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Mindful following on social media: how our news feed ends up feeding us

Scientists, researchers, psychologists, social media professionals, and parents are looking at social media through a new lens and asking an important question: how can we reduce its toxicity.

With good reason.

Studies show that social media use is attributed to:

But one article I read lately shined a light on something tangible social media users can do to reduce the toxicity of social media, particularly for young girls.

The idea was simple: follow people who inspire you.

In this experiment, girls were asked to find and follow four high-achieving women who posted about topics they cared about.

That's it. The girls didn't have to change anything else about their social media habits, use, duration, or apps.

The researchers evaluated their opinions about social media use before and after following the women and assessed the results:

💡First, girls said that their idea of social media was transformed. One girl mentioned it changed her outlook because her feed was filled with people "doing, like, really good things."

💡Second, the exercise changed many girls’ use of social media. Rather than using social media to be social, girls were using it to become inspired.

💡Third, this activity transformed their social media feeds for the better. They began to discover other aspects of topics they were interested in and began to get involved in issues or events in the real world.

Why was this significant?

It emphasizes substance over style.

As parents (I am one, too), we have a responsibility to teach our children how to use these platforms responsibly — doing an exercise such as this allows social media to be a valuable piece of technology, rather than a burden or hindrance to healthy psychological development.

What can content creators do in response to this study?

As marketers, we can look at studies like this and compare it with any social media viewpoints or strategy we already have incorporated into our businesses.

It is our responsibility to create content that:

  • is useful or helpful to our audience

  • is inspirational or aspirational in its subject matter

  • elevates and uplifts

  • shows what we can do more of in the real world

The world has enough content.

Creating a post to use as filler or to have an impressive Instagram grid isn't enough. Content should serve a purpose, and it should ultimately serve our audiences.

How would this research apply to anyone creating a personal brand?

It introduces the idea of mindful social media use and thoughtfully following others. It also emphasizes how important what we follow and what we observe is to our overall sense of well-being.

If you're creating a personal brand, you should consider who you follow to be an extension of that: follow accounts who are representative of your values and beliefs, or who inspire you.

Because your "feed" essentially becomes something that feeds you.

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