How changing our social media habits will change our life
Okay, so that's quite a bold statement. Change our life? That's a little dramatic. But actually, changing how we use social media and controlling it, as opposed to being controlled, will change our life.
First, let me ask you a question. Does social media leave you feeling inadequate, envious, disappointed and worst of all completely drained? Turns out, many of us feel this way. This is where mindfulness comes in again. A lot of the time we are on auto-pilot. So we are unaware on a conscious level, what social media is doing to us in that moment.
We're like zombies, who have entered a virtual reality. Unless something shakes us awake, we stay in that zone. Unfortunately, by that time it's far too late. Our thoughts are already spiralling, our energy has been drained, certain posts have stirred up feelings but we are not aware that this happened. So we innocently go about our day wondering: why on earth do I feel this way?
But have no fear, we can do something to ensure that we are the master of our social media, instead of being at its mercy. Read on to find out...
1. Social media and the human mind
Many people have been calling our relationship with social media, an addiction. They're not exactly wrong. There are many who venture into the biological and psychological reasons for this addiction. But I will focus on a more straightforward answer. As Tamara Levitt (mindfulness instructor) says, social media is like entering an amusement park.
They serve as distractions and those instant endorphins hits that feel good to us temporarily. Just like when we turn to alcohol, food or any other coping mechanism. They are not inherently wrong in moderation. It's our own purpose and frequency in using them that leads to problems. Doing this consistently over a long time, leaves us with a pretty hard habit to kick. The issue is that social media is not just an endorphin hit or a boost, it can also build on our stress and aggravate or mask certain things within us that we should be facing instead.
2. Social media is NOT reality: Insides vs. Outsides
We must first understand the nature of the problem. But, let me quickly make the disclaimer. Social media and the internet has definitely made our lives better in many ways. The expression of thoughts and opinions, the social element and simply sharing ideas from all around the world. This is all great. The problem lies in the fact that we get sucked into it and let it dictate our reality of the world.
You see, although we like to pretend we are in control, we allow social media to subtly change our perception of our own lives and ourselves. We compares our insides, the tumultuous messes we all are, and the problems that everyone faces in their lives, to these perfectly painted veneers of social media.
Now, again, don't get me wrong! It really is fine to celebrate our wins, or share photos of ourselves and exciting things we're up to. We all do it in our own ways. But as a viewer of social media, we must be cautious. This view is extremely filtered. Just think about it. In general, don't we post at our happiest times or when we look the best?
Also, in a more insidious way, many of us sadly post in order to validate our feelings of inadequacy or just to keep up a certain image. Social media is NOT reality. We need to reframe our perception of what social media reveals about people's lives.
We look at other people's 'full' social lives and we surmise that we are lonely and what we currently have is not enough. We look at someone's perfect face and body, and surmise that we are overweight and unattractive.
Just before we entered the Social Media world, we may have been perfectly content in our life or getting on with it. I am not saying we were perfectly confident or satisfied (that is for us to sort out!) but we certaintly didn't let it ruin our day. But as is the way of us humans. We think relatively. We don't see the inside of the lives and more importantly the messy feelings and problems of the person we are putting on a pedestal. We just see ourselves completely and intimately and then see the images. Then we compare. Simple as that.
3. So what can I do about it?
Okay, so now we know what social media is doing to us as well as changing our perceptions of our own life. But, what can we do about it?
Well, the first step is what is explained above. Be consciously aware of the our perception of social media and do not get sucked in. Feel it and be aware, when our mood or energy decreases. When we are feeling those classic human feelings of envy, inadequacy or sadness, notice it in the moment! Ask yourself why you feel this way. Journalling helps with this, as you can just note your stream of thoughts and have a look at it from bird's eye view. Also, daily mindfulness sessions really help with, what I like to call, snapping out of the zombie mode.
Another tip: why keep it on easy access? Once you have finished with it (set an alarm!) put your phone at a considerable distance from your desk or wherever you are, and be done with it. Why leave temptation at your doorstep? Don't let your automatic, unconscious brain take the wheel. This physical gap, is like a little jog of awareness for us.
Lastly: filter! Remove accounts that don't serve much purpose to you. Clean up and remove content that does not serve your wellbeing. You don't have to cut social media out completely (unless it really has no benefits to you), but this little spring cleaning will make a world of difference.
What will happen next? Once we introduce these measures into our life, we will be pleasantly surprised at how much our mental health, mood and life in general improves. We sorely underestimate the impact it has on us, and by using the steps above we can feel the change first-hand.
I hope that some of the messages above will stick with you and that your wellbeing and life will be better for it. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!