“I have a love hate relationship with Facebook” is something I often hear. On the one hand social media connects us and on the other divides us. It unites us with absent family and long lost friends, yet can elicit negative feelings such as anger and resentment. Brilliant platforms for business and personal development yet hits us with dopamine rewards and mindless distraction that serves our procrastination well. Both weapon and window onto a shrinking world whereby a tribe can be built from all four corners. Much like the workings of the human mind, social media is complex, with its social rewards and punishments having a very real effect on our mental health. Studies have even found that virtual approval or rejection triggers the same neurochemical in the brain as real life interaction. Its not to be underestimated when considering your wellbeing, particularly at times when you are feeling vulnerable.
Top tips for social sanity:
- Mindfulness teaches us there is insight to be found in everything, Including social media. The question is whether you are checking in or checking out. Ultimately, the purpose of social media is connection. The issue is that too frequent superficial scrolling can actually be disconnecting you from the present moment. We often do this on automatic pilot as a means of procrastination or distraction. Social media can be an effective analgesic, zoning us out and numbing from uncomfortable feelings.
- If you feel your screen time increasing, plan your social media use rather than operating on automatic pilot. The volume and instantaneous nature of social media can over stimulate. Moderation and strong boundaries are key. Choose one or two times a day to log on and stick to it.
- Turn off your notifications it removes the temptation to just pop on. 5 minutes can quickly become 40 minutes down a rabbit hole. This prevents you from becoming reactive, remember you are in control.
- If you don’t feel able to remove some of your inflammatory friends on your list, mute them or put them on a 30 day holiday.
- Check in with your own feelings. You wouldn’t choose to socialise if your predominant emotion was anger, sadness or fear. Instead of subjecting yourself to the greater emotional landscape of others contact a friend privately or take time out for yourself away from the screen.
- Be aware of when you are making negative comparisons. Human beings are hard wired for recognition. Looking at others carefully curated timelines can make us feel inadequate whereas studies show that looking through our own can cheer us up. Remember that social profiles can be shop windows. We rarely get to see what is stuffed into the back cupboards!
- Consider your intention. There are some really useful questions to ask yourself before hopping on to social media. What am I expecting? Why am I checking? What am I hoping to see? When you operate on automatic pilot repeated and frequent scrolling can feed less than helpful drivers. Has something triggered you? Does that mean you are hoping or expecting something? Seeking validation or spoiling for a fight?
- Remain aware of how you feel. We can switch off that self-awareness on social platforms. Don’t zone out and pay attention to your responses, urges and sensations in the body. Are your shoulders lifting, stomach tightening or jaw clenching? If social is serving as a stressor log out and go outside and breathe in some fresh air!