After the 2016 election, I had to seriously rethink how I engaged with social media. When I tell you I went down a rabbit hole, I am understating the scope of the issue. I spent too much time and too much energy on Twitter, and this went on for months.
(You know that this is in direct contradiction to my primary philosophy: Tend your garden.)
As someone who advises on and writes about marketing and social media for a living, finding a way to take a step back from social media and reexamine my relationship with it was intimidating. As someone who distributes and promotes content primarily on social media and finds clients on social media, it felt downright dangerous, both financially and professionally, to disengage.
In addition, I have taught social media strategies to Realtors all over North America, and I pride myself on being transparent and honest in talking about the way that I use the platforms myself. I wasn't sure how to say, "Maybe back off of them. Maybe don't use them so much. Maybe they're not great for you and they're feeding your anxiety."
Just like when I quit smoking nearly 25 years ago, I went cold turkey. I guess you could say I'm a person of extremes — either all-in or all-out. One day I deleted all of the social media apps from my phone on impulse and it was months before I checked in on them again. Once I did, I took a more measured, judicious approach to deciding what I would engage with moving forward.
Now, social media purges and adjustments are a regular part of the way that I engage with my online platforms. This approach is especially important if you struggle with depression or anxiety, because of the well-documented relationship between social media platforms and these issues.
Aside from everything else, if you are looking to improve your self-care, make sure that you incorporate regular, ongoing social media purges into your plan.
Top 10 steps for optimizing your social media timelines
1. Start by purging platforms that don't work for you.
Before you start worrying about your individual timelines, start by thinking about the platforms themselves. In my case, Twitter is my kryptonite. While I share blog posts there occasionally, the way that Twitter feeds constant engagement and anxiety makes it a platform that is unhealthy for me, so I don't scroll the timeline or interact.
By contrast, I love Instagram. I can pick it up, put it down, engage with it or not. The Powers That Be there will probably not like hearing that since they want to drive constant engagement, but for me, Instagram is far more manageable than Twitter.
Choose platforms that work well for you and that you enjoy in a healthy, positive way. Some people love Facebook because it keeps them tuned in to people they know personally. Others don't like Facebook, especially if they have people in their family or friend group who post a lot of questionable political, religious, or social content.
I can't emphasize this enough: While you may feel that you MUST be on a platform because you need it to promote your business, understand that you will get far more out of a platform that you enjoy instead of one that you dread interacting with. I've found far more clients on Instagram than all of the other platforms combined.
2. Use different platforms for different purposes
Remember that different platforms work better for different types of engagement. You may want to use some platforms to engage with colleagues and others to engage with your sphere of influence and former clients. You may want to use some platforms to distribute content and others to share tips and community information.
By differentiating the way you use platforms, you can more carefully curate the timelines of those that you spend more time on and that you engage with in-depth. That ensures that you enjoy your time on the platforms where you're paying more attention. In addition, it means that the content you share on those timelines will be more relevant and more reflective of what is meaningful and authentic to you.
3. Be careful of the content you engage with in the first place.
This is a tip from a social-savvy teenager of my acquaintance, and it's a good one. The algorithms are always on the lookout for your engagement, so if you're in the habit of idly Liking and Sharing everything in your timeline, you'll end up reinforcing a lot of things that you didn't mean to.
This can be especially problematic if you feel like you have to Like everything your friends, clients and colleagues post. It can leave you with a timeline that doesn't feel like your own. Again, make sure that you keep the timeline of your favorite platforms sacred and dedicated to the things that you truly care about and want to engage with.
4. Check out accounts before you follow them.
Too often I find myself seeing a post and, on a whim, following the creator. Subsequently, I often find that they're either a one-trick-pony — posting the same type of content over and over — or their initial post that caught my attention was the only one that I really vibed with and the rest of their content wasn't for me.
It only takes a minute or two to click through and look at someone's posts before you choose to follow them. That way you'll have a better idea of whether you'll enjoy them on an ongoing basis. Another way to make sure that they'll stand the test of time is by following people whose posts are shared with you by friends or who are shared frequently in IG Stories by your favorite accounts.
5. Consider whether a long-time account is still relevant for you.
This is a big one for me and it has been a game-changer in helping me to rethink my timeline. In the early years of building my business, I followed a lot of accounts that were all about hustle culture. You know the ones:
Never give up.
Be a wolf.
Never, never give up.
Be a lion.
Never, never, never give up, like for real.
She said she could, so she did. Also, she was a manatee.
No, seriously, never give up.
While I have written about the dangers of this type of rhetoric, let me just say that there are times when you are building a business that you need a whole hell of a lot of motivation and if this kind of thing does it for you (and it did for me) go for it.
Over time, however, as my business grew and I was working all of the time, I found that it depressed the hell out of me. At that point, I was working seven days a week and long hours and I didn't need something to tell me to be a wolf. I needed something to help me set some healthy boundaries and to help me start to take care of myself. As my business changed, the messaging I saturated my timeline with had to change.
If you find yourself feeling frustrated with what you're seeing in the timeline, it may be because you're following creators who are talking to an audience that you're no longer part of. Now, it may be time for you to start looking for accounts that will resonate with you at a different level.
Maybe you need to look for those who are talking about balance or spirituality or scale or operational support. If you've outgrown your timeline, start unfollowing some folks and making some changes.
6. If you've questioned whether you should unfollow more than once, unfollow.
Occasionally, you'll see someone who posts something that seems a little off. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable. Maybe their values don't seem to align with yours or they seem to be selling something that you're not interested in. Maybe they feel a little angry or combative.
Sometimes you'll see creators who are going through something in their own journey. Frequently I see creators who are struggling to meet the demands of a growing audience. Instead of creating for the fun and joy of creating, their growth is bringing with it a lot of pressure and a lot of criticism and their content is starting to suffer. While I feel for them, I don't want to get caught up in the newly negative vibe of their content.
If you ask yourself once, "Is this for me?" that may just be a bad day. If you ask yourself twice? Unfollow.
7. Watch out for misinformation sharing and Unfollow.
There are so many ways that seemingly well-meaning and reliable content creators can share problematic and dangerous misinformation on their YouTube channels, blogs, podcasts, and social media accounts. It's especially upsetting when it's someone you like and have previously trusted — someone who seemed a lot like you.
The problem with continuing to follow someone who is sharing misinformation is that it's like the boiling frog: Continued exposure distorts your own perceptions and puts you in danger of accepting and sharing misinformation as well. Remember, it's not hard to check things out before you accept them as fact. If one of your favorite accounts is sharing false information, Unfollow.
8. If you don't feel you can unfollow, mute.
I get it; there may be colleagues and friends you don't want to unfollow altogether. They may notice or they may ask if you've seen their latest post. The good news is that you can mute them on most platforms, allowing you to check in if asked but keeping them from showing up on your timeline and in your Stories on a regular basis.
9. Let the platform know when you're not interested.
Most social media platforms offer you a variety of options for letting them know that you don't like content, especially if it's content you didn't ask for from an account you don't follow. On Instagram, the algorithm will feed you a variety of suggested posts, but you can let them know that you don't want to see these.
In addition, you can set parameters for ads and sponsored posts, letting the platform know that you don't like the subject matter. This can help to limit the amount of triggering or objectionable content you're subjected to in your timeline so that you can keep it focused on the accounts and types of topics you enjoy engaging with.
In some cases, you can even mute certain types of media for 30 days at a time, allowing you a blissful respite from unwanted posts for weeks.
10. Curate your timeline with content that feeds your spirit.
Above all, as you get rid of things that don't serve you, fill your timeline with things that do. Bring in accounts that you find meaningful, fun, funny, inspirational, beautiful — whatever works. Maybe you love art. Maybe you love vintage style. Maybe you love animals. Maybe you love architecture. Maybe you love travel. Whatever feeds your spirit is fair game for your timeline.
While I have a lot of real estate content, friends, clients and colleagues in my timeline, I also have accounts dedicated to
Funny astrology memes
Funny country music memes from the 80s
Bichon Frises and English Bulldogs
The pet rescue where I found my precious cat, Christine Daae
Pop culture commentary
Beauty and humor make life better. If my timeline doesn't leave me feeling better about the world, I rethink it. It's an ongoing calibration and it's worth the time and effort.
Take care of you by taking care of the things you allow to enter into your eyes, your mind and your heart. You're worth it.