I suspect I am not the only one who finds my relationship with social media a challenge. My struggle with it is ongoing.
Some of my closest friends have turned their back on Facebook, Instagram et al and they no longer feature in their lives. My husband tells me he doesn’t miss scrolling through pages of minion quotes while drinking his morning coffee (he has a point!) and if anyone wants to know what he is up to then they can pick up the phone. He occasionally asks me who is up to what, but it’s clear that he doesn’t miss it.
My stock line, when he extols the virtue of being socially media-less, is usually ‘If I didn’t run a business then I wouldn’t be on it either’. But in reality, I’m not entirely sure just how true that is. I wonder if perhaps it’s a very handy excuse for me to keep my social media presence up.
I go through phases of being more on or more off social media and it’s true that more often than not work related things pull me back in to time on Facebook and Instagram. For sure, I can’t then resist a scroll but is this really such a bad thing?
When I have periods away from social media I do feel more calm in general. I feel less overwhelmed about everything that is going on everywhere else and instead I focus on my own wee world. I spend more time thinking about those who are closest to me, doing things that make me tick and I make decisions from a more internally focused base. I want to connect with specific individuals to find out how they are and what they are up to. I want to make contact – real contact – with them. I have more time to do all the things that I keep harping on about that I’ll do when I have more time. I write, I pick up a set of pencils and draw, I watch the tv programmes that I really want to watch and I read. I feed my soul with greater nourishment when I am not on social media.
Yet, when I find myself back on it, I am just that little bit more connected with certain people I wouldn’t otherwise be, and I get to geek out on specific subjects that are easier found this way. I love seeing updates from friends who live in different time zones, and those from friends I know from years back. I find out that the runners I used to coach are still running and it warms my heart a little bit. I like to find out what events are on, what classes and workshops my friends are running and I often find out about great training courses from social media. I regularly immerse myself in an academic journal or interesting podcast after following a link on Facebook and I feel part of an international community of other movement practitioners who are forging new ways forward in this field. It doesn’t feel so much like I have a Fear Of Missing Out, more a curiosity of what’s going on elsewhere.
But, I guess, it’s when the scrolling gets out of control and my time on there shifts from curiosity to overwhelm that I need to get mindful.
It can be so easy to get lost down a rabbit hole or to get pulled into the alternative versions of reality that others want us to see. Our news feed is a very narrow perspective of what is going on around us, and a very audited one. It can be so easy to believe that others are leading more exciting, successful, happier lives than we are, without us knowing the truth behind the pictures and the words. We can fall prey to the reactions of others, seek approval from strangers and downgrade our worth all based on the content of our carefully targeted feed. I’m guilty in the past of believing that I need to be more than I am after 5, 10, 30 minutes of mindless scrolling.
And I think it is the minFUL- or mindLESS- ness of our interaction that we need to look at with regards to the quality of our relationship with social media. Yes, of course, there can be times when it’s fun to look through memes of cats and dogs doing cute or funny things. And there will be times when we sit reading through things to then discover that it’s not really for us or worth our time and energy. But it’s doing it with awareness that is the key. Are we taking a short break to have a bit of a laugh or some mini-connection with others? Or are we procrastinating and settling for a filtered connection to avoid facing some kind of void in our life?
For me, I do enjoy some of the rabbit holes that it takes me down and the new knowledge that I can gain from using this media. I am a seeker and I always want to learn more. My thirst for knowledge can be difficult to quench and social media is a tool (not the tool) that helps with that thirst. It also provides me with an outlet to share my own learning and to expand my teaching outwards to those who find me in their own news feed and who follow their own curiosity. I’m aware now that being myself when I write will connect me with those who align. Trying to be someone I'm not, or trying to be flashing and headline-y just makes me feel bad about myself.
Like any relationship it's about finding out what you can both give to each other and how you can support and add value to each other. If that’s spending three hours scrolling cat memes, then who am I to judge? If it gives you a community of support you cannot get elsewhere, then great. It doesn’t matter what it gives you as long as it feels to you that it is adding value. But if it makes you feel less good about yourself, stops you doing positive thing that you might otherwise do, or it causes you mental stress then your relationship with it needs to be reviewed. Perhaps you do need time away to gain perspective and to discover your needs from this relationship. Maybe you will never go back, like my husband, and the relationship has served its time. Maybe like me, you’ll continue to work your way through it, discovering what it gives you and how you can work together.
Part of this working together could be shedding your newsfeed of posts that no longer align with you. Unfriend, unfollow, take a temporary break even, from anything that doesn't speak to your real self. Be mindful, be aware and you might discover a whole new perspective (and news feed) that you are in control of and not at the mercy of.
Much love peeps
CT <3 xx
I am Caroline Toshack. Movement is my passion, my mirror, my creative source and outlet. I am a teacher, educator, writer and coach.