by Karson McGinley: Do you remember life before social media?
When you showed up to your high school reunion having no idea what your classmates had been up to? When people did yoga poses without photographing them? When you had to watch the news to get your news? It was a simpler time back then, and a time that, if you are under 25 years old, didn’t exist in your lifetime.
Statistics show that 77 percent of Americans have a social media profile, and more than 2.3 billion people worldwide are social media users. According to one source, people who use it will spend over five years on social media over the course of their lifetime, which is based on the average daily usage of about two hours per day. When the potential exists for such a huge amount time spent on any activity, it is wise to learn how to engage in that activity with as much wisdom, awareness, and dexterity as possible. You wouldn’t spend five years banging on the piano without trying to learn how to play a beautiful song, would you?
Use Social Media to Enhance Your Life
But this article isn’t about how to use your social media; it’s about how to use it without losing your awareness of the present moment. It’s about using social media to enhance your life rather than detract from it. Most people know how to scroll, click, and post. But are you paying attention to what you’re scrolling, clicking, and posting? And at what cost? An article from the American Psychiatric Association reported the results of a national survey linking young people’s social media usage with their levels of anxiety and depression. The more social platforms a person engages with, the higher their levels of depressive and anxious symptoms.
Yet eliminating social media use doesn’t seem to be realistic in a world that almost demands it. So the question becomes how you can use your social accounts in a more elevated way, more mindfully, and with a greater respect for who you truly are. Is it possible to engage with it without it making you depressed? Could it even possibly enhance your life? Here are three ways you can assess how you use social media, and engage with it in a more beneficial way with regard to your well-being and happiness.
1. Have a Strategy
Scrolling on Facebook is a mindless activity. Just a bit of downtime can create an impulsive need to pick up the phone and get a hit of dopamine. A good place to start with bringing more mindfulness to your media consumption is to assess your strategy for engaging with it. You’ve may have heard the suggestion to turn off your electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. But what about other time boundaries?
The average person checks his or her phone between 46 and 74 times a day. How many times do you check? Chances are if you simply intended to engage more quality time with your accounts, you would not only engage less, but it would be far more productive.
Try creating limits on how many times you can check Instagram in a day, for example. Checking once in the morning, once at lunch, and once after dinner might create a mindfulness bubble around an activity that could potentially serve to inspire and connect you with others. It’s also a good idea to have a social media Sabbath—a day when you completely unplug your immersion in virtual reality in favor of engaging in reality. By putting some realistic boundaries around your use, you have the chance to truly enjoy the social outlet in the spirit in which it was intended.
2. Get Real with How You Feel
Before you feel motivated to make some changes to how you use social networks, you will want to be honest about how you feel when you use it. Most people think that it’s harmless fun, but when they slow down to think about it, realize they usually feel worse off after engaging than when they did before.
When you start to dive into the types of posts make you feel good and bad, you can start to edit your feeds to support your growth and mindset. Eliminate accounts that make you feel lonely or unattractive. Unfollow accounts that are negative or make you feel bad about yourself. Hide the accounts of companies or “friends” that leave you feeling less-than, rather than inspired.
If your scrolling becomes a chance to get a quick dose of motivation for happy, healthy habits, or a good laugh, it becomes a way to keep you moving positively on your path, rather than a time-suck that leaves you feeling empty. Also reflect upon how much you rely on approval from others for your happiness. If you post just to receive “likes,” you are setting yourself up for disappointment and a false sense of camaraderie.
3. Set an Intention
One day, on a whim, you signed up for your social media accounts, but when was the last time you asked yourself why you continue to log on?
- Is it to have conversations with friends, create an online scrapbook of your life, or to see what is going on in the world?
- Are you trying to learn a new skill by following a teacher or public figure with whom you identify?
- Do you want to uplift and inspire other people with what has helped you to live your best life?
Each time you post, ask yourself if you are in alignment with your intentions. And it’s not just the content of your posts, it’s the way you participate.
- Are you a lurker (meaning, you never post, you only read other people’s posts)?
- Are you an over-sharer, who posts more than a few times a day?
- Or are you an occasional post-er, someone who only uses their profile to create marketing buzz for your business, or someone who only posts when good things happen?
If you can be clear with your purpose for posting (or not posting), your time will be much better spent, and you will reap what you sow.
The Final Word
Social media isn’t bad in and of itself, but like chocolate cake, it is best when enjoyed with moderation. Spiritual people and Twitter users are not mutually exclusive populations. It is possible to enjoy social media while being steadfast on the spiritual path! Part of living an elevated and conscious life is learning to participate in many facets of the modern world while remaining true to your values. So take a few minutes to reflect on how you spend your time online and on your phone. Five years is a long time to mindlessly scroll!