Slow Living Series: Using Social Media Mindfully

Since becoming self-employed and stepping away from the frantic pace of central London, I’ve been drawn to a slower and more simple lifestyle.

So it seems only natural that I would fall in love with the idea of slow living.

Wikipedia describes slow living as ‘a lifestyle emphasising slower approaches to aspects of everyday life.’ It’s about being mindful and deliberate with our everyday actions, instead of living life on autopilot.

I recently began my own slow living journey by taking a closer look at where my food comes from and experimenting with growing my own vegetables. Now I’m turning my attention to something that has been a topic of heated debates for the past few years. Something that I once thought was innocent and harmless, but has since been proven to affect our mental health in more ways than we ever imagined.

I’m talking, of course, about social media.

For the past six years, I’ve been a slave to my phone. It’s the first thing I reach for when I wake up in the morning – before I’ve even gotten out of bed, my mind is already full of information, opinions and facts about other people’s lives.

Enough is enough.

I’m putting my foot down and becoming a little more strict with myself when it comes to how much time I spend online. As well as focusing on quantity, I also want to ensure that I’m consuming high-quality content in a more mindful way instead of aimlessly browsing through celebrity gossip and clickbait YouTube videos.

As part of this slow living series I’ll be taking a hard look at each of my social media accounts and being honest with myself about the way I use them.

It’s time to reevaluate and ask some pretty tough questions: am I really getting anything out of this scroll through Instagram, or am I just procrastinating and wasting time? Why am I spending so much time looking at posts by my old high school classmates, people that I will most likely never see or speak to again? More importantly, why am I comparing my life to theirs?

I want to stop using social media mindlessly, without thinking. Instead, I want to focus on why I’m using these apps as well as how they make me feel.

I’m curious to discover how to incorporate social media into a slow lifestyle. At face value, they seem to be polar opposites – one is all about consuming and sharing as much content as possible while the other focuses on mindfulness, being deliberate about what you choose to consume and giving your full attention to whatever you are doing.

Slowly but surely, I’m figuring out how to use social media in a way that adds value to my life.

Twitter

Recently I took a big step on my journey to slow living,

I deleted my Twitter account.

At first I was filled with anxiety. How would I keep up with the latest news? Won’t I become completely out of touch?

After thinking about it deeply, I realised something. I was only on Twitter because I thought I should be – not because I actually wanted to be.

Twitter has contributed absolutely nothing to my life. I don’t feel inspired when I look at other people’s tweets, I don’t receive any news that I couldn’t get from more reputable sources. If I’m really honest with myself, it’s become a mindless habit to scroll through my timeline and read random tweets from strangers that I will probably never meet.

It’s time I focused on my own life and thoughts, instead of fixating on the opinions and beliefs of other people!

My mind already feels a little clearer without the noise of Twitter, and it feels pretty good.

Instagram

Lately, I’ve been feeling uneasy about the way I use Instagram.

I always thought I was doing the right thing. I follow a lot of aspirational accounts that share beautiful photographs along with motivational captions about healthy eating and gym routines.

I thought these people were inspiring me, but when I dug a little deeper I realised that they were actually making me feel bad about my own life. I wasn’t travelling to a new country every week, carrying the latest designer bag or posing with my sweet newborn baby. But because I was being bombarded with images of people doing these things every day, I thought I should be.

None of us can possibly compete with those perfect photographs!

So in the spirit of slow living, I’ve unfollowed every single account that made me feel insecure about myself or my life. Instead, I’ve found accounts to follow that inspire me to be more creative, to appreciate the small things in life, and that give me all the happy and cosy vibes.

These accounts remind me that it’s okay to just be myself.

Now, I stay away from the Explore page. I’ve also muted most people’s Stories, as I found myself spending way too much time aimlessly tapping through them.

With these simple steps, I’ve gone from spending literally hours on Instagram to scrolling for around fifteen minutes total each day. It’s a huge improvement, and my mind already feels much clearer and able to focus on more productive tasks.

Facebook

I have a complicated relationship with Facebook. There have been so many times that I’ve been tempted to delete it completely, and I would be lying if I said that the urge wasn’t still there.

So, what’s stopping me?

After moving to the UK from New Zealand seven years ago, Facebook has become the primary way that I stay in touch with my parents. They don’t use Instagram, but they can easily log into Facebook to see my updates and photographs. I don’t want to lose that connection to them, but I do feel that Facebook is a negative environment in so many ways.

About a year and a half ago I cut down a lot on my Facebook use. I unfollowed a lot of people and muted almost all of the rest – not because I don’t like them, but because I felt as though my brain was becoming too cluttered with useless information.

Lately, I’ve found myself spending more time on Facebook again. This slow living series has reminded me to take a step back and really think about why I’m so focused on seeing what everyone else is doing with their lives.

If I really think about it, scrolling through Facebook never leaves me feeling happy or motivated. I end up comparing myself to people that I went to high school with, which is never a productive thing to do! We all show our highlight reels online, and it’s easy to believe that everyone else is living these perfect, successful lives.

Spoiler: they aren’t!

I’m not going to delete Facebook just yet. But I am going to cut down on how much time I spend on it, and I’ve made a point to remove the app from my phone. I follow so few people these days that I only really need to check it for a few minutes once a week to stay up to date – and when I do, I’m going to remind myself that they aren’t posting about their bad days!

YouTube

I hate to admit it, but I’m completely addicted to YouTube.

No matter what I’m doing – washing the dishes, putting on makeup, even brushing my teeth – I’m glued to my phone mindlessly watching videos.

Once I’ve exhausted all the latest videos from the channels that I’m subscribed to, I’ll scroll through the ‘Recommended’ page and end up watching – there’s no other word for it – absolute rubbish.

When I think about how much time I’ve wasted watching YouTube videos that I’m not even particularly interested in, I want to scream. I could have learned a whole new language by now!

It’s time for me to get a handle on the situation and severely limit the amount of time that I spend on this website, as well as being more discerning and deliberate about the type of content that I consume.

Similarly to my Instagram approach, I started by unsubscribing to the channels that make me feel as though I’m living life ‘incorrectly’ or that I need to buy things in order to be happy. This helped me to realise that I’ve been following many of the same people for years simply out of habit, when really their content isn’t interesting or inspiring to me anymore.

Again, its about being mindful about the type of content that I’m consuming. I’ve streamlined my subscription list down to channels that make me feel happy and motivated, videos that educate and uplift me.

As for the ‘Recommended’ section? I recommend that we all stay far away from it!

As you can see, I’ve given a lot of thought to the way I consume other people’s content. But I also need to be mindful of the type of content that I’m putting out into the world.

Of course, I’m not an influencer. I don’t imagine that my social media posts have too much of an effect on people. But you never know.

If I sometimes feel insecure when I look at former classmates on Facebook and their seemingly wonderful lives, it’s not too far out of the realm of possibility to think that my posts could have the same effect on other people.

The thing is, I love sharing photographs and blog posts with my friends. It’s a way for me to express my creativity and I can’t imagine not having that outlet.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about intent. Am I trying to convince other people that my life is better than theirs? Am I taking photographs and posting them simply because I think I should?

If I’m honest, my younger self would probably answer in the affirmative. But these days, I’m confident that the intent behind my social media posts is simply to share my creative side and document my favourite memories.

To put it simply: even if no one ever read my content, I still wouldn’t stop posting it.

Now, you might be thinking: ‘Whoa, it’s just social media. It’s not that deep!

If this slow living series has taught me one thing, it’s that mindfulness is essential to a happy life. When my actions are deliberate and thoughtful, I make better decisions and feel much more contented.

With this mindset, even something as seemingly innocent as social media deserves serious contemplation.

So what do I plan to do with all of this free time now that I don’t spend hours on social media every day?

Well, I have a lot of ideas.

I want to write. I want to watch all three Lord of the Rings movies. I want to watch all of the Harry Potter movies. I want to read books again! I want to learn about space and our universe, I want to learn about British history and Japanese culture.

There’s no limit to the things I want to do, now that I’ve finally made space in my life for them all.

It’s my belief that social media isn’t inherently bad. As long as you are using it in a way that adds value to your life instead of detracting from it, then you’re on the right path. In my eyes it’s important to consume content that inspires and educates you, be discerning about who you choose to follow and keep on top of how it makes you feel.

There have been too many times that I’ve chosen to aimlessly scroll through my phone instead of being present in the moment. Too many times that I’ve hit the ‘like’ button on an article with a catchy headline without stopping to read it thoroughly and work out whether it’s actually true.

Dipping my toes into a slower-paced lifestyle has helped me realise where my priorities lie. My time is better spent with my family and friends, working on my own projects and taking steps towards my future – not scrolling through social media and peeking into other people’s lives.

How does social media add value to your life? Are you using it mindfully, or do you think you could improve? I’d love to know!

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