Geeks Vs Loneliness: cheering up your social media feed

The mute button can transform social media from the Mos Eisley Cantina into a big Ewok party

You’ve probably already noticed that social media can be quite an un-chill place. If left unchecked, it can become a hive of scum and villainy every bit as unsavoury as the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine. It can feel overwhelming, making you want to uninstall the apps and shut yourself off from the toxic online discourse of the day. Waiting outside like the droids can seem like a nice option at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We’d wager that, for every troll or nasty person that you’ll find on Twitter, there are just as many – if not more – nice, kind people that are just killing time and hoping to see some cute/funny/interesting stuff as they scroll through the various timelines they’ve got on their phones. It can be tough to see the wood for the trees, though, and if social media was a forest it would probably be like Endor – populated by a mixture of cute critters and angry Stormtroopers, and with quite a lot of chaos going on between them.

Embracing that Star Wars metaphor wholeheartedly, we’ve tried to sum up some simple tips that can help you see a few less angry Stormtroopers and a few more cute Ewoks on your social media timelines (so to speak). Let’s get cracking…

Remove the bad vibes

Whether you’re a Twitter, Instagram or Facebook user, there’s a strong chance that you’ve spotted certain people that pop up in your timeline regularly and bring nothing but bad vibes – it could be a person from your school that is always raging about something, an old flame that makes you upset just by existing, a particularly successful friend whose humble-brags make you jealous, or a former colleague whose political views don’t gel with your own. It could even be a celebrity that posts nothing but sexy photos from glamorous locations, which makes you feel a bit naff about standing up on the tube in rush hour so you can trudge into work on a rainy Thursday. That was a totally hypothetical example, of course… ahem.

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Whoever it is that makes you feel a bit down-heartened, for whatever reason, you shouldn’t feel bad about muting them. You can still remain their follower or friend, just in case you want to reconnect with them later, but tapping on that ‘mute’ button will stop their posts from appearing on your timeline. And better yet, the person you’ve muted won’t even know that you’ve done this – muting is totally anonymous, but it can go a long way to making your social media feed a bit more tailored to what you want to see. You can also mute specific words in your Twitter settings – take the term ‘Brexit’ for a totally random example – if you don’t really want to see that sort of thing during your super fun social media time.

Of course, a counter-argument to this way of thinking is that muting people and words that don’t bring you joy is essentially creating something of an echo chamber for yourself. But think of it this way: if someone on the train was consistently shouting stuff that made you feel glum, you would probably think about moving to a more chilled out carriage.

Bring on the good stuff

Now that you’ve banished some negative stuff from your timeline, have a think about who you do want to follow. If you find that certain celebs post a few too many racy pics for your liking, maybe think about following some comedians or podcast hosts that you like – their jobs are related to their opinions and their sense of humour, so you’re likely to get more playful and funny content from them.

If you’re a fan of movies, maybe follow some directors and some studios that make your favourite things – it’s always nice to see the odd trailer or behind-the-scenes photo in your timeline, and you can always unfollow if their feed doesn’t end up being as fascinating as you hoped. Ooh, and the account Non-League Dogs is great as well – that one is for people that find photos of dogs at football matches to be one of the cutest, most wholesome things ever.

Also, speaking of curating social media content that you actually like, Instagram has a killer feature that lets you follow hashtags. If you want to see more cute cats on your timeline, follow #catsofinstagram, and you’ll see a selection of posts every day that include that hashtag. If you want to see more Star Wars stuff, follow #starwars. And if you just want to see some tasty slices of pizza on a daily basis, follow #pizzalicious. Just a little insight for you there about what my Instagram feed looks like. It’s worth noting that some people put popular hashtags on unrelated posts to try and get your attention, but you can always click into the offender’s account and hit them with your mute or block button.

You might’ve guessed that I purged my social media timelines recently, making liberal use of the mute button to remove people and topics that brought out my negative emotions. Instead of continuing to read the posts that made me feel grumpy or upset, I followed a bunch of different accounts and hashtags that focus on the things that I like. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m enjoying scrolling through my feeds a lot more than I was before. Give it a go if you’re looking for a similar refresh!

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Thanks, as always, for reading.