Jul 1, 2020

Mindful Content Consumption on Instagram

 
Most of us have become more conscious about what we put in our mouths. We have now reached a stage where we need to become more conscious about what we put in our minds as well.

Similar to junk for the body, there is junk for our minds too. Yes, I'm talking about the various forms of content we consume. It is even worse, you know how? Even if you can gobble up a party pack of Lays chips in one go, our stomach would eventually push the Stop button and say, "Enough, I can't take it anymore". But with content, we can keep consuming so much in a single day. Our appetite for new content can never be satisfied unless we end up with eye irritation or headache late in the evening.

I love reading and I consume content in all forms - books, videos, articles, blogs, news etc. I used to be active on all social media platforms. I used to "Pocket" so many links, just so that I can read them at a later point of time. I used to open so many tabs in my browser. Many times I would hit a half-century of open tabs. My laptop would slow down but I wouldn't.

Last year, after reading Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism, I consciously started taking note of my content sources and consumption patterns. I had implemented a few changes then, which are still going strong. I completely stopped using Facebook and Twitter. I was sharing my content on nutrition and packaged foods but I hardly got much engagement. I could no longer resonate with the content I was consuming. After a point, I just lost interest in these platforms.

I also realized that I was spending more time on Instagram. So I came up with a 30-min time slot per day when I would install the app, post/comment/reply to DMs and then uninstall the app. This was working fine to some extent but the number of DMs and comments started to increase and it was hard to keep up with them in the 30-min slot. Moreover, I couldn't really engage with the posts of people whom I follow.

That's when a major realization happened. I "follow" someone because I find something of value from their posts. 

"Value" could be ideas (recipes, cooking tips) or inspirations (parenting, life hacks, productivity, personal experiences). 

The habit of randomly consuming content or bookmarking relevant posts seemed counter-productive until and unless I make the recipes or try out the insights I learned. 

Around that time, I was following around 150 people. I decided to set a "following" target to 100 and the decision to follow/unfollow happened with the help of these three questions:

Do I enjoy the content shared by this person?
Is the content from this person something I can practice in my life right away?
Do I feel overwhelmed or anxious when I see their content?

I was able to bring down the following count to 100 and was sustaining this number for quite some time. I used to have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in my 20s but no longer in my 30s.

Then COVID happened and my content consumption went haywire in March. I went back to my twitter and Linkedin feeds, which only added to more anxiety. After a few days of panic and confusion, better sense prevailed. For most of April, I stopped using all social media platforms. From May, I starting using Instagram again, and even with the limited following count, there was just too much information for me to absorb. Pruning happened yet again and I have brought down my following count to 60, using the same three questions.

If you feel overwhelmed or disturbed after using social media, take a break for a few days. When you come back, make sure you go through the list of people whom you follow. If someone's content(including mine) makes you feel anxious or disturbed, mute them or unfollow them. Decide the technique based on what works for you. I personally don't like to mute as it gives a false perception. Moreover, I want to engage with the content of people who I follow. 

"Wait a minute. You have only spoken about consumption. What about connections and friendships we form on social media?", I hear your question.

There are 3 Cs that we try to accomplish by spending time on social media - Creation, Consumption and Connection.  The main objective of this article is to be mindful of the 2nd C - Consumption.

Regarding the 3rd C, I asked myself - How are Connections formed on social media? 
It again goes back to discovery through value. I find something valuable and interesting in a post. I start following the person. As I explore their previous posts, I start noticing synergies in our thought process/ideologies/beliefs. I connect with the person more through his/her posts, we DM each other and we form a bond of friendship. This whole process takes time and doesn't happen overnight. For someone like me, I prefer to have this circle of friendship quite small. It is just not feasible for me to build a large network of "friends" on social media. Friendship needs time commitment from both parties involved. 

In this post, I have shared how I'm mindfully consuming content on Instagram. In the subsequent posts, I'll talk about newsletters, emails, Youtube channels, WhatsApp groups etc.

1 comments:

Unknown said...

Really valuable article Anuradha.

By the way I'm also Anuradha

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