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4 ways your social media is controlling you, and how to overcome them

You can take back control of your social media use, but first, you need to see how it impacts you.

4 ways your social media is controlling you, and how to overcome them
[chika_milan/Adobe Stock]

Social media is a fantastic resource for entrepreneurs who want to understand their customers and trends. However, I’ve noticed that the more people use social media daily, the less socializing happens as people shout their likes and dislikes into overly saturated platforms that drown out their voices. You might view your feeds as your own, but the platforms have more control than you realize.

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As leaders, it’s our responsibility to generate new ideas and evolve. We need to know where trends are headed, but we need to do so while setting boundaries so that we and our business have staying power. You can take back control of your social media use, but first, you need to see how it impacts you.

1. YOU MIGHT HAVE A PROBLEM

Studies show that social media platforms can be addictive and cause mental distress. How often do you find yourself opening apps and scrolling through your feeds while waiting for a meeting? Do you pick up your phone the moment it buzzes, even if you’re supposed to be mentally present at a business dinner? If you’re checking your apps multiple times a day or find yourself anxious that you didn’t respond to an alert fast enough, there’s a good chance you’re doing it out of habit—meaning you’re not in control.

Solution: Set some limits. Set app limits in the settings on your phone so that it locks access to the app after you’ve used it for a set amount of time each day. You can also put your phone in “do not disturb” mode for specific periods where you need to focus and not be distracted. And for the times where you want to scroll aimlessly to kill time, instead, try sitting with your thoughts to be more productive as a leader.

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2. YOU’RE SHARING INFORMATION THAT MAY NOT BE TRUE

A catchy tweet or meme is not genuine news, and you shouldn’t treat it that way when you see it in your feed. If you like, save, or share it, then the post gains power and is distributed to more people who could believe it without fully understanding what it’s referencing or even knowing whether it’s true.

Solution: Don’t be so quick to engage with or share anything you haven’t vetted for accuracy, either with data or authority. Now, what does it mean to be an authority? Look at the person’s credentials and sources. You wouldn’t hire someone without vetting their resume and checking their references, would you? There are a lot of talking heads who are known for their follower counts, but that doesn’t make them authorities. You did the work to become an authority in your field. The people you listen to should also.

3. YOU’RE STUCK IN AN ECHO CHAMBER

No one enjoys being proven wrong, but we definitely love to be proven right. Therefore, even if people on social media aren’t authorities, you can still find yourself drawn to those with the same opinions and perspectives as you, creating an “echo chamber” of your thoughts the more you interact with them. If you’re in an echo chamber, you can miss how your audience is evolving, how your competition is rising, or even more great new ideas you could be using. You need to be able to properly observe your audience so you can understand their needs and how their lives differ from your own.

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Solution: Rethink the platforms you’re giving your time to. Leave behind the ranters and guilt-trippers, and get onto apps and communities based on your interests. There are many apps built around niche communities, and they provide amazing opportunities to inspire, encourage, and learn from like-minded people. Whether you’re an entrepreneur who wants to learn from fellow leaders, a creative who wants to meet collaborators, or you’re committed to fitness to make yourself a well-rounded executive, there’s a platform for you. (Full disclosure: My company created one such community for creatives.) And because everyone is there for a clear topic, your discussions can actually go deeper and be more thoughtful as you create a more genuine community.

4. YOU’RE COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS

If you’re spending a significant portion of your day looking at companies, brands, and people seemingly living the life and success you wish you had, then there’s a good chance that social media has negatively affected your self-esteem. Social media does a fantastic job of helping people celebrate their wins but not the hard work that went into them. Comparing your own goals, business, or bank account to others can trigger you into believing that you are not enough today or that you’re not hustling hard enough.

Solution: Be present in real time, even in your feeds. Instagram recently announced a return to chronological feeds, and other apps offer similar settings. This is great for keeping you present and breaking up the stream of posts that could trigger you. The more of your friends in your feed you see posting in real time, and the fewer influencers, the more likely you are to delete accounts you no longer value while embracing your community.

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AND IF ALL ELSE FAILS

Put the phone down and ask yourself, “What am I grateful for today?” Even if you want more tomorrow, being grateful for what you currently have has the power to push your success higher. Practicing gratitude is an excellent way to ground yourself in the present, and it helps combat anxiety and depression.

The purpose of social media is to see what people are talking about with each other. But if you’re not actually communicating with others, how are you socializing? These platforms are great tools. Just remember, you do have the power to use them effectively while not letting them control you.


CEO of Stage 32, the largest online marketplace of creatives & professionals in the global entertainment industry. Best-selling author.

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