Balancing social media use

Rufaro talks about her changing relationship to social media during the pandemic. To support her mental health, she limited her exposure to negative news, curated her feed to give her more positive content, and unfollowed or muted accounts that made her feel insecure or bad.

Rufaro Faith Mazarura

Rufaro Faith Mazarura is a podcast producer and recent graduate from the University of Surrey making podcasts and writing stories about creativity, community and youth culture.

Rufaro talks about what she’s learned about balancing her social media activity during coronavirus.

Video transcript

Over the past couple of months, as you've experienced going into lockdown and practicing social distancing in our everyday lives, many of us have been spending a lot more time on social media.

And while it's a great way to catch up with friends, develop new hobbies and learn about things we might not have had time to in the past, spending more time at home and on social media has definitely taken its toll. So I'm gonna be sharing my experiences and how I've adapted to a new normal.

One of the biggest effects the pandemic had on my experience of social media, when we first went into lockdown, was encouraging me to spend more time online to learn about the virus and the effects it was having on people all around the world. Like a lot of people, I get most of my news from social media sites like Twitter. And while it's a great way to stay updated here from underrepresented points of view, and glean a more global understanding, the time I spent there quickly went from trying to stay in the know, to obsessively reading everything I could find and consuming more negative news each day than I ever had before.

And when all you read is negative news, it's easy to begin to feel helpless, overwhelmed and anxious. So once I actually realized what I was doing, I began to limit what I consumed. I switched off my news notifications so that I could decide when I felt comfortable to consume news that could be upsetting, and muted words that I knew would do more harm in making me feel overwhelmed than they would do in making me feel informed. And I curated my feed, made lists on Twitter of accounts that made me feel happy, and shared good news, so that I could go to them whenever I needed to pick-me-up after consuming things that I found difficult.I've learned that it's important to stay informed. But it's also important to curate your feed in a way that allows you to choose when you're ready to consume difficult content.

Another one of the ways that the pandemic has affected my experience of social media is giving me a lot more time to compare myself to other people online and feel FOMO about how productive people are being at home, or how much more fun their experience of the past couple of months has seemed to be. When you spend a lot of time scrolling down your Instagram feed looking at photos of other people's perfect garden picnics, seven online certificates, and seemingly never-ending but always completed to do lists, it's easy to feel like you're not doing enough.

But the truth is, one: people only post the highlights reel, never the messy behind the scenes. And two: everyone deals with crisis in different ways. Some people give themselves time and space to relax and recharge while they adapt to a very unnormal situation. Whereas other people pull themselves into projects, activities and find comfort in being productive in a time where life is difficult to control. Either way is okay.

And so I unfollowed accounts, I felt sparked insecurities or made me feel as though I wasn't doing enough. And I muted people, even people who I really love, whose posts on social media (through no fault of their own) made me feel bad about myself. And then I wrote down what I was actually interested in doing. So that rather than feeling bad about not running five miles a day, I felt good about watching five YouTube videos about tiny houses because that's what I was actually interested in doing. Once I was able to notice what was making me feel insecure and fall into comparison traps, I was able to limit the amount of time I spent seeing that content. And it's helped me to compare myself to others a lot less.

And one of the other more unexpected ways that the pandemic has affected my experience of social media is that I've been spending a lot more time thinking and overthinking about the past and the uncertainty of the future. In the first few weeks of lockdown as it became clear that things were changing, I used to spend a lot of time scrolling through my calendar and feeling sad about things that I knew were going to be cancelled. As well as spending a lot of time scrolling through my Instagram feed and camera roll, feeling unhappily nostalgic about the past and wishing I could go back.

It's easy to fixate on the past: what we wish we could do, again, what we wish we could do differently, and how we can never go back to the memories we've already had. And while I don't have the cure to nostalgia, one of the ways I've been able to adapt is allow myself to miss the past while finding new ways to make memories to reach out to the friends who made those memories with and create new traditions with them.

Also, I've been setting myself a goal of doing something new, big or small that I remember this time next year. And I've been looking to my camera roll and past as a way of reminding myself that good things have happened and more good things will happen in the future. Even if the future doesn't seem clear.

Since the pandemic began, my relationship with social media has changed. I've been consuming more negative news, comparing myself to other people and comparing my current life to my past life. But by limiting what I consume, curating my feed and giving myself the option to choose when I see things that made me feel insecure or overwhelmed, I have been able to take a bit more control over how much social media affects my outlook and mood. I hope me sharing my experiences and my tips has helped you.

University support icon

See what support is available at your university