Today I wanted to talk about social media and mental health. The reason I wanted to make this blog post was because I see a lot of people struggling with maintaining their social media, either due to trolls or simply the pressure of posting regularly. I’m pretty active on social media, and I also suffers from anxiety. So I’ve had to develop a strict policy on how I deal with all my accounts, and the various problems that can arise.
Whether you use social media to further your career or to sell your art, I think it’s a good idea to develop your own policy and stick to it. Especially when your number of followers start growing!
So here are the rules that I follow currently. Feel free to take the ones that speak to you the most and create your own policy.
Choose Your Favourite Social Media Platform
This is something I’ve talked about in my blog post about developing your online presence: it’s always better to be active on your favourite platform first. Then, if you have the time, you can invest in other ones. If you try to do too much at first, it might make you feel like you are always lagging behind.
The truth is, if you are an artist and if you have a day job, you probably don’t have the time to be very active on several networks at a time. At least not without feeling burned out at some point. So choose one, and do it properly. Everything else is a bonus. Not necessary, but nice to have.
A long time ago, I chose Twitter because I found it easy to understand. I love the writing community there, and I find more natural to tweet words than posting pictures for example. I also have Instagram and Facebook, but on these networks I post from time to time, while I tweet several times a day. It’s all a question of time management and what is going to be the quickest to do for me.
Don’t Hesitate to Follow People
Before I started developing my Twitter account, I used to agonise about whether or not I should follow this person or that one. I would feel stressed at the idea that the other person would receive a notification that I followed them. And I would feel like a fraud if they were successful people, or at least more interesting than me.
Two years ago, I completely changed this and started following A LOT of people. And guess what? It completely rid me of the fear of following people. I don’t feel like I’m bothering them anymore. I think following a lot of people, past the fact that I will get a lot of follows back, is a good way to discover new artists, new forms of art and just new ideas altogether.
Interaction is the purpose of social media. So if you ever feel stressed or shy about following people, remember that in most cases people react positively to being followed. And in many cases they will follow you back.
But You Don’t Have to Follow Back
Talking about stress and pressure, I used to think that it was rude not to follow back people. But the truth is: there is no obligation! You have a bad vibe about someone, or you’re just not interested in what they have to post? Then don’t follow them back!
It also goes for friends requests on Facebook. Even if you know the person in real life, you have absolutely no obligation to accept them into your network.
Don’t Reply to Private Messages (Unless They Are Legit)
This is a big thing on Twitter, but it has crept up on other networks too: private messages that are either 1) spam 2) creepy or 3) a waste of time. As a result, I very rarely check my messages and I even more rarely reply.
If you are on Twitter, you probably have been messaged by a bot account that was trying to “hook up” with you. Or a real person who was a real pervert. Or people who, as soon as you added them, tried to sell you things. I don’t reply to any of these and block them immediately. Don’t try to engage with these people because most of them are bots. And I’m pretty sure that replying to message will result in more bots following you and polluting your messages. I don’t even reply to people who write simply “hey” because quite frankly I don’t have time to dig and see what they want.
If someone has a genuine request or message they want to send me, they tend to either write to me via my website’s contact form (that is protected against bots), or write a genuine message on social media that will attract my attention. Most of the time, we have already interacted on the platform before, so I’m more inclined to reply.
Don’t waste your time on long PM conversations. In my experience, the less you reply, the less you receive. And the less stressed out you get!
Don’t Reply to Trolls (Even If They Bait You)
This is a very difficult part of my policy, and sometimes I have to remind myself why I do it. As I have an account with a reasonably large amount of followers, it happens from time to time that I get trolls whose mission is just to antagonise me and my followers. I’ve been called various names, I’ve been insulted. I’ve been told that I’m a less than nothing because I’m not this or too much that. And of course I’ve got my fair share of sexist remarks.
It’s VERY tempting to reply to trolls, if only just to put them in their place. But in my experience, in 99% of the time it’s very bad for your mental health to engage with them. If you are even a little bit like me, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it, you’ll be anxious until they reply, and most of the time their (always hateful) replies will crush you.
So, I know it’s not easy, but DO NOT FEED THE TROLL. Do not engage with them, at all. Block and ignore. This is the only way to deal with them. Nothing else works.
Use Blocking Tools
Talking about blocking people, here’s another tip: you should use the “block” option more. The same way you are absolutely allowed to not follow back people, you are also allowed to change your mind and unfollow / block people if they make you feel sad, bad or ashamed. Your social media account is like your home. You don’t have to accept bad behaviour.
I personally unfollow (and sometimes block) people who are constantly negative, antagonistic, who display the slightest hint of sexism, homophobia, racism, or anything that I disagree with. I do it because seeing these tweets angers me, depresses me or makes me feel anxious.
I’ve seen people who preach keeping people with different opinions around, but I believe that your mental health is more important than anything else. So next time someone is making you feel bad, kick them out of your virtual house!
Automatise Your Social Media Game
There are days where I’m absolutely incapable of tweeting. Either because I’m busy, sick or having a bad mental health day, I just can’t do it. Not being able to tweet used to stress me out a lot, until I decided to use automation tools.
For example, I use Twuffer to schedule tweets for the week. I only use the free version, that allows me to schedule a few tweets, which is more than enough for what I need. (Update 14th March 2020: Twuffer seems to have been de-authorised by Twitter. I currently use TweetDeck instead.)
I also use automatic cross-posting features on Instagram, so it updates my Facebook page too.
Automatising your posts doesn’t mean that you become a boring business-like account, it means that you can catch a break from time to time. It means that you don’t need to stress if one day you don’t have time or don’t feel like being social.
Take a Break
I plan a total break from any social media from time to time. When I feel like I’m becoming too dependent on it, when I feel like I’m missing out if I don’t check it at every waking moment, that’s when I know that I need a break.
Spending a whole day without looking at your phone is extremely difficult, but I believe it is necessary. If a whole day sounds too much, try a whole afternoon. Go somewhere where you don’t have a network, or hang with people who won’t let you check your accounts. This should help reducing your stress and fear of missing out.
One last part of my social media policy is that I try to remain positive and upbeat as much as I can. This is a personal preference. I have better feelings towards social media when I post encouraging or inspiring things, instead of when I moan and complain. Yes, sometimes I will post something that is negative, but it’s rare.
I like to be perceived positively by my followers, because it helps my image as an artist, but also because it generates a positive response towards me. I rarely get dragged into negative conversations, and I do my best to reply nicely to people. A little goes a long way, and it has made my experience (especially on Twitter) much nicer.
Social media is a fantastic tool to promote yourself as an artist, to get more fans, and more attention for what you do. But social media can also be detrimental for your mental health. So, if you are struggling, it’s a good idea to adopt a strict policy that will help you improve your experience.
What are your tips and tricks for social media? Share them in the comment section below!
Céline is an author and podcaster passionate about helping fellow artists reach their potential and live a happy, balanced life.