Sure, social media is an amazing means to stay connected with friends and family, document our lives, spread positive messages, and even grow a brand.
But it’s time we get brutally honest about what’s really driving the majority of our output and consumption.
Are we signing off feeling more FOMO, or even a wave of anxiety? Are we obsessing over our posts, or contemplating deleting those that don’t get our desired amount of likes? Who do we follow, why do we follow them, and are we truly connecting or just caught up in the quick fix of receiving approval via a like or a comment?
Most importantly, are we showing up—real, raw, and open to share?
The dialogue around social media as publicizing only the glamorous parts of our lives has been discussed and exposed, but what’s been talked about less is what that means for our relationship with “the self.”
We can only meet others where we’re able to meet ourselves. If we’re lying to the world, that’s a direct reflection of our lack of self-confidence and self-worth. The same goes if we feel judged, or if we start to judge the people behind the accounts that we willingly follow.
Most of us are too hard on ourselves and we let that naturally spill over into our relationships with fellow humans. With the boom of social media, we’re adding many strangers and old acquaintances into the mix. We have a choice to grow the good and have been offered a “free” platform to share mindfully.
When I made it my intention to live more in my truth, evaluating the honesty of my relationships with people, yoga, food, work, alcohol, and even music, I knew that I desperately needed to step back and reevaluate my social media habits.
Here are the five steps I took to cultivate a healthier relationship with social media:
1. Go on a social media hiatus.
When things start to get rocky with a partner, sometimes “taking a break” is the best way to dissect our feelings about the relationship. Many times, we learn that we’ve been way too consumed in the partnership to be able to see some of its unhealthy qualities, and that giving ourselves breathing room feels incredible. Sometimes, we decide to break it off altogether or restart on different terms.
The same goes for any relationship in our life that feels rocky, or that may be limiting us from reaching our full potential in the present moment. If you’ve done a cold turkey cleanse from booze or sugar, you’ve probably noticed that the longer the experiment, the more you learn about yourself and the easier it becomes to keep from falling back into old habits.
2. Set boundaries and challenges.
Many of us, including myself, either can’t or don’t want to delete social media altogether. After my social media cleanse of a few weeks, I introduced some limits for myself, such as never using the apps during meal times or in line at a coffee shop. If it takes me more than about five minutes to post a status or photo, I close out of the app.
In setting new boundaries, we challenge ourselves to look more at the world around us and avoid using our phones as a crutch. It’s now the norm to see people glued to their apps and scrolling at bus stops, on train rides, and even while simply walking to work—avoiding the free time to simply be, without consumption. Let’s challenge ourselves to leave the phone in the car during a long hike, and to stop checking out the social realm when there’s a lull in the conversation.
3. Slim your following to accounts that improve your life.
We need to be vigilant about who we spend our time with, both in our physical and digital worlds. If viewing content from an account doesn’t do anything for us, there’s no reason it should take up space in our life, especially if all we’re concerned about is the follow-back or courtesy like.
Of course, not all accounts are going to make us feel “happy.” For example, if we follow an animal rights group, some of their posts may not invoke a positive emotion, but viewing the content may be informative, inspiring, or of benefit to us and how we see society.
4. Ask, “Could this be of benefit to my followers?” If not, delete.
It would be great if “normal” folks and social media celebrities started posting as if “followers” were friends, not fans. Too much of social media is filled with self-serving content, to the extreme of photos and videos intended to make others feel jealous or unworthy. I’ve viewed so many variants of “my whatever is better than yours” posts, and I don’t doubt that we all have.
In a more discrete way, most of us are guilty of posting a harmless photo in a time of boredom or in a moment of self-doubt, without a “bad” intention but with none other than obtaining the instant gratification that social platforms have proven to offer us. We must be brutally honest with ourselves and make a conscious effort to prove that mindful social media users actually exist.
5. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
We aren’t forced to share on digital platforms, but when we do, as with anything in life, we can get a lot more out of it if we arrive with bravery and open-mindedness. When we show up as ourselves and post our true reality, we allow others to really see us and give them the strength to be seen.
When we’re not afraid to to talk about the issues that we care about, or the experiences that we’ve been through, we can ask questions, receive feedback, inform others, and start to inspire real change and innovation. From this place, we can begin to build the foundation of a strong community.
As Brené Brown, the author of Daring Greatly, reminds us, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”