A question I ask over and over again especially when I find myself sucked into the big black hole of social media. Boy if there’s a thing that is made to derail your attention then social media are for sure it.
Regarding the attention piece I’ll get back to it, but first I want to dive into the value of social media because I think that’s the key to establishing a more mindful way of using social media.
I’ve found that there are three main things that social media enable me to do:
Find and share information
The first one is a major factor for how social media becomes truly valuable, and here are some examples of ways I’ve experienced creating connections:
- meeting people in social media groups that eventually turned into real life friends
- finding classes and events that I attended
- sharing classes that people thereby showed up to
- been put in contact with friends of friends who could help me with stuff or that I could help
As you can see from the examples the line between connection and information and inspiration is often blurred, and one might lead to the other and vice versa. However, in my view the online world is too single-dimensional, so if the interaction stays solely in that sphere it soon feels too distanced, and not as fulfilling as a more direct personal interaction. The value therefore grows the more personal the connections get.
Limits to a mediated world
There’s a danger I believe of living in a mediated world, where our need for human connection is attempted to be met through social media, and where we can keep ourselves in a safe distance from more complex human interactions. I’ve noticed that if I spend too much time on social media my need for human connection isn’t met; on the surface I might think it is, but when I check in with myself on a deeper level it isn’t. It feels like eating a sugar-filled donut when you’re really hungry, it fills your stomach but it doesn’t truly satisfy the hunger. Social media are great as additions to and not replacements of human social interaction.
Two questions to ask oneself
To become aware of what I’m doing I ask myself these two questions:
Am I removing myself from life?
Am I connecting?
Some signs of removing myself:
- Seeking distraction
- Looking to get some emotional need met through instant reward
Some signs of connecting:
- Seeing and engaging with posts from friends and family
- Talking to friends
- Sharing stuff that I find valuable
Depending on the answer it becomes clear whether to stay there or log off.
Stay away from social media if you’re hungry, tired or experiencing strong emotions
Generally, I’m more cautious with everything when I’m hungry, tired or experiencing strong emotions. I know that I’ll react differently or stronger to any input when I’m in those states, so the best thing to do is to tend to those needs first.
This has become very obvious when being on social media as well. It can easily be a place to validate and feed the inner critic, which often becomes much louder in those mentioned states.
Instead, this is a time to step away from social media and tap into what you’re needing on a deeper level.
The almost impossible pursuit of managing your attention
Social media platforms – especially Facebook – are increasingly made to keep you sucked in.
Trying to manage your attention when logged on feels more and more like a computer game, where you’re the player and your goal is to keep on track, but you’re bombarded with hazards in form of notifications, a constant flow of new information, links, and more to derail you.
I don’t know about you, but it’s incredible how many times I’ve opened Facebook with the intention of doing one specific thing only in order to find myself there half an hour later wondering why I went there in the first place. I’ve lately started making notes on what I want to do and check before opening Facebook to help myself stay focused!
Another way to make sure I’m more mindful while on social media is to actually limit my time there.
I’m going on a Social media fast
Besides from determining if I get valuable interaction out of my time on social media, I do also believe I need to be very mindful of the amount of time I spend there, which is why starting today and for the next month I’m going to limit my social media use to once a day and for one hour maximum – the channels I use are Facebook and Instagram. As someone who uses it both personally and in a professional context, I’ve recently become quite dissatisfied with the huge amounts of time I spend there and with how often I distract myself from doing more important things just because it gives an easy dose of interaction.
One of my happiest times was last year when walking El Camino de Santiago, and I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I connected with so many people in real time, while I disconnected completely from Facebook for the full 40 days and only went on Instagram to share a handful of times.
My aim is to become more intentional about how I spend my time on social media and to minimize the time I spend there. (I have messenger installed on my phone, and I don’t include this in social media because; 1. I use it to keep in touch with friends / arrange playtime. 2. It doesn’t steal my attention since there’s not an option of scrolling mindlessly through things).
As I’m typing out these words there’s a part of me that kind of fears how difficult it will be to keep up this practice, and then I know it’s even more needed! If you want to join the fast, you’re invited. Let me know if the comments below or send me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to check in with you weekly to hear how the practice is going. I’ve found accountability to be the best support when changing habits.
PS. Yes, I was born in the early 80’s so maybe this way of looking at media vs. real life could be a reflection of my age and the way I grew up. If you have a different perspective, I’d love to hear it. Just hit reply and tell me more.
If you long for deep human connection and time offline we still have some spots left for the Stillness & Sensuality Women's Retreat happening at the end of June. Get all the details and secure your spot here.