You do it again. You always do it again.
After the 20th time telling yourself you won’t check Facebook for a while, you’re sleepless and on your phone. You doomscroll past Uncle Al’s latest unhinged political rants. You wonder how Susan has the time to make such elegant dishes even as she’s rising in her profession.
Toggling over to Instagram, you feel a tinge of jealousy as Marcus and Carla post a veranda photo from their perfect vacation in Jamaica. A little like a hamster now, you hop to Tik Tok and see the niece you used to take out for ice cream now has 100,000 followers for her silly dances. “Maybe I should check Twitter just to see what’s up” means 15 minutes you’ll never get back
You put your phone on the nightstand and feel a little flushed and vaguely unsettled. “Why do I do this to myself?”
Why, indeed. A lot of it has to do with the way social networks are wired to stimulate the brain’s reward centers, as research has shown. Those little alerts spur you to click, thinking something special lies ahead. A positive nudge gives you a boost. When the alerts don’t do the trick, or you get numbed to the good right before you, social media can easily send you into a negative spiral -- if you let it.
One key to a healthier, more productive social media experience -- both personally and professionally -- is fostering positive interaction and slicing away or ignoring the negative.
Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s useful to think of your social media feeds as gardens. Well-tended ones bring pleasure. Those filled with weeds drive us away or make us throw up our hands in surrender. How do you plant a healthy social media garden and bring it to fruition?
Here are easy ways you can focus on the good to improve your time and investment in social media -- and reap a bountiful harvest.
Find your crop. You may ask yourself, “What can I put out there that anyone would care about?” Do a little self-inventory. Do you like music? Have pets? Take nice sunrise photos? Sell fun stuff? What gets you excited and out of bed in the morning? Anything that inspires passion can be your posting “crop” to plant.
A good friend posts pictures of her cat weekly with a musing under the title Tuesday Kitten. People search out her posts because they’re light, breezy and uplifting. And limiting herself to one post a week helps quell the urge to post 20 kitty photos at once.
Plant seeds. “Positive people attract positive interaction.” Seems like we hear that a lot. Have you practiced it? Instead of posting about the driver who cut you off, think of something during the day that made you smile. Was it a good conversation? A nice meal? A baby’s giggle? A customer’s compliment?
Did you do something that might make someone happy? Maybe share that ‘80s song that gets everyone on the dancefloor. Prep it with a short sentence like, “Remember when this was what Fridays were about?” You just might bring some sunshine into a friend’s cloudy day -- and avoid being a dark cloud casting shadows. (In other words, add value!)
Feed and water relationships. Social media algorithms work in mysterious ways. One thing that anyone can see is that the people and accounts you interact with most online show up much more frequently. Hold close those who make you happy: the friend with a quick wit, the restaurant that always gets your order right, the corner business that needs a boost.
Don’t see them in your feed? That’s what “Search” is for. Find their account. “Like” a post or two. Post a reply. Join a Facebook Group devoted to something you treasure and share something positive. Over time, those friends and pages will be regulars in your feed, and you’ll build relationships one step at a time.
Don’t overwater! What happens when plants get too much moisture? Their roots rot and they die. Likewise, don’t overwater your social media channels. Do you really need to post five times a day? 24 pictures from the party? Two or three on-point, upbeat posts a week will show you in a better light and attract people to you.
Pull weeds. Negative social media interaction can spur a “fight or flight” response. Avoid it! Do a sibling’s political views drive you to anger? Don’t confront them; mute them. Does Emily’s perfectly staged life leave you anxious? Unfollow her! Don’t be enraged; disengage.
When you take a hands-on approach to tending your social media, the blooms are often sweeter and more plentiful.
Harvest the bounty. Rare is the weed-free garden, and even the most optimized social media feeds have a thistle or two. But with time, some restraint and positive effort, your feeds can blossom.
It’s planting season. Let us at The Creative Company help you put some good seed into your social media soil. You may be surprised what grows.
Chris DuPre, Director of Public Relations, has grown social media communities for a decade. He nurtured, for instance, a corporate account from 500 to 40,000 followers.
The Creative Company
Director of Public Relations