With 233 million social media (SM) users in the US, it’s unlikely that platforms like Instagram and Facebook are going away anytime soon. We love our SM, but does it always love us back?
It’s fun to connect with long-lost grade school friends. It’s great to sustain relationships with family members who have scattered to the four corners of the globe. It’s gratifying to meet those who share common interests. But conflict can find its way into the most altruistic of groups or benign conversations. Social media is a double-edged sword.
How can we enjoy the best SM has to offer while avoiding the pitfalls of obsessively checking accounts or being drawn into arguments with strangers? By asking ourselves the right questions.
Taking a Step Back
In the blog “Girls Gone Strong,” Jaya Dixit wrote, “Concern for the kind of impression you’re putting out to your audience can begin to affect the choices you make, until suddenly, you’re no longer having your go-to breakfast and/or sharing authentically because you’re prioritizing others’ perceptions over your authority about what’s right for you.”
Take a moment to consider how SM impacts choices and decisions. Sharing events and activities is perfectly fine — going into events and activities with the intention of framing and staging shots for SM adds a slightly compulsive dimension to life. When we ask ourselves why we do this, we begin to understand that we may be using SM to manage public perception and gain approval. We realize we’re letting our SM define us.
Insecurity robs us of conscious choice and self-sovereignty. We never discover that we’re ok exactly the way we are.
Being “woke” with our SM means that we consider how we use it to compensate for insecurities. Do you have a FB friend that endlessly posts posed pictures of themselves? What does that pattern tell you about them? Being driven by insecurity never resolves insecurity — and anxiety is the product of self-doubt. Insecurity robs us of conscious choice and self-sovereignty. We never discover that we’re ok exactly the way we are.
4 Questions to Ask
- Do my social media accounts nourish me?
If we answer, “Well, yes, but..” or “Most of the time,” or “Sometimes,” this tells us that SM may not be enhancing our lives, but instead might be ruling our lives. Take a hard look — does SM, without exception, bring value and joy to your life? With conscious choices, it can — think of celebrating milestones like weddings and births, discovering valuable life hacks, participating in communities related to our interests — perhaps Crossfit? Calligraphy? Dogs or Cats? Cooking and Recipes? Books?
- How do I feel when I look at SM? Happy? Anxious? Angry? Entertained?
For some, anger is actually a form of entertainment — for those who choose self-sovereignty, conscious choice, and attention management, not so much.
When we consider how our SM makes us feel, we can begin to see where our awareness is subtly hijacked into topics and conversations that do not serve us. By tracking how we feel after using SM, we begin to get a handle on its impact on our well-being. Anything less than delight and gratification is a compromise.
- Am I aware of how much time I spent on SM?
Try spending a day or two noting how many times you check SM accounts. If we find ourselves reaching for phones and devices on an hourly basis, SM may be ruling us in ways we don’t realize.
The answer is to have specifically scheduled time for SM, and choose how MUCH time we want to spend. Maybe it’s an hour after work, but it’s a good idea to stay off SM and all devices at least an hour prior to bedtime.
- Am I drawn into conflict on SM? Am I looking at content that leads to feelings of helplessness? Frustration? Anger?
Consider where you want your attention and energy to go. Do you find yourself arguing on SM? What would you do with that energy if you were to consciously choose where to invest it? And importantly, have you ever changed anyone else’s mind or views by debating them on SM?
Anytime we make deliberate, conscious choices on our own behalf, we take back our energy, attention, and ability to care for and nurture ourselves. See where these questions lead you and consider the types of changes, if any, you would like to make to your use of SM. Be well and happy!