Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Maintaining a positive online space


Last weekend I went to London to attend a pool party one of my friends from university was hosting so we could all meet up and catch up after not seeing each other for ages. Not to get soppy, but it was probably the happiest I’ve been since turning 22. It was so nice seeing people that I don’t get to see very
often, playing games in the pool (132!!!), playing badminton and burning our toes around a fire pit. I spent the rest of my weekend visiting other friends from university and being very kindly put up in Laura’s flat for the third time in three months. After a lovely weekend I got to King’s Cross on Monday evening and made my first error: not buying any snacks for the journey home. I’d had a big lunch mid afternoon and the train was only three and a bit hours. I’d be back in Newcastle before 11pm, I’d be fine! Or so I thought.


Everything was fine for about two hours and there was an announcement that we were about to stop in York, at which point the girl sitting next to me got up and made her way to the doors to wait for the train to pull into the platform. Then the train stopped. We had been at a standstill for about five minutes when there was another announcement that there had been an accident involving the train in front of us and our train wasn’t going to be moving until this had been dealt with. They were giving out free food at the food bar because of this but nearly all of the options contained meat or cheese so I returned to my seat with a sad looking bottle of water and a boring bag of sea salt crisps, really regretting my decision to pass up on purchasing snacks.

Knowing that we were going to be waiting for a while, I tried to think of ways to occupy the time. I’d spent the Friday with my friend Manny and we had both complained about how our social media had gone from something that used to harmlessly pass time to something that induces an irrational rage on the way to work before it's even 9am. There are a lot of stupid people in very important positions right now and people who are even worse using twitter as a platform to spread dangerous and unfounded opinions.  I wanted to go back to a carefree time when my twitter was full of cat videos and makeup looks so I could choose when I wanted to put myself in an existential state of misery by reading the news separate to the hours I already waste on social media. Manny had already culled his twitter following list over the weekend but I hadn’t had time to broach mine yet so since I was going to be stuck for a few hours I decided it was time to be ruthless. I cut my Instagram following down by about half and my twitter by about a third.
I started with Twitter. I scrolled down the list of people I was following and cut out accounts whose tweets I never saw on my timeline. For some accounts these were just people who didn’t use theirs very often, or bloggers I’d recently followed whose tweets for some reason hadn’t shown up on my timeline so I could barely even remember following them in the first place. Then I got to the accounts I had followed to keep up with world events and organisations I was interested in. I followed a lot of accounts like ACLU and Rogue NASA around the time of the presidential election because it seemed important at the time and don’t get me wrong, it definitely still is important. But when I had also followed the official twitter accounts for different sections of the UN and various charities based in the UK and abroad, it meant that often my Twitter feed was just becoming one big long list of articles that I didn’t have time or energy to read, often about quite negative things. I’m not saying for one second that we shouldn’t stay updated and educated on issues and current events, but there’s a time and a place and for me it’s not on Twitter anymore. I felt guilty unfollowing important organisations like Save the Children and Greenpeace but the amount of negative information I was ingesting even just through reading the headlines on social media was really starting to get to me. I still follow a few but they appear on my timeline few and far between and are much more accessible for me to actually read and take in. At least for now, I need my Twitter to be more of a release than an antagonist.

Having tackled Twitter, I moved on to Instagram. Instagram posts get lost in the feed so often now, especially with the new algorithm choosing to show you popular posts from days ago as opposed to what your actual friends may have posted just minutes ago. For this reason, my feed had started to be less and less of what I actually wanted to be seeing. Scrolling through my following list, I realised I followed a lot of accounts that I really didn’t care about anymore. There were so many vegan food accounts and really, who am I trying to kid, my diet consists of meat substitutes and the same vegetables 6 nights out of 7 and you could show me 1000000 beautifully made vegan dishes but I have neither the time or the patience to actually create them. 
I also followed so many influencers, most of which were skinny, white, and beautiful and they all got unfollowed too. I think I’d originally followed them for some inspiration when I wanted to lose some weight (that’s a toxic behaviour to discuss for another day) but all it was really doing was making me feel bad about myself, when there’s nothing wrong with my body the way it is anyway. Clearing these accounts out left more space for the body positive accounts I follow to have more of a place on my feed, whose messages I feel like everyone could do with exposing themselves to more often. I also unfollowed a bunch of celebrities for a similar reasoning as I used for the influencers, there were too many clogging up my timeline and I didn't really care about what they were posting. 

Instagram gives you the opportunity to create an image for yourself unlike any other social media. You upload the best photos from your best days, add a filter and present them all together in an online photo album. I love Instagram but it's rarely realistic and I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else. My point is that when everyone is curating their best image online anyway, choosing to bombard yourself with picture perfect accounts whose whole income and brand is based on presenting an aesthetic ideal without having a balance of your friends posting pictures of their lunch or their cats isn’t always healthy. 


Culling my social media was time consuming but considering my journey home ended up taking me nine hours (nine!!!!! I got home at 4:30am) instead of three and a half, I had plenty of time. For a lot of the accounts, I had followed them for so long that it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could unfollow them. Obviously the option was there but I had got so used to seeing them that they were almost a part of the furniture in my social media. It’s only been a few days but I can already see the difference in my social media timelines. I’m finally seeing content I actually want to see and I’ve got a much more positive mind set after I interact with social media because of this. I think the worst way you can interact with social media is by feeling obligated to keep following people, whether it's someone you went to school with, an organisation you care about, or just someone who follows you back. You just have to remind yourself it’s not personal and your social media is what you make of it. 
If you want to make it a positive space, it will be.  



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8 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I think it's important to go through your social media every once in a while and remove any accounts that may be having a negative influence on your life. It may end up taking a bit of time but it'll really benefit you in the long run. Great post!

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    1. I'm glad you liked it! I agree, I've really felt the difference since I cleared mine out

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  2. I should go through my social media too and unfollow all the account I have lost interest into. I hate the algorithm coz I can't see any of my friends' pictures! So annoying! I think it is great that you did it! xx corinne

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    1. It's so worth doing, I see so much more of the content I want to see now

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  3. I have a regular social clear out and although I feel bad I think it is important to create a positive online space filled with what you want to see!

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    1. I think I'm going to try and make this a regular thing too! Made such a difference to how I use social media and you're right, there's no reason not to have a feed full of things you actually want to see

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  4. I always feel bad unfollowing people but it is important to remember that not everyones going to like you/your content and you're not going to like everyone else and theirs either! As a size 12/14 I've started to follow body posi accounts around my size too so instead of staring at bikini and fitness pics feeling guilty all the time I'm rooting for women who are my size instead and realising I can still look good, enjoy food and have some chub at the same time! I loved this post, it's really inspired me to give myself a proper clear out when I've got some spare time!
    Alice Xx
    www.blacktulipbeauty.co.uk

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    1. I used to have this mindset too but you're right, you just need to rationalise the way you think about it. Honestly, following body positive accounts has made such a difference to the way I view myself now and I had no idea of how negatively my old feeds were affecting me until I changed it! Definitely never looking back now. Glad it inspired you!

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