Social media has become such an accepted and defining part of society that it often seems like nothing can be done to reverse the impact it has on so many of our lives. It’s easier to let the bombardment of messages, videos, photos and advertisements take hostage of our minds and replace meaningful relationships, including the one we have with ourselves.
I have found that social media can easily be a roadblock for the creative process because instead of using our time to create art, so many of us are becoming lost as we endlessly scroll through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Recently, I realised that my drive to create had suffered because of these habits I had created with social media and I would easily brush it off with excuses of not having enough time to write or research or read. But in truth, I had more than enough time, I was just choosing to spend it in an unproductive way.
As last year came to a close I thought hard about what changes I wanted to make in 2019 and who I strived to be. I knew I wanted to be a creative person who was writing and reading all the time again. I also wanted to get back to being inspired by the things I was seeing and not being weighed down by them. So, during the first three months of this year, I made it a personal challenge to cut back the toxicity of my social media consumption. I wanted to turn my socials into a positive space that fuelled my curiosity and creativity.
The process started with a change in mindset and the acceptance that how I used social media was my responsibility and in my control. Author Mark Manson has written about what he calls the “fault/responsibility fallacy” which basically means that there is a misconception that something has to be your fault to be your responsibility. When in reality, you are always responsible for your own actions even if they result after something that you did not cause to happen. For example, it may not be my fault that a person on the other side of the world decided to post a photo that made me feel bad about myself, but I am still responsible for choosing to look at it, for choosing to follow them.
The way Manson broke down this fallacy has stuck with me ever since I read it. It was the jumpstart I needed to accept responsibility for the content I was viewing and the impact it was having in my life.
So, the first thing I did was delete Snapchat from my phone. I logged out and hit that little x at the top of the screen and haven’t looked back since. I’ve wanted to get rid of it for ages, it was an app that brought about a lot of negative emotions for me; I found it was sucking energy from my life that could’ve been used elsewhere much more productively. I found that worrying about keeping up streaks (which I was horrible at) and watching people’s carefully constructed highlight reels hardly ever made me feel good. Whether it tapped into emotions such as envy or disappointment or brought up any other insecurities, it was not a place that fuelled me. Therefore it did nothing to inspire me, and what is creativity without inspiration?
The other main social media platform that I really needed to deal with was Instagram. Instagram has quite quickly become one of the most popular apps in the world for my generation. It’s built in a way that’s meant to make us want to keep scrolling and it’s very easy to get lost in. For a long time I wasn’t happy with the content I was viewing but I didn’t really know how to make a meaningful change. However, in the end all it took was a massive purge of my following list.
I took inspiration from the cleaning and tidying genius, Marie Kondo. Her method for decluttering rests on the idea that you should only keep what sparks joy for you. With a similar approach, I went through my following list and unfollowed anyone who didn’t add value to my life. What value means differs for each of us but for me personally, if an account made me feel a negative way about my body or my where I was at in my life, I unfollowed it. I unfollowed almost all celebrities except a few that I genuinely care about and think are good role models. I unfollowed any influencer account that I felt was purely on Instagram to advertise products along with anyone else that I felt was just excess noise. I have nothing against the people I unfollowed as I said before, I respect their choice in posting what makes them happy. But I have taken back the power of having my own choice, and that includes choosing not to follow them. All of this decluttering felt amazing once I was done and resulted in my Instagram feed finally being cut down to the people and content that I honestly care about and am interested in.
And that wasn’t even the best part.
The best part was that in their place, I did some research and followed accounts that did make me feel good. Accounts that promote things I believe in and add value to my life and to my creativity. I followed more poetry accounts so I was reading every day. I followed more travel accounts so I could have more photos of beautiful places on my feed. I’m currently attempting to learn French so I followed some accounts that post French words each day. I followed local artists and people that talk openly and honestly about their emotions so that the human experience isn’t dulled down or lost.
Our creativity is something that deserves to be nurtured and we are doing ourselves an injustice if we are only fuelling our minds with pictures of influencers selling tea or a celebrity’s selfie in their new car. Taking responsibility for my creativity has done wonders so far to my daily life. I’ve been writing a lot more creative pieces than I have in a long time and I’ve already read eight novels this year. Not being surrounded by content that makes me self-conscious and unhappy has meant that there has been more room for creativity, more room for curiosity and much more room to make sure I’m doing my best to take care of myself.
Gabrielle Downes is a recent Arts graduate from the University of Melbourne. She is an avid reader and writer and is currently working on starting her own personal lifestyle blog. Gabrielle is passionate about history and travel and hopes to continue seeing different parts of the world.