since the relationship with social media is complex and since it has the ability to affect our lives in some very real ways, we need to personally find the balance. It is not easy. I have tried in many different ways. I have done many social media fasts. I always feel much better during those times but also do miss out on some of the connections that warm my heart. This past weekend I once again deleted the apps from my phone and intentionally stayed away from social media. I wanted to focus on those right in front of me. I wanted to clear my mind for the possibility that there may be something else in which I may want to use the bandwidth. Much like every other time it really helped keep my focus. I reached for my phone much less and therefore was more present in my immediate surroundings and relationships with those right in front of me.

I stayed connected to those closest to me through text message but was not distracted by the random posts by people on my friend’s list that honestly shouldn’t have that much control over my actions or my mood. We give these people too much access. I have cut down my friends list greatly but I am not one to cut someone completely out of my life because of their political affiliations or their beliefs on a few topics. I also don’t want those individuals to have the power to alter my mood to the point that it affects my relationships with those closest to me. For that reason, I have come up with a few rules that I will implement immediately. These rules most likely will be very fluid as I test their effectiveness. Again these are rules that I am setting up for myself as of today. Your social media usage is completely a personal choice as the title of this post suggests.

#1 Social Media apps will stay uninstalled on my phone

#2 I will access Social Media only through my computer or iPad at home during specific times. No more incessantly checking social media. I will control the access.

#3 I will ensure that anyone who would like to stay in contact has my phone number so that they can text whenever they would like. A text is much more personal and intended for the receiver. We all tend to be a bit more sensitive and courteous with information sent through a text message.

That’s it. Three rules that I will implement immediately to hopefully help me to still stay connected but limit the control that social media has over my life and my mood.