Four ways to explore the effect social media has on your wellbeing
Since its inception, social media has revolutionised the way we communicate. We can connect with, befriend or bully people from all walks of life and coming from almost anywhere in the world. Social media’s now an accepted, everyday method of communication.
Most of us use some form of social media, so it’s worth taking some time to reevaluate how we engage with these platforms.
Social media’s a very human place
Social media’s dominated by imperfect people, leading imperfect lives and (usually) doing the best that they can do to be who they think they should be.
There are lots of articles, stories and research out there focusing on the effect social media has on our wellbeing: from too much screen time, to social media addictions warping our perspectives, to how we can detox from tech (sometimes with the help of a detox coach).
One recent study by researchers at Harvard shows that social has both positive and negative effects on people. It all depends on how we use social media.
If we’re in control of how social media affects our wellbeing, how can we manage that?
I find it useful to use mindfulness techniques when analysing your relationship to social media. Here are four things you can do to evaluate your particular situation and take back control:
Set your intention before you get online
Consider why you’re using social media; curiosity, friendship, education, inspiration, making money, something else? It will help you see what actions are important for you to take on social media, and which accounts you can prioritise when taking the time to engage with others.
If a post triggers a feeling in you, consider pausing your social feed by tapping on the post. Take a moment to focus on the message in front of you. Get into the poster’s perspective; why was it important to them to share this?
Notice your instinctive response to each person and their posts. What emotions are showing up? Do you notice any physical sensations in response to what you’re viewing? (Lack of sensation or numbness counts too). It’s about observing your reactions without judgement.
How are you going to serve at this point? Are you inspired to interact with the poster? If the answer is no, move onto the next post. If your answer is yes, how are you going to engage? Consider not hitting ‘like’ or an emoji. Do you have a statement or question to share that is of service to the poster and any subsequent discussion?
Social platforms are focused on keeping us on the platform. To do that they need to keep our interest. Algorithms tend to promote content that’s causing the most controversy (provoking emotional responses). These responses are often ‘of the moment’ and posted when people are experiencing an intense emotional reaction to what they’ve read. It’s why we see social media pile-ons, shaming and also viral memes and petitions that get thousands of signatures.
It’s difficult, and it may seem impossible, to make a conscious decision to pull yourself out of that cycle of read-feel-react, but by taking the time to read-pause-consider, we can start to use social media in a much more conscious way. We can take back control.