A Social Media Detox Guide: How to Internet When Everything Sucks

how to stop comparing yourself to strangers on the internet

Social media sucks sometimes. Like, a lot. I mean yes it's amazing in so many ways (we wouldn't be able to connect if it weren't for social media, btw), but I think we're all familiar with how quickly it can turn to awesome to... awful.

It can be a struggle on lots of different levels. As a business owner, it's beyond frustrating to not have your audience actually see the content your working your buns off to create. It can be hard when you see the work you poured your heart and soul and endless hours into, launch to crickets; while a random meme or silly post gets a million likes and shares. And between me and you, it can also be disheartening to see other pages grow to hundreds of thousands of followers while they put out butt photos paired with "inspirational quotes", or don't offer real value in any way, while the pages who are working hard on thoughtful content get left in the dust. It's pretty tough to not play the comparison game, even a little.

It's also no secret to anyone that scrolling is a total time suck. I read recently that we check our phones upwards of 150 times a day. A DAY! What we're always looking for in there, I don't know. But I do know that the more we scroll, the less connected we actually feel to real humans in our real life.

And then, there's the actual news in our news feeds. Lately, we have just been inundated with awful story after terrible story after heartbreaking news, and it often leaves us feeling angry, sad, frustrated, or worse: ambivalent.  

I've spent some time talking about social media struggles before, and most recently on this dichotomy of identity: how social media allows us to find our tribe (which is amazing), but how it also tend to split things into black and white. You're either on this side or that side, and there's no room for the actual nuance of the human experience. Let alone, calm, respectful conversation.

I've been really feeling the pull of all of this negativity lately and so I wanted to share some tips with you (and also to remind myself, let's be real) about how to get out of the social media suckfest when it starts taking hold.

1. Set boundaries. (If you have #fomo, remember social media will always be there, and you're not seeing posts in real time anymore anyway, so what are you really missing?) Some ideas:

  • Turn off all notifications so that you're not pulled in by every ping all day long. Decide on check in times throughout the day and stick to them. 
  • Leave your phone at home/in your car while you're in the gym.
  • No screens in the bedroom.
  • Leave your phone in your purse and put it in the backseat while driving.
  • Designate check in times and/or no-phone-allowed times and honor them.

2. Unfollow. You're in control of what media you consume (for the most part). While it's always great to be exposed to people with different views, in order to have thoughtful conversations that expand our horizons and get us out of what can definitely be an echo chamber at times, there's a fine line between positively challenging concepts and dialogues, and pure garbage that does. not. serve you. I challenge you to go into your feed right now and unfollow 10 people who leave you feeling defeated or less than, every time. Be selective and find the people who lift you up, push you forward, and make you feel empowered to take action IRL.

3. Focus on you. Ever notice how you're more susceptible to feeling insecure about something, when it's something you're insecure about? If you're getting sucked into the comparison game, whether that's in business, body, success or other areas, it's time to help these insecurities in a real way. (Not seeing what everyone else is doing about them). Get in touch with and support yourself with these strategies:

  • Read. Replace your scrolling time with self improvement time. How can you get more in touch with yourself? How can you improve your relationships with those around you? What do you want to learn more about? How can you be a bigger, more complex human? Some of my favorite books to create positive growth are The Happiness Project and Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and Loving What Is by Byron Katie.
  • Move. Physical activity does so much (duh), but the rush of endorphins can often be enough to snap you out of funk all on it's own. Find something that is challenging or zen enough so that you are forced to be in the moment and let everything else fall away around you. Focus in on how your body feels in these moments, and be grateful you have this ability.
  • Create. What wells of creativity can you tap into? Do you love to cook, write, paint, take photos? (And if this sends you into a comparison game all on it's own, I encourage you to go back to step 1 and read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and/or Daring GreatlyShare your magic with the world, it needs it more than ever.
  • Hang IRL. Social media is slippery little minx because it gives us this illusion of connectivity but without any of the real benefits. Humans need social connection; we are just wired this way. If you're slacking on the in-real-life connection time with your friends, your partner, your mom, or literally anyone who you love and who supports you, it's time to pick up the phone and make a date to make that happen. (Or literally just talk on the phone. It's better than scrolling, I promise). Bonus points if you hang outside somewhere. Go for a walk, get some sun, get in the nature. Small acts of kindness for others IRL can go a long way in spreading good vibes and helping you feel better, simultaneously.
  • Ask for help. No matter what's bringing you down (the news, your own feelings about things, or anything else), you don't have to go it alone. As Melissa Hartwig says, when you have moments of courage, tell on yourself. Meaning, share your feelings with a friend, because shame cannot survive being spoken. Don't be afraid to speak up or have a difficult conversation.

4. Take action. While focusing on you is always a noble endeavor, it can help to get outside of ourselves and minds and actually DO something. If you are looking for motivation, put the fucking phone down (your motivation isn't in there, no matter what #motivationmonday might have you believe). Motivation comes from taking action, NOT the other way around. What's one small thing you can do RIGHT NOW that  will be a small step in the direction you want to go or make an impact on what's important to you?  It doesn't need to be a sweeping overhaul, it can be one. tiny. step. Just do something.

5. Shut it down. Now I realize that for those of us who run an online business, this isn't always possible. You can't just shut off your phone for 2 weeks at any given moment. But, there might be some ways to create workarounds. Due to the scheduling feature that every app (except for IG) has, you can spend some extra time up front getting a bunch of your posts ready to go, so that you can carve out a whole day or a whole weekend where you don't log in even once. And if you have the ability to do this at any given time, try it. I deleted Instagram off my phone for a week this summer and it was the most incredible thing I could have done for my mental health. I wrote all about it here.

6. Share your light. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the stuff you're seeing in the news, know that it's ok to feel sadness or grief or anger. Let these feelings sit with you and embrace them. Then, decide how you want to move forward. My best suggestion is this:

  • Channel that energy and create something. Put your voice out there, connect with someone else, share your story, spread your magic. It might seem insignificant, but it's not. The world needs you right now.
  • Get involved. Similar to #5, but in a more community focused way. Take action in a way that matters to you. Donate money, or better yet, time, or find a way to help make an impact. The little things go a long way, so don't be discouraged that you're just one person. Again, the world needs you right now.

And above all else, remember this: 

What you see in your feed is the polished, edited, filtered, best-of, highlight reel. Do not compare your behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reel. It might look like they have their shit together and figured out, but let me tell you right now: no one has their shit together. We are all just figuring it out as we go. Have patience with yourself.

And most importantly, your worth as a woman, entrepreneur, mom, exerciser, and overall human being does not lie in your likes per photo or your follower count. Remember what's important in this world and let the numbers go.

Social media can be an incredible thing, and it can (and has!) done so much good. Try to remember to use it as a tool to help better the world and yourself, and don't let the rest get you down.