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Social Media is often criticized, especially when it comes to the amount of time young people spend on it and the effect it can have on their mental health and self-image. But as with many things, it’s not all black or all white: social media has a lot of good points as well. It’s just a matter of curating your experience to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.
Podcast by: Sixtine and Marisa

Curating your social media experience

There are a lot of stereotypes about how the internet in general, and social media in particular, are affecting my generation and the one that follows (Gen Y – Millennials and Gen Z). It is said that tehy’re rotting our brains, that we’re addicted, that we’re obsessed with comparing ourselves to others, that it’s just for porn, that we’re losing touch with reality and becoming anti-social…

But the internet is so much more than that, and there is so much more it can do, and is doing, for young people every day.

It is an amazing learning tool, full of tutorials and lessons and videos and recordings. Full of free programs that you can use to record podcast, create movies, make art or science or whatever you want.

It is a formidable information tool, allowing us to learn more about other countries and people and to be aware of what is happening in other parts of the world.

And social media? While I’m not going to lie and say that social media is all sunshine and roses, because nothing is perfect, it is also not the nightmare in electronic form that some people think it is.

They are an amazing community enabler, bringing people closer together and allowing them to undertake worldwide challenges and gatherings: just look at what is happening with the Fridays for Future movement all over the world! Or look at the online creative movements like Nanowrimo or Inktober! All of these movements and gatherings are happening thanks to social media! There’s a reason they’re called social media, after all.

Social media are also great communication tools, allowing us to keep in touch with friends from all over the world, to form and maintain friendships with people from different countries and cultures and walks of life in a way that was impossible to imagine even twenty years ago! I can send a message to a friend who lives in the USA or in Lebanon and have an answer immediately, or at least as soon as they’re online, allowing for the time difference. I can post pictures of my volunteering experience on Instagram, and have my cousins living in Belgium comment (and attempt to show my grandparents how to use it so they check out my pictures as well). One of my friends who lives in Brittany just had a baby – our group chat went crazy when she sent us the first picture!

Social media has also become a professional necessity for most communication-related jobs nowadays – and most businesses, no matter what they’re doing, have at least one social-media coordinator now!

This is especially true for creative jobs, as it is now expected of artists, actors, musicians, writers, etc… to have a strong social media presence. It used to be something that was handled by the agents, publishers or PR specialists, but we live in an age where people expect to be able to interact directly with the person, not with intermediaries. Even though that’s a full-time job in itself! A lot of celebrities employ other people to keep up their social media presence, only stepping in personally from time to time, but less-known content creators don’t have that luxury and have to spend a lot of time on their social media marketing.

Is there problematic content on social media? Yes, of course. Just like there’s problematic content in real life. Are there toxic people on social media? Yes, just as there are some in real life.

And just like in real life, it is important to pick and choose who and what you want to interact with. It is important to curate your experience, to know what you are willing and unwilling to see on your dash.

(And at least online you can curate what you see and read. In real life, it’s much harder to ‘delete’ the comments or actions of someone harassing you or your friend, or to make sure that this person stops harassing others: I’ve been reliably informed that this could be called murder, or at least homicide, and that it’s illegal. Too bad.)

So, what does “curating your social media experience” mean, concretely?

It means choosing carefully what you’re willing to see on your dash, what kind of content you’re willing to be exposed to and what kind of content you’re not. It’s not always easy, I will admit, especially when social media algorithm can be obscure and try to make you follow pages that are actually things you very much do not want to see. But there are ways to at least make sure that the majority of your dash is something you’re genuinely interested in.

If you’re interested in a particular hobby or topic, make sure you follow people who are into the same thing! That way you’ll get to see their content more often, and maybe even have a look at their following lists to find other like-minded people! I also highly recommend following at least one page that posts nothing but pictures of baby animals – sometimes you just need some cuteness on your dash.

On the other hand, don’t hesitate to use the block, unfollow or back button if you see something that is not to your taste, or something that might be triggering or hurtful for you. If someone is harassing you on social media, it’s okay to block and report them. It’s okay to disable or moderate the comments that can be posted on your pages. It’s okay to block some tags so they won’t appear in your dash. It’s okay to download extensions that will take care of that for you as long as you give them a list of words or topics that you don’t want to see. That’s what those buttons are there for, and your first priority needs to be your wellbeing, no matter what.

This is what I call doing a Marie Kondo[1] of your social media experience: keep only that which brings you joy.

It is also okay to take a break now and then, if you feel you need one or even simply want one. It’s okay to turn off your social media for a couple of days/weeks/months, or even to completely quit one or more of them if the stress of keeping them up becomes to much. It should remain something fun, and never become something that drags you down.

Moderation, and caution, as with all things, also apply for social media.

Articolo con Sixtine Duvieusart

[1] Marie Kondo, also known as KonMari is a japanese organising consultant and author who is most known for her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2011) and the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo