I recently returned from 3 special weeks in India where I was wrapping up my 500h Advanced Yoga Teacher Training. When I finish an intense training like this I always feel very calm and have a deep sense of trust in the path that lies in front of me. When I get back to my everyday life, this feeling slowly starts to fade. Doubt starts to creep in; about myself and what I am (or am not) doing. I start to feel overloaded with information from the news, social media, emails and stories unfolding around me and I start to feel a little stuck. All the ideas and creativity I had days earlier get clouded and a subtle fear starts creating a haze around my inspiration and creativity.
Our Relationship Status with Social Media – “Its Complicated”
I have started to watch this process carefully. What I have realized is that social media is the single biggest factor that drives this metamorphosis from trust to fear. Although I would consider myself a fairly moderate social media user, usually spending less than an hour a day on it, I still find that it can leave me feeling lethargic and unworthy. Which is pretty much what characterises a toxic relationship, right? Anything that interferes with you living a productive and healthy life.
This is something I think we need to speak about more boldly. So, let me ask you: When you finally stop scrolling your feeds, are you left with an overall feeling of greater happiness than when you started? What was going on around you that you missed while you were scrolling? I would encourage you to be really honest with yourself here….
When I honestly reflected on these questions, I concluded that social media brings me down more than it lifts me up. Indeed, I have learned about great new initiatives, been incredibly inspired by honest stories and courageous humans, and even met some great people through these networks. I get to see beautiful snippets of life from friends and family who live miles away. But the more I reflected on my relationship with social media, the more I realised it was a little toxic. Because despite our best intentions we often end up comparing our real lives to the curated lives of others. We are drawn into an algorithm designed to exploit our vulnerabilities. In return we get a little dopamine hit that has us coming back time and time again (and hopefully clicking on an ad or two 🙂 ).
Stop letting an algorithm filter your life
What I find the most frightening is that these platforms are changing how we interact with each other, and even how we define truth and fact. In the words of the former Vice President User Growth at Facebook:
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
With all this in mind, I decided that I wanted to take control over how I interact with social media, rather than be subconsciously controlled by it. The great news is that I have found this to be pretty easy and to bring immediate improvements in quality of life. You know, feeling calmer, more connected, better able to appreciate the moment as it is- all those tiny little things 😉 . I realised that social media usually increases the noise and commentary in my mind, which distracts from my ability to live in the present – consciously, joyfully and compassionately. For me, this was no longer ok. Time for action.
Seven commitments to change my relationship with social media
Below I have listed all my commitment in terms of how I have decided to interact with social media from now on. I wanted to share them to inspire reflection on this topic and in the hope you may want to try some of them with me….
7 intentions to maintain a healthy relationship with social media:
- I will avoid comparisons between myself and the perfect projections of others on social media. Everyone has their own journey with both joy and suffering, and the filtered life we all share is not the full picture. I will actively play a role in spreading kindness, compassion and honest reflection on these platforms.
- I will explore why I am drawn to pick up my phone and scroll. What feelings do I have when I do this that I am trying to avoid? I will try to sit with those feelings, let them pass or work out what I really need. So far, I have witnessed boredom, frustration, fear, feeling overwhelmed, fear of missing out, and uncertainty.
- I will spend time thinking about other ways to share and exchange that feel more genuine and authentic, and contribute to nurturing a real and honest community in the era of social media.
- I will allow myself a maximum of 1 hour per day on social media and I will use this time efficiently to share what I want to that can help people live happy, healthy and peaceful lives. Any time left I will use to learn about interesting things, get inspired, support things that I care about, and then I will get off and live my real life!
- I will turn off all notifications from all platforms on my phone.
- I will leave my phone on airplane mode until I have finished my morning yoga and meditation practice. I will turn airplane mode on again at 9pm to wind down for a restful sleep. This means minimum one hour after waking and one hour before bed without using my phone – time I can use to create nourishing and calming rituals, like making a warming beverage, reading an insightful book, doing a guided meditation or listening to a chant or a podcast.
- I will regularly take extended breaks from social media and always keep my focus on choosing to be happy right now.
So, the next time you find yourself falling down a scrolling vortex (which, ironically, may be the way you found your way here 😉 ), why not stop and think about how you are interacting with social media. If the list above feels too overwhelming, why not just pick one a day for a week and try it out? See, seven was not a completely random number after all!
I would love to hear your thoughts about this – drop me a comment below and we can continue the discussion!
Love Michelle xo
If you still need convincing, check out some of these articles featuring insights from tech insiders. Spoiler alert – the very people who programmed these platforms are now starting to speak out about the far-reaching consequences of social media on the wellbeing of our society….
What the Director of Research at Facebook thinks about wellbeing and social media: “Hard Questions – Is spending time on social media bad for us?
A research article in the journal PLOS One: “Facebook use predicts decline in subjective wellbeing in young adults”
A TIME article on “Why Instagram is the worst social media for mental health”
A guardian article talking with Twitter and Facebook workers who helped make the technology they are themselves disconnecting from “Our Minds Can Be Hijacked: The tech insiders who fear a smart phone dystopia”.