THE BLOG

You Are What You Like: How to Get a Healthy Facebook Newsfeed

15/12/2014 05:42 GMT | Updated 11/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Decades ago I took on board the notion that 'you are what you eat', but it's only recently that I've begun to see my Facebook Newsfeed in the same way. I suppose the clue was always in the word, Newsfeed. To continue with the dietary theme, my view is that the organic growth of Facebook in content and functionality means that we only have ourselves to blame now if what we consume on it doesn't match our tastes and needs, informing us and helping us grow as people.

Like more than a third of Britons, I log onto Facebook every day, often on a mobile device. Occasionally I log on first thing. For youngsters that's more common: Nearly half (48%) of 18-34 year olds are reported to access Facebook as soon as they wake up and, more likely than not, before they even get up. If the statistics are as true as I suspect, surely our ability to make positive choices about the content we access on Facebook is at least as important as deciding what data we share about ourselves on it?

When I first set up my Facebook account in 2007 I mainly used it to reconnect with old friends, to learn more about new ones and to maintain long-distance friendships without the labour-intensity that had me writing to penpals into the early hours as a child.

Next I caught onto Facebook's uses as a pin-board for photos and journal for key moments in my life, important, funny or sad. Facebook stored them and let me share them with people who I hoped would be interested. In return I was granted access to their own chosen photos and moments.

In the last few years I have done much more 'sharing' and 'liking'. To begin with I liked books, bands, TV and films that I wanted to recommend or to go 'on record' as liking. But, in the last few years, as more individuals, companies, clubs, causes and pretty much everyone else has developed a Facebook presence, my desire to build a cyberspace identity for myself has taken a back-seat. I realised that liking pages gives me access to an abundance of mind-opening content. I now use Facebook to inform myself in exactly the ways that are important to me, combining local, national and global sources to do so.

Here are some examples of pages that I like right now, which inform, uplift or inspire me through my Newsfeed.

  • For wisdom and inspiration: Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, Eckhart Tolle, The Dalai Lama, Hay House, Darren Eden, William Whitecloud, The Enneagram Institute, MindValley.
  • For news, information and calls to action: TED lectures, Upworthiest, School of Life, Huffington Post, Avaaz, Collective Evolution.
  • On food, nutrition and functional medicine: Geneen Roth, Mark Hyman, Wendy Myers, Paleo Mom, Gluten Free Carla.
  • Inspiring images from Nature: Earthporm.com, Hermione de Paula
  • Empowering content for women and girls: A Mighty Girl, thebusinesswomanmedia.com, Packtypes.
  • For a laugh or a lighthearted take on the world: David Schneider, Buzzfeed, dailymash, iflscience.

My friends' posts serve me in all the above ways: One old mate runs a local store seemingly as fodder for his comic genius which provides me with a daily belly laugh. Another is a pagan spiritualist and her posts never fail to show me the beauty in life. If I love what my friends share it doesn't matter to me if I have met them a hundred times or just once, like the journalist I met at a cookery school in Bangkok three years ago, whose posts always challenge and engage me. A few I've never met but wish I had, such as Ollie and Cameron, two beautiful little boys from Dundee with Downs Syndrome. Their mum journals their lives on Facebook, creating among the most loving and insightful content that I read.

Editing, like portion-control, can be a challenge, but 'cutting out' is really important to maintain a healthy Newsfeed. You may not spend money on Facebook but you are investing your time: Why waste that reading something of no benefit? Regularly reading posts that depress you or make your blood boil could even be damaging your health. I believe that what Arianna Huffington advocates in her book Thrive applies equally to Facebook as to life in general:

"Let go of something today that you no longer need - something that is draining your energy without benefiting you or anyone you love." Arianna Huffington, Thrive

To round up, here are my top 5 tips for a healthy Newsfeed:

  1. Add More of What's Good for You: If someone or something inspires you on TV, radio, or in any public forum, they may well have a Facebook presence. Take a note of their name and befriend, like or follow them.
  2. Reflect on Your Content. Take the time to regularly reflect on what you are scrolling through: Does it make you more aware of your potential, more inspired, calm, joyful or energized? Or does it make you feel flat, bored, judged or judgemental?
  3. Unfollow, Unlike and Unsubscribe: Don't be afraid to unfollow or unsubscribe when you aren't getting the content you desire. An occasional trashy treat doesn't do anyone any harm but if you're asking "Where did the last twenty minutes of my life just disappear to?", something is amiss. Make sure that the majority of your Newsfeed nourishes your soul and puts a spring in your step.
  4. See Facebook as Your Creation, Made by You, for You: If you dismiss Facebook as shallow and full of nonsense it's a bit like dismissing the meal you just cooked yourself as junk-food.
  5. Real Life Content beats Facebook Content: If you find yourself 'on the scroll' every time you're in a queue or at a standstill, it doesn't matter how much love you have poured into your Newsfeed design or how much the content inspires you, it's time to take a few mindful breaths and consider a Facebook detox!

I would love to hear from you if you have a positive Facebook story or an example of content that has brought you joy or inspired you to make a difference. Just post a comment below. Thanks for reading!

The statistics used in this blogpost are set out in more detail at:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/facebook-uk-britain-usage-stats-daily-unique-499046

http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics/

This blog is not about how you customize your Newsfeed around Facebook's algorithms and adverts, but there are other blogs and discussions out there doing that, such as http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-tools/3-ways-to-fight-facebooks-algorithm-and-customize-your-feed/