Ah, social media. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. There are precious few industries where professionals can avoid social media altogether, but use it without moderation and it feels as if you’re constantly on the edge of having a nervous breakdown.

Even our own circles can’t be trusted. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the people we thought were sensible – family, friends, colleagues – aren’t immune to forwarding dangerously inaccurate “scientific” videos or parroting Trump propaganda. Doom-scrolling has become a national pastime as we search rabidly for the next snippet of bad news. Anyone with ambition suddenly has a megaphone and a worldwide audience to boom his or her message at. It doesn’t matter if that message amounts to hate speech – the algorithm doesn’t discriminate.

Such is the power of social media that it’s easy to play the victim and pretend we have no option but to scroll our mental health down the drain. This is not true. The reality is that we do have a choice when it comes to social media, and it is possible to harness some of its tremendous power for inspiration and creative gain.

The columnist Marianne Thamm put this point across nicely in a recent article for Daily Maverick:

You can choose to stand among a multitude of lunatics howling at the moon or you can begin to take control of the machine and curate for yourself what it offers, beyond the algorithm which will always render you as data, a consumer.

 You can clean up your lists, cultivate curiosity, curate and visit spaces you trust and reach out across atomised divides to turn the tide against rage, anger, idiocy and unreason.

 Not sure where to start? Here are some tips.

Stick to a few trusted news sources

In 2020, “facts” somehow became debatable and “truth” went extinct. Fake news became actual news and conspiracy theories swarmed the globe.

If you’re determined to still get your dose of the news, stick to one or two reputable sources that you trust. It might be The Guardian or The New York Times for international reportage, or Daily Maverick for local news. Choose a source that hires professional journalists and editors. If you enjoy the content, consider paying a small subscription to help those news organisations push back against the tide of misinformation and lies.

Curate your feed

Is someone routinely sharing things you find offensive? Clear them off your feed. Leave the neighbourhood WhatsApp group when Gary from down the road forwards yet another anti-vaccination video. Seek out people, organisations or even brands that share uplifting, motivational content – or content relevant to your profession – and follow them instead. Give the algorithm a spring clean and you’ll be able to train it away from panic towards something more positive.

You don’t need to be on all the platforms

You’re already on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp, but now you’re stressing that you should probably also join Telegram and TikTok… And is Pinterest still a thing?

Take a breath and step back.

Unless you’re some kind of influencer, there’s no need to be on every social platform. Choose one or two that you enjoy and triple-check your privacy settings. Then delete all the other social apps from your phone.

Ah, that’s better.

This year is already shaping up to be a bit of a monster. Get yourself off the hate spectrum and use social media as a tool for inspiration, learning and motivation. Or just turn your phone off and go for a walk in the mountains!

From everyone at FinCommunications, we wish you the very best for 2021