We all have access to phones, personal devices, and social media, and everyone uses them completely differently. I am often thinking about and changing how I use my phone and social media. Sometimes I set restrictive time limits on specific apps or delete apps completely. For a few months, I even had my phone screen set to grayscale so there were no colors, effectively making my phone boring to use. At other times, my phone habits are totally unrestricted. How I make these decisions depends on what else is going on in my life. For example, when I’m in the middle of finals and don’t have time to be distracted, it’s helpful to take away all my social media apps until my break starts. If I’m bored, curious about what’s going on in the world, or want to laugh, having TikTok can help me out with that. Sometimes, I just want to be able to turn off my brain and consume stuff on the internet. Other times, I feel like the internet is just making me feel bad, and I’d be happier spending my time outside, reading a book, or simply doing nothing. In those situations, I’ll also restrict my options more.
The point here is that we all have the power to use social media exactly how we want to. We can think critically about how we engage with content, how it makes us feel, and how we want to relate to it, knowing that these things can change all the time. To help get that conversation started, here are ten questions I think you should ask yourself or your friends:
- How do you feel when you’re scrolling through an app like TikTok or Instagram?
- What are the kinds of content you really enjoy?
- What makes you laugh or feel good?
- TikTok in particular is designed to show you videos the algorithm thinks you’ll like. Consider interacting (liking, commenting, sharing) extra with content you want to see more of.
- Are there things in your feed that you don’t enjoy? Why not?
- Is there content that makes you feel sad or self-conscious?
- Are there users or types of content you’d rather not see?
- Use the tools of social media to your advantage and curate your feed by blocking content you don’t like!
- How do you think social media plays a role in your friendships or your relationships with family members?
- What do you want others to know about your social media presence? What do you feel like they don’t understand?
- How do you think your phone contributes to other aspects of your life, like school, sports, or extracurricular activities?
- Is there anything you want to change about how you use your phone and/or social media?
Remember, no change you make needs to be permanent! You can experiment for as long or short as you want. More than anything, I encourage you to think seriously about your relationship with your phone and social media and to try new things.
The truth is that we don’t yet know enough about what social media can do for us or to us, but the conversation doesn’t and shouldn’t end here. It’s hugely important to think about why, how, and for what reasons we engage with social media and the internet. It’s up to each of us to think critically about how we engage with the world. Thinking about questions like these can help jumpstart this process. Social media is meant to help you better connect to the world around you and be exposed to others’ perspectives– make sure social media does just that for you!