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Using Social Media Sustainably

Be mindful of what you consume

Living sustainably is a necessity if we want to be able to inhabit this planet in the future. It it a serious topic that also happens to be trending on social media. My new habit is clicking on Instagram ads for items that claim ‘sustainability’ and checking their site for actual details. I wish more of them were legitimately pursuing sustainability in their supply chains and product sourcing.

It is my fervent opinion that we as consumers should only do what we can in terms of lifestyle changes like veganism, sustainability, and cruelty-free; and that the real responsibility lies with companies producing the product and packaging, making fashion a trillion dollar industry and beauty a 500 billion dollar industry.  

What we are responsible for, however, is maintaining sustainable lives outside of how we behave as consumers.

Call it self care or call it a sustainable habit, but tending to your mental health by carefully curating your social media use is a necessity.

It is not a sustainable habit to use an app that makes you feel bad about yourself. Social media promotes conformity. On Twitter it is homogeneity of opinion and on Instagram it’s uniformity of all things aesthetic: clothing, makeup, interior design, even pets. I thought I had left such social tyranny back in high school! This environment is not conducive to what should be a leisure activity for most users.

Share what you want to see

The way my husband uses Instagram amazes me. He can scroll through his feed without feeling anything negative, without comparing himself and his life to what he sees. Like everyone else he is a bit addicted to the app, but it isn’t an unhealthy habit for him.

Using it this way is not an easy undertaking, especially since no one can tell you how to do it. Social media should be a highly personalised, individual experience. You should follow and post with care and thought given to what makes you feel good about yourself and the time you’ve spent on the app.

When I am considering following a new person, page, or brand I do a cursory scroll of their feed to see how well it aligns with my personal social media guidelines. For example, I cannot follow anyone who posts photos in which they have accentuated their thigh gap because I know that will compare my thighs to theirs and end up feeling like I shouldn’t eat. This doesn’t mean I’m overly sensitive or silly, it means that I know myself well enough to set boundaries.

Another example: I don’t follow social media celebrities. These (mostly) women with millions of followers do work hard and they deserve their version of success. That version is not for me, but their content is alluring and if I follow them I’ll play the evil comparison game. I do follow people that have large followings, but I must find their content both relatable and inspiring.

Follow animals

And the best part of the usage guidelines I have set for myself is that they are no one’s business! Obviously I’ve made a few of my guidelines your business by listing them here, but my point is that you don’t ever need to justify hitting the unfollow button. Your feed is your own and it should only make you feel good.

When I was asking my husband about how he uses social media he told me he is not into photos of people, that he prefers to see nice places, and that he follows animals. I’ve had the occasion to see his feed and it is so relaxing compared to my own.

He also said, “I share what I’d like to see.” Which made me consider that how we participate in social media, as well as passively consuming the content, is part of making it a more sustainable habit. Sharing something to your stories or your feed should be fun! It shouldn’t make you anxious or make you feel bad about yourself.

My favourite posts aren’t those with the most engagement, they’re the ones where I had a good time taking the photo. Because then social media really is me, sharing my life, and what actually makes me happy.

These platforms are too ubiquitous in our lives to use them carelessly. We owe it to our sanity to make the habit of using them something positive and sustainable.