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Social Media: Rising Above the Social Media Trap Before it Takes Control of You

Social Media:  Rising Above the Social Media Trap Before it Takes Control of You

As the use of social media continues to grow, I have found that many people fall into one of two camps.  Individuals either love social media or avoid it at all cost.  However, there is new group that has emerged in the last few years of people who both love and hate social media at the same time.  In fact, these folks often feel like social media is a trap and at any moment they can fall in.  It’s time we explore some of the reasons people end up in one of these three camps.  It’s also time that we look at some ways we can rise above the trap so it doesn’t catch us in its snares.

social mediaWilliam Iven/ Unsplash.com

Social Media Lovers

There are folks out there who truly feel alive and enriched through social media.  And you may find it interesting to note that the age of the person doesn’t really matter.  We tend to think that younger people use social media the most.  While that may be true statistically, there are plenty of middle-aged adults and seniors who would are social media lovers too.  They may just go online for different reasons.

My husband and I opened our first social media accounts to keep track of our children.  What I didn’t realize is that I would be able to connect with former high school classmates, relatives, and friends.  I was able to rekindle some old friendships and start some new ones too.  I found myself enjoying catching up with people who used to be in my life but I no longer saw regularly.

Human beings are designed for relationships and social media provides an opportunity for relationships to grow.  I have felt part of weddings, vacations, and graduations.  I have also been saddened by the loss of former friends, their parents, and even internet-only buddies.  Other social online things I have been a part of have included bible study groups, and support groups.  Most recently, I have found many like-minded people who are interested in health and wellness.  Yes, I would definitely include myself in the “social media lovers” category!

Haters Gonna Hate

The opposite perspective regarding social media is that people hate it and steer clear of it completely.  To be fair, some of the concerns I have heard are valid.  There are times when social media becomes a gossip-fest.  Other times you can witness temper tantrums as people pour out frustration or disapproval.  And there are times when indecent comments or pornographic material can be stumbled upon.  I agree that no one needs to subject themselves to any of that nonsense.

However, to close the door completely to social media means that you cut yourself off from all the benefits too.  Car accidents happen every day and a real risk we take in life.  In order to protect yourself, you will have to avoid getting into cars for the rest of your life.  That is humanly possible, but not very practical.  Are you going to walk or ride your bike to work?  Walkers and bike riders can be injured too.  And you’re going to need to give yourself a good deal of extra time to travel.

Simultaneously Mixed Feelings

Many people feel conflicted between being a lover and a hater of social media.  They start out loving it but hating being exposed to some of the negative aspects.  Sometimes people start to feel like its stealing precious time from their lives.  We could literally spend all day every day on various social media platforms and still not read everything people have posted.

In response to the mixed feelings that are felt, individuals often feel like they need to respond in some way.  This is when you’ll hear comments about people taking “a break,” or a “vacation” from social media.  These comments may seem like a drug addict or an alcoholic trying to avoid getting high or drunk.  The truth is that for some people it does become an addiction.  Like many other things in life, we can lose perspective and our priorities can get off track.  We should not be spending 16 hours a day engaging in socially oriented online activities.  But I wonder if abruptly switching to zero is really the best way to handle this issue?

Staying Out of the Trap

If you are looking for a way to avoid the extremes of loving and hating but don’t know what to do with your simultaneously mixed feelings, it’s time to look at some strategies to avoid falling into the social media trap.  Here are a few suggestions of things that have worked for me in achieving a sense of balance with my social media time.

1.  Limit Your Time Online

It’s important to decide how much time you are willing or able to give to devote to social media each week.  And secondly, you have to decide what you want to do with that time.  Some folks really enjoy interactive time and prefer environments that let you comment and hit like, love, or sadness buttons.  Other folks prefer to observe and not interact.  .  There are no strict rules on how you should spend your time.  The only rule is that you put some thought into it and decide what is reasonable for your life.  For example, college students may have more free time than single parents who hold down full-time jobs.

2.  Contribute to a Positive Environment

Have you heard it said that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem?  Most of the time that’s true. If you want to promote a positive environment, it has to start with you.  Post things that will enrich other people’s lives.  Pictures of special events, encouraging words, inspirational messages are all great ideas.  And you may even want to consider defining your uniqueness and doing it regularly.  For example, do you love to share favorite Bible verses, or fitness motivation memes?  Plan to share a few each week or even a few per day if that works better.  Your friends and followers will start to look forward to the awesome things you share.  This way you’ll have a regular plan to make the atmosphere a good one.

3.  Don’t Go There Lil

Years ago, I heard the phrase, “don’t go there Lil,” and have come to love it.  This comes from a true story of a women named Lil who was about to say something unkind.  Surely, if she opened her mouth and let it come out, it was going to stir up more trouble.  A friend attempted to warn Lil not to go down that path.  Honestly, we all need a friend like that.  One who has the courage to tell you when NOT to speak.  If you don’t have one, or if your friend is not nearby, put your name inside the phrase and say it to yourself.  Next time you’re tempted to rip someone apart or tell it like it is, stop and repeat this, “Don’t do it _______.”  You’re only going to make matters worse and your silence will speak volumes.

4.  Unfriend, Unfollow, or Block

Until recently, I thought it was rude to unfriend, unfollow, or block others.  I’m sad to say my feelings have now changed.  I have been victimized by some of the most hateful comments I have ever seen online in the past several weeks and I’m no longer going to tolerate it.  No one has to agree with me.  In fact, I invite opposing viewpoints as they help me grow and stay open-minded.  But, I expect that my opinion and thoughts will be seen as equally valuable.  If someone who is following me or considers me a friend starts verbal attacks, then frankly it’s time for them to go!

I wouldn’t tolerate that behavior in my living room.  Neither would I allow anyone to speak to a member of my family that way.  In my career as a Registered Nurse, I protect my patients in a similar way.  Do you have a significant other acting up?  They’re going to quickly meet a member of our security department.  So, if you can’t be a part of a positive environment, and you think it’s good practice to verbally attack others, then it’s time for me to show you the virtual door.  The only people who I have completely blocked are people who post things that are so offensive I don’t want to ever see it again.  In most cases, I believe a person can grow and change and one day could become someone I would let in again.

Reflection Questions

  1.  How much time do you allow yourself on social media per day?  Is this working out good for you or is a change needed?
  2.  Are you helping to create a positive online environment or do you need a good friend helping you to refocus?
  3.  Is it time that you unfriend, unfollow, or block someone who is being a social media nightmare to you?

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