6 Ways to Foster Healthy Social Media Habits by Daniel Patterson for The Gospel Coalition
It’s fashionable to lament the state of social media. Social media is addictive; it’s been linked to depressive symptoms; it can atrophy your ability to focus; it’s often a petri dish for tribalism and a playground for trolls.
I’ve heard all of this. At the same time, I’ve formed all sorts of relationships and learned all sorts of things through one social platform or another.
Regardless of whether social media is a net positive or negative, though, the simple truth is that many of us don’t have the luxury of walking away from it. I coordinate media and public relations for the organization I serve. This requires near-constant monitoring of news—and therefore social media—to do my job effectively. There have been days when social media has been a source a great joy, and others where, well, let’s just say it hasn’t.
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Here’s what I’ve learned: social media must be harnessed before it can be leveraged for good. Here are six ways I’ve tried to do both.
1. Consider the location of your devices.
I don’t keep my phone at my bedside. For years, I told myself it was necessary because I used my phone as an alarm clock, and because I had a white-noise app I used during the night. In reality, though, I was addicted to information, and the alarm was merely a justification. As it turns out, a $5 alarm clock and $10 noise machine are equally effective. And when you put the clock on the other side of the room, you won’t hit the snooze button.
2. Design healthy routines.
Most days, I don’t look at my phone until I’ve had time in Scripture, and often, until after I’ve had a workout of some kind. In the past, I’ve most always checked email or Twitter within seconds of waking up. I can think of few ways to start one’s day more foolishly. For one, it often feels like starting the day with an acid bath. More importantly, it revealed a minor-league messiah complex in my own heart, as if sleep was forcing me to miss out on really important things.
Starting the day with Scripture and prayer locates me in communion with God before communication with the world. Working out is helpful to me, because the adrenaline rush makes me more alert and engaged. For many, caffeine may be preferable to cardio, but what’s most important is that you’re thoughtful about your routines, that they honor God, and that serve your best interests.
3. Control what you consume.
Be ruthless with whom you follow and what you consume. For example, I never look at my main Twitter feed. The grifter-and-garbage factor is so high and so unpredictable, I’ve learned it just isn’t good for my soul. Instead, I only access Twitter through lists I’ve created. That doesn’t mean I only follow people I like; echo chambers are destructive. I follow all sorts of people I disagree with, since I need to be challenged.