Last month, I gave an introduction to living a mindful life in a material world– how we can enjoy everything that out physical world has to offer while maintaining a deep connection to our inner selves.
Today I want to get more specific and look at how we can bring mindfulness into our social media usage. This has been a huge conversation for me personally as I’ve struggled to balance the positives and the negatives of an online life. I’ve learned that I have to be very mindful of how I use social media, or I seriously suffer the consequences.
For me, it all starts with this one question:
Am I picking up my phone to get inspired and connected or to zone and numb out?
This is a really important thing to recognize– why exactly are you scrolling through social media?
When I’m bored, stressed, indecisive, or anxious I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll immediately reach for my phone. When being alone with my thoughts or worries feels like too much, a quick scroll through Instagram seems like the quickest way to distract myself and not deal with what’s really going on.
The thing is, I am not necessarily saying this is a bad thing. Sometimes diversions and distractions are good coping mechanisms, but being mindful of what’s going on behind your scrolling is key. It takes you out of autopilot and puts you back in control of your actions.
Another question to consider is why do you post what you post? Is it for “likes” or validation, or is it to share a piece of yourself with others and connect with a community?
Again, I don’t actually think there’s a right or wrong reason- personally, I am happy to grow my online platforms- it opens up a lot of doors! What’s really important is that you’re aware of your intention.
The hashtags you use, the filters, the editing, the comments you leave- they can all be applied mindfully or not. This might make the whole thing seem way too complicated, but it’s as simple as bringing awareness to how you’re feeling when you do these things.
Recently, I’ve really begun evaluating my social media use and looking at what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve finally accepted that too much scrolling makes me feel overwhelmed, cloudy, and less satisfied with my life. And this is coming from someone whose feed is comprised of really inspirational, wellness focused content.
It’s not the posts itself that throws me off; it’s the sheer volume of information. Having constant access to so many differing opinions, quotes, beliefs, and experiences, just leaves me confused and disconnected from myself.
I am able to get so much clearer when I’m not overloaded with social media content. I feel so much more content and present when I’m offline more of the time.
It’s not always easy to put down my phone though. There’s this feeling when you’ve checked all of your accounts and you’re just kind of sitting there with your phone not sure what to check next. We look for connection through our phones when we’re not finding it within ourselves or in the physical world around us.
I also recognize that there is SO much good that can come from social media. I’ve met new friends, clients, and collaborators through my Instagram and Facebook accounts, and I’ve learned so much from the inspiring people I follow and connect with! I’ve discovered new places, new recipes, new books, new ways of thinking, all through the community I am able to connect with online. And that is extremely powerful.
I also love the creative aspect of social media. Taking photos of my travels, my kitten, and my smoothies is so much fun. Filtering, editing, and writing captions is a creative experience for me.
When I use social media now, in addition to limiting my time spent scrolling or posting, I’m mindful of how I’m feeling. When I’m feeling inspired and connected to others, I stay online. Once I start feeling overwhelmed, less-than, or judgmental, I know it’s time to switch off.
Learning how to navigate this online world takes practice. The majority of us didn’t grow up with smartphones, so we’re still learning how to adapt to this new way of life- to find balance and not lose ourselves online. Using social media gives us an amazing opportunity to set boundaries and become mindful of what works for us and what doesn’t.
Taking selfies, seeking followers, scrolling through your feeds, perfecting your filters and edits- these are all neutral actions. The power is in bringing mindfulness to these actions and becoming aware of why you’re doing them.
How do you find balance online? What are your tips for staying mindful and present in this age of information overload? We would love to hear from you!
p.s. Social media and the effect that it has on our lives is such a huge conversation, one that I can’t even begin to properly cover in one short article. If this is something you’re interested in, there are two TedTalks that I highly recommend.
Quit Social Media, by Dr. Cal Newport
Social Media Makes us Unsocial, Allison Graham
I don’t necessarily agree with everything they say, but they offer a really powerful perspective on the importance of understanding the effect that social media can have on us. I think educating ourselves in this way can help us to stay more mindful and make informed online choices.