Billions of people around the world currently use social media and that number is expected to grow in coming years. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans connect on some type of social media, and Facebook alone has more than 2.8 billion monthly users worldwide.
Social media has crept into so many aspects of our lives, influencing the news we listen to, where we shop, what beliefs we hold, and what we value. But social media is also often mired in controversy. Studies have found that social media use can contribute to stress, anxiety, poor self-esteem, depression, and loneliness. There is so much negative, polarizing material on social media that it’s easy to ask yourself, Is it even worth it?
As we begin a new year, now is a great time to assess your personal social media use and whether it is helping you reach your goals. When used appropriately, social media can bless your life and the lives of those around you. It can be an incredible tool for sharing the gospel, strengthening your testimony, developing positive relationships, and serving others.
As you consider your goals for 2022, here are four suggestions to change your social media experience so that it positively influences your life.
1. Become a creator instead of a consumer: When we scroll through other people’s social media posts, we are being impacted by the messages left by others. These messages can often be negative, controversial, or overly political. Instead, use social media as an outlet to share goodness with the world. Elder David A. Bednar said, “As disciples our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused.”
Sharing goodness through social media may mean posting a scripture or quote you love. However, including an example or personal story of how that scripture or quote powerfully affected you can be even more meaningful to read about. Consider writing about people in your life that are a positive influence or sharing pictures that are funny and uplifting. You can also make videos to instruct or inspire others.
Banish the idea of perfectionism that is so pervasive on social media by sharing your struggles and how you are overcoming them; people may find encouragement by understanding that they are not alone in their struggles. As Elder Bednar shared, “Our messages should seek to edify and uplift, rather than to argue, condemn, or belittle.”
2. Carefully curate your social media feeds (and help your children do the same): In her October 2010 general conference talk, Sister Mary N. Cook, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, shared, “We must model that which is virtuous and lovely by our personal media choices. We must take care that the media we invite into our homes does not dull the sensitivity to the Spirit, harm relationships with our family and friends, or reveal personal priorities that are inconsistent with gospel principles. By example we can help our children understand that spending long periods of time using the Internet, social media, and cell phones; playing video games; or watching television keeps us from productive activities and valuable interactions with others.”
Social media networks use complex algorithms to learn everything about you, such as your interests, where you shop, where you travel, and even your political and religious leanings. This helps them create a user experience catered to you. So if you choose to consume content that is uplifting and inspiring, you will continue to receive this type of information in your news or video feed. And as you guide your children by your example, they will also likely consume positive content on social media. So this year, choose content that is going to be a positive influence on you and your loved ones. This may mean that you need to unfriend or unfollow people or pages that aren’t helping you become your best self.
3. Reach out to others in meaningful ways: It’s easy to mindlessly scroll through a social media feed looking into the lives of those around us. When you open your social media, you could make a goal of reaching out to someone and creating a meaningful connection. This could include commenting on posts you appreciate, sharing an invitation to get together, or direct messaging someone that may need a kind word from a friend. There are so many people suffering from loneliness or disconnection, and social media is a great way to start a new friendship or nurture an old one.
4. Be intentional about how you want to use social media: Before you open up social media, decide how long you are going to use it and what your goal is for that session. Do you need a 10-minute break and want to watch some funny videos? Maybe you need to send a message to connect with your ministering sisters? Do you feel inspired to share something from your scripture study to your newsfeed or make a TikTok video with some inspirational thoughts for the day? Whatever it is, think about your goals and purposes for social media use each day so you don’t get distracted and lost in endless video and news feeds.
There are so many opportunities for good use of social media, and yet we have to be watchful about how and when we use it. In 2017, Young Women General President Bonnie Oscarson shared the following:
We live in a culture where more and more we are focused on the small, little screen in our hands than we are on the people around us. We have substituted texting and tweeting for actually looking someone in the eye and smiling or, even rarer, having a face-to-face conversation. We are often more concerned with how many followers and likes we have than with putting an arm around a friend and showing love, concern, and tangible interest. As amazing as modern technology can be for spreading the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and helping us stay connected to family and friends, if we are not vigilant in how we use our personal devices, we too can begin to turn inward and forget that the essence of living the gospel is service.
Hopefully, as we begin a new year, we can create a new vision for our social media use. Set a goal to share your light and goodness with the world and connect more with your friends, family, and community. As we use this incredible tool to serve and share with others, it truly can be life changing!