Spring is upon us! Time to clean out the garage, organize the closets, open up our windows and sweep out winter’s dust. But for many of us, clutter isn’t just found in the closets of our homes– it also gathers in the corners of our phones. That person we follow on Instagram who makes us feel bad about our own lives. That app that steals our time and attention. Those notifications that distract us from the person we’re with. So, just like tidying-expert Marie Kondo suggests getting rid of things that don’t spark joy, consider what a good old fashioned spring cleaning might do for your digital life and mental health. We’d suggest focusing on three areas: social media, apps, and notifications.
One of the best places to start is social media. Take a look at how your feed it is affecting your heart and make changes accordingly. You can be bold and unfollow things that don’t bring you joy, but Instagram also offers a feature to “Mute” either newsfeed or story posts. (You won’t offend people by unfollowing them, but you also won’t have to see everything they post in your newsfeed.) Need help getting started?
Comparison Those little Instagram boxes only tell a part of the story, and it’s usually the pretty part or the perfect part. When you try to capture your whole life in one filtered square, you’ll never like what you see. If you find yourself thinking things like, “their kids are smarter than mine,” “their house is better than mine,” “their food is prettier than mine” or the biggest lie of all, “they have it all together,” it may be time to take a break from following that account.
FOMO Triggers It’s easy to figure out what people were doing and who they were with when they’re constantly posting on Instagram. It only takes a quick scroll for us to figure out how we weren’t invited to luncheon for a co-worker’s birthday. Our kids are experiencing the same exclusion. Instagram stories inform them when they weren’t invited to a sleepover. Location maps broadcast that their entire friend group is at the mall without them. This fear of missing out (FOMO) can result in self-sabotage if you can’t resist tracking others’ daily activities. If you follow someone who is constantly live-streaming and it results in you feeling left out, there is nothing wrong with unfollowing them or at least muting their stories. Instead of feeling FOMO, we invite you to feel JOMO (joy of missing out) by opting out of knowing everything that is going on all the time, and instead being present with the ones you are with.
Influencers If you’re following more influencers than real-life friends, it may be helpful to weed out some of the people you follow. Don’t mistake internet interactions with face-to-face connection. When we comment on a post and get a response from people with hundreds of thousands of followers, we can feel like their building a relationship, when really they are building a business. Comment conversations will never be enough to keep a relationship growing.
Another area to consider purging is apps. As Marie Kondo coaches: Thank them for their service to you, but then feel freedom as you put them in the trash.
This includes apps that you downloaded just for that one sports team three years ago. (Thank you, TeamSnap, for how you helped me keep track of games the one and only season my daughter played soccer.)
It also includes frequently used apps that are distracting you from the things you value most. One of our START community members shared that she deleted the Facebook app from her phone. She committed to only check it on her computer and – if needed – could always access it on the browser of her phone. That little friction, dropped her Facebook scroll time from 2 hours per day to 30 minutes.
A final area to consider is spring cleaning your notifications – those enticing dings that interrupt whatever we’re doing, inviting us to take a “quick peek” at our screens. To help reduce this, consider enabling notifications that are only coming from real people (like phone calls and text messages). We don’t need to be interrupted just to learn that someone we went to middle school with has downloaded Messenger.
We live in an age where connection is mistaken with likes and follows. It’s time to open the windows, clear out the closets, keep what matters and get rid of the things that we don’t need. You can’ t control what people post, but you can control who you follow. In a world that asks you to constantly look at other’s lives, make time to take inventory of your own. Where there is comparison or jealousy, fill it with gratitude. Where you feel left out, nurture meaningful connections of your own–even if it means leaving your phone in your pocket from time to time.