I have always had a conflicted relationship with social media. I opened a Facebook account in 2007, when the platform was in its early stages and the question at every social gathering was, “Are you on Facebook?” I was newly married at the time and spent my days in the corporate world while working toward a Master degree in the evenings. Facebook became a fun way to connect with current and past classmates. A year later, the initial excitement wore off and after an episode of social drama, I deleted my account.
Two years later, when I was pregnant with my first baby, I joined an online forum on which I made friends with other expecting mothers. Inevitably, our friendship migrated from the forum to Facebook, and I created a new account for myself to remain in touch with my new friends. Two years later, I completed my initial Yoga Teacher Training, started guiding classes, and used Facebook to maintain contact with the yoga community. I gave birth to my second baby and changed jobs. I’m certain that all this information is imprinted in a remote dusty corner of the platform’s memory bank. In time, like many others, I started to use Facebook as a distraction from the more serious activities that demanded my attention. I found myself scrolling mechanically instead of focusing on my work. The more I scrolled, the worse I felt. Instead of connecting with others, I felt more isolated.
I have deactivated and reactivated my account. Last year, for almost a year, I only used Facebook to update the Mindful Daydreamer page. I enjoyed my long-term social media detox and the freedom that came with the reminder that I could have dinner in a beautiful restaurant without feeling the need to take photos of the intricately presented main course. I baked muffins and didn’t snap a pic to share with my friends. We went on family trips and I didn’t announce it online. I joked about pretending to live in the lull of the early 2000s, before Facebook took over our lives. Several months ago, I created a new personal page in order to remain in touch with my friends and family who are geographically far from us. Yet, we use Skype for real conversations and again, I question the merits of the other ubiquitous platform.
I have accepted that for me, a casual attitude toward social media provokes anxiety and a sense of isolation. Call it FOMO or use the latest more popular term, but when I feel low, I find myself wondering about how to increase the number of my followers on Instagram and (almost) consider posting selfies with pseudo-inspirational comments below them. It’s an ugly downward spiral. And so, instead of deactivating my account, I have decided to use social media more responsibly.
With a focus on self-care, I have adopted the following practices to help me use social media more mindfully:
1. Never check email or social media updates first thing in the morning or within at least one hour before going to bed.
2. Check updates once or twice per day, for a limited amount of time, and with a clear purpose. I watch the clock to be sure to only use each platform for the amount of time I have allotted.
3. Refrain from posting live updates, unless with a specific purpose. From time to time, I record live Facebook talks, but I no longer post spontaneous content. I take many photos throughout the day, then share one of them if and when the timing is right. Before sharing anything, I ask myself what purpose it would serve, whether my audience would find the information useful, and whether the update is uplifting.
4. Intentionally choose to follow inspiring people and material on social media.
5. Refrain from paying attention to the numbers of followers.
Do you have additional tips regarding self-care in relation to mindful usage of social media? Please share them in the comments below.