Oh, social media. The biggest distraction and time suck of our age. Who hasn’t checked their phone statistics only to be horrified at the amount of hours spent on Instagram? Who hasn’t opened up the app and immediately felt the pressure to post gorgeous reels and engaging stories and beautiful photos with lovely captions every single day, as if it’s a job?
As authors who want to sell books, unfortunately, it really can be a job. Social media is a great way to engage with other authors and readers who might be interested in our book. The problem is, though, that social media is always there, 24/7, and often we don’t realize the stress that puts on us. But what kind of job requires your attention 24/7? Short of parenting, I hope none of you have to experience a job like that. I’d never consider a 24/7 job to be healthy in any way, shape, or form, so why should social media be one? It’s hard to take a step back and look at it the way you’d look at anything else in your life. But really think about it. Would you be ok with a boss or a spouse that demanded this much of you? What about a friend? A hobby? I’d be willing to bet we all create and keep healthy boundaries effortlessly in other areas of our lives, whether it’s work life, social life, or family life. Zooming out and applying that same logic to social media can help put things into perspective.
It’s not just the 24/7 nature of social media that’s a struggle for me; it’s the mere fact that social media incentivizes quantity over quality. This is especially true when it comes to creating content: posting every day really helps your account get seen. But it can also be true when it comes to engagement, and that’s what I find to be the most damaging to my mental health. There’s a never ending supply of posts and stories and reels to watch and read and comment on. It never seems to end, and it can be hard to stop scrolling. Sometimes I feel like I need to engage with absolutely EVERYBODY, and I don’t want to leave anyone out. Sometimes I feel like I need to in order to play Instagram’s game of promoting my own content by engaging with others. Either way, social media can very easily turn into a giant waste of time, as well as producing feelings of anxiety and stress.
My solution to counteract the quantity over quality environment of social media is by building up a strong, healthy mindset of quality over quantity that I apply to ALL facets of my life. Here’s a few ways to handle that when it comes to social media engagement.
1. Set a timer.
I’ve personally never attempted this, but I know it works well for others. Set a thirty minute timer (or however long you plan to engage.) When the timer’s up, close the app and go about your day.
2. Schedule in your social media time.
This one can go hand in hand with setting a timer. Instead of checking social media whenever you’re bored or have a spare minute, schedule in intentional time to check in with everyone and engage. This can really help with focus. Breaking up the day with constant social media check-ins can be damaging to our ability to focus for long periods of time on other tasks.
3. No scrolling!
This is my biggest rule for myself, and the one I’ve found most effective. I usually don’t give myself time limits, or certain times of the day I’m allowed to be on social media. I just give myself one simple rule.
I’m not allowed to scroll passively on social media.
If I’m on social media, I’m active. I’m liking and commenting on everything I view there. Once I start feeling tired and like I’ve reached my limit of social interaction, I’m done. This is effective for me because my limit comes FAST. I usually only make it through about 5 posts or stories before I’m done. I’ll admit, sometimes I feel panicked, like I need to interact more, with more people. But I listen to my mind and body and choose quality over quantity.
Content creation is the other side of engagement. This is where you share your thoughts and life updates in order to engage with others. Your energy when it comes to social interaction is important. We know this in real life. Going to a party in a bad mood is going to be different than going to a party when you’re in a great mood and excited to be there. So why should social media be any different? Take the time to stop and ask yourself some questions. Are you excited to share whatever new snippet you’ve written or book you’ve read? Do you look forward to reading comments and engaging in discussion with other writers and readers? If the answer right now is no, maybe it’s best to keep your thoughts to yourself for the time being. Sometimes you’re just not going to feel like talking or sharing (we’ve all experienced this plenty of times in real life) and that’s ok. Treat the social media you like you treat the real life you. If you need an introvert break, take one. Start creating content and sharing your life when you’re ready and excited to share. Social interaction, whether in real life or on social media, is at its core nothing more than an exchange of energy. Make sure you’re sending that positive energy out, and you’ll receive it back!
There’s no hard and fast rule for how much time spent on social media engaging or doing content creation is healthy. It’s going to look different for every writer, and sometimes even at different stages of life for each writer. Just think about what’s working for YOU right now. There’s nothing wrong with planning out a full month of content and posting every day, if you really enjoy it. Hard work pays off. Maybe you enjoy spending an hour engaging and catching up with people every day. That’s great! But evaluating what’s worth your time, (even as an author trying to sell books!) is always important. Maybe you’d rather post three times a week. Maybe you’d like to post a few good reels and stories every week with a post every so often. Maybe you only want to spend fifteen minutes a day responding to messages and seeing what everyone else is up to. Focus on quality over quantity when it comes to your engagement, and don’t forget to consider quality when it comes to how social media fits into your life as a whole…how does it balance with other things in your life, like work, family, household chores, and writing? Set up your social media so that it works for you and you get the most enjoyment and satisfaction from it. After all, what’s the point of keeping something in your life that’s not serving YOU?
Meet Jennie Fournier
Jennie Fournier is an avid writer and reader with a penchant for folksongs, fairy tales, and all things historical. When she’s not hard at work improving her writing skills with the many, many, MANY unfinished novels she always has at her fingertips, you can find her living out her fairy-tale princess aspirations by cooking, cleaning, sewing, and singing…not to mention teaching her lovely music students how to sing, too!
You can find her on Instagram at @jennie_writes_of_faraway_lands