How many times have you caught yourself scrolling through your social accounts, not even paying attention to what you're looking on? Or have you ever logged into your account and been super bummed to see you lost 10 followers in one day? Or maybe you've pulled out your phone to escape from making conversation or - god forbid - making eye contact with strangers?
I love social media, but I’d be lying if I didn't say there were days when I used it as an escape, find myself spending mindless time scrolling through or been brought down by a negative post.
Yet social media has become an essential part of our lives. Whether it's the way you connect with your customers or how you stay in touch with family and friends, it's an essential part of your life. I'm a social media marketer by day, and trying to grow a blog by night. I also live in another country than many of my friends and family. Social media is a daily part of my life and work, and that's not changing anytime soon.
For many of us, cutting out social media from our lives 100% is not feasible nor desirable.
And it doesn't have to be.
It's possible to have a healthy, positive and authentic relationship with social media through mindfulness practice.
“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” – Mindfulness.org
Mindfulness as a practice has been used successfully in the treatment of behavioral addictions (which social media can become) as well as blah blah blah.
And if we look at the definition: being present, not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's going on around us - it's very clear to see why these skills can be valuable in the world of social media.
Before we dive into how to use mindfulness practices on social media, it's important to create a healthy balance of the time you spend on social media. Too much time on social media can lead to imbalances in the brain as well as creating distraction and taking time away from other priorities.
Once you have control of the time spent on social media, it is time to reevaluate your mindset while on social, your purpose for being there and being active, and the way you interact with the entire community.
Through mindfulness, we can be present in the moment and make the most of the time we spend on social media.
It is possible to be engaged and present on social media while keeping your intentions genuine and your mind at peace through mindfulness techniques.
1. Take control of your time
As social media usage can become an addiction, it’s key to reflect on the time you spend on social media, and then, take control of it. A healthy amount of time on social media will vary from person to person. What is important though, is that you are in control of the time spent. If it's taking away from other more important aspects of your life, then there's an imbalance that should be curbed first.
Set aside specific social media time.
Maybe you want 30 minutes on your lunch break, and 30 minutes in the evening. Knowing that you have blocked out a specific chunk of the day for social will allow you to focus on other priorities with less distraction.
Limit your time spent each day.
Perhaps you want to only login 3x per day. Or maybe you want to spend one hour total on all channels. Find a realistic and healthy amount of time that works for you that fits in with your priorities.
Go to a particular physical place.
This could be your desk at home, or out on your balcony. Designate a place for social media, and stick to it. Only login when you are THERE and when you're elsewhere, be elsewhere.
If you're still struggling with limiting your time on social media, sign out of your accounts. When you go to click on the app, you'll promptly be reminded of your intention to spend less time on it. It will make it a little bit harder to log in, and a little bit easier to remember to scroll with purpose.
Take a detox every once in a while.
Some highly successful people take 3-day detoxes 1x per month in order to recharge and take a social break. Two or three days away from all social media can be a huge breath of fresh air. Maybe it’s a weekend at home relaxing or - like me - I find it easy time when I'm on a trip abroad and don’t want to pay for an international data plan anyways!
2. Get into positive alignment and set your intention
Is social media positive or negative?
Both, of course. It fully depends on your intention and your state of being.
If you’re committed to making social media a place of positivity and mindfulness, you need to arrive at social media with that mindset. Your state is determined from within, and if you are in positive alignment, those negative messages won't affect you so much.
Don’t go to social media for uplifting.
I know from experience, if you're feeling crappy, Instagram will probably only make you feel worse. Uplift yourself first, and then go to social media. True happiness comes from within, so ensure you are in a happy place.
Determine why you are checking this site.
Before you jump on, ask yourself a few questions. What are you hoping to see? What is your goal of being on this network? How do you want to feel during and after browsing? These should all be positive reasons - if they're not, maybe you should do something else in the meantime and come back to social media later.
3. Be present
It's impossible to be mindful if you're not present. And if we as a society are spending enormous amounts of time on social media already, why don't we make this time worthwhile by showing up 100%?
Give it your full attention so that the time you have allowed on social media is worth it and you get the most benefit from it. What’s the point of doing anything if you don’t give it your full attention?
Be aware of your thoughts as you scroll through.
Take note as both positive and negative emotions arise. What type of posts are causing you to feel one way or the other? Reflect on that. Perhaps unfollow those that make you feel negative, and continue on.
If you are present on social media, you’ll be able to recognize a negative energy vs. a positive energy and see it as just that, and stay in your balanced and aligned state.
4. Detach your ego from the experience
This is a bit of an oxymoron because in a sense, social media is the ego. It’s your expression and representation of yourself to others. This is neither bad nor good; it just is. But it is possible to involve less ego in social media, in order to bring more mindfulness into your experience.
Detach from the need for positive affirmation through likes and follows.
This is hard. Especially if social media is part of your career, then it serves real business value to have a large and engaged audience. But you have to leave your ego at home and not take it personally. At the end of the day likes are just fingers tapping on screens, and it would be illogical to let your self-worth be determined by that.
Detach from the negative as well.
There will always be haters, trolls, whatever you want to call them - negative people are present on the internet. Their comments or messages can feel very personal but they’re not. Their comments and messages are a reflection of themselves, not of you or your work. So ignore them, and disengage, because they aren’t worth your energy.
Turn your envy into inspiration.
Humans are quick to start comparing, especially on a platform where everyone is displaying the best versions of themselves. It can be frustrating to see someone “living a better life than you” “looking better than you” or “succeeding more than you”. Instead of viewing them with envy and jealousy, view them as inspiration of where you want to get to. And let it affirm that what you desire is possible.
It’s not about you, it’s about them.
You don't need to always talk about yourself. Especially if you're a business or organization. A yummy food pic? Probably not going to help your followers. A yummy food pic with a recommendation for a new AMAZING restaurant to visit and few lines about your positive experience there? Valuable knowledge that someone can use.
5. Engage authentically
I’ve been trying really hard recently to grow my Instagram following and one technique that I have seen used and have tried myself is the '3 likes + 1 comment' strategy. The idea behind this is that by taking 4 separate actions on someone’s page, it will be enough for them to come to yours and hopefully follow you. There’s nothing wrong with this practice in principle, it can be a way to expose yourself to people who are interested in your brand. But oh my god is it soul sucking! Even if this did gain me followers, it was a really negative experience because it wasn’t a genuine engagement.
Conversely, I have also responded to some really interesting questions on Instagram posts that I could relate to and wanted to contribute to the discussion of. And I’ve received genuine replies from the users, and suddenly I feel as if I’m building a little community of friends and allies that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Make real connections.
One of social media’s core goals is to connect people. So make connections, and make them genuine. This will bring you more joy and satisfaction than engaging falsely or not engaging at all and sitting on the sidelines.
Share things of value.
What is of value to your followers? New ideas and inspiration, educational information and general. Make each post genuinely something worthwhile, rather than just another post in the sea of information.
6. Be a positive light
The anonymity of social makes it easy to treat others poorly and escalate a disagreement. But if we can do anything as a society to make social media a positive place is to drown the negative with positive vibes.
Plain and simple. No one is jumping onto social media seeking negativity. Send out good vibes only.
Engage only in the positive.
Don't respond to the negative comments or posts. You are only going to encourage more disagreement and it won't make you feel any better for doing so. Usually it makes you feel worse.
Give genuine praise.
If you truly like what someone shares, let them know. Give credit to others if you've enjoyed a blog post or a stunning photo.
Social media can be a positive or negative place depending on how to engage with it.
Determine your purpose for being on these platforms and let that steer your decisions going forward.
It's been proven that social rewards and punishments feel just as strong online as they do offline, making it all the more important to engage with as much care as we would people in our real life.
And what you may not know is that research shows when we look at other’s social media pages we tend to feel worse, yet when we scroll through our own pages, we tend to feel better. So if you are feeling down and mindfulness is just not working for you today, take a walk down memory lane of your own feed and reminisce on some happy moments.
Continue to spend time on social media but do it in a mindful way that adds value and joy to your life and to those in your social sphere.
Anything can be mindful with the right intention.
Have you tried any of these techniques? What's worked for you? Are there any other mindful tips you use for a better social media experience overall? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.