Today, most of us can barely remember a world without Facebook. This social media site has radically changed and even defined our relationships with family, friends, and the new category of Facebook friends. In our technology-crazed society, perhaps you, like so many of us, feel a strange disconnect from others the more interconnected you become through social media.
The need to feel connected is in our biology; we need connection to thrive physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So it’s no wonder that we crave the connection that Facebook and other social media claim to provide.
Unfortunately, through our reliance on Facebook, we’ve mistaken being communicative for feeling connected. Being active on Facebook doesn’t mean we actually feel seen and heard. In fact, we end up spending less face-to-face time with the people we care about in real life.
In 2016, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study on the effects of social media on mental health by surveying 1,787 adults in the U.S. between the ages of 19 and 32. The study found significant linear associations between social media usage and indicators of depression.
As more researchers study this phenomenon, it is becoming clear that the more time we spend on social media the more disconnected, insincere, and detached from reality we become. So let’s dive into some tangible actions we can take to maintain a healthier relationship with social media.
1. Establish a Personal “Phone-Free” Time
Setting a “phone-free” time in your day is a wonderful act of self-care. By physically stashing your phone in your purse or another room, you can allow yourself to totally be where you are. Choose a time of day that works for you and stick to it. Perhaps it’s while you’re driving, or during meal times.
It may take a few days to get used to, but knowing you have these few hours to not worry about Facebook, email, texts, or mindless apps will give your mind a little space to unravel from the craze of the outside world. Remember, being connected through technology so often takes us away from our true sense of connection with reality.
Two of the most beneficial times to be phone-free are right before you go to sleep and first thing in the morning. Even though it’s second nature for most of us to spend ten minutes or even half an hour scrolling through our feeds as we lie in bed, it’s one of the worst ways to start and end our day! Sleep is a powerful and vital healing force. Filling our minds with judgement of self and others, which Facebook inevitably causes, disturbs our minds as we drift into the dream world.
Possibly even worse than falling asleep with Facebook on our minds is waking up to it. Engaging in inauthentic connections first thing in the morning bombards your mind with negative thoughts and to-do lists. Try replacing this routine with a short gratitude practice. Simply run through a few things in your head that you’re grateful for. These can be as silly or as deep as you want, as long as you truly feel grateful! I guarantee your day will be off to a better start.
2. Deliberately Choose Something Besides Facebook.
Technology, especially mindless social media networks like Facebook, can feel like a soul-sucking force. You meant to just check if you got any more likes on your latest post, but here you are 25 minutes later drooling over perfect pictures and feel-good quotes from that new yogi you discovered last night. We’ve all been there.
Next time you catch yourself in one of these moments, intentionally change your behavior towards something more relaxing and productive. Sociologist Brené Brown, Ph.D., author of The Gifts of Imperfection, suggests using this time to D.I.G. Deep: get Deliberate, get Inspired, and get Going.
Be honest with yourself in this moment. If scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed is not serving you, then change it up! It can be as simple as going on a walk or calling a friend to catch up. You can find plenty of ideas online, but it’s important to cultivate your own practice because we’re all different! Whatever it is, be deliberate about choosing an alternative activity that serves you.
3. Practice Compassion on Facebook.
For the times when you do just want to sit and check out pictures, post your own whereabouts, or whatever it is you like to do on Facebook, try practicing compassion. Although practicing compassion to your iPhone might strike you as silly, it’s actually a great way to avoid the mood dip that often sinks in from mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed.
You can repeat simple affirmations in your head or out loud, such as “I’m so happy for her new relationship!” or “How wonderful that she got to go on that vacation.” It’s important to be genuine here and try to stir up some of that authentic happiness for others–or express empathy if your friends are sharing troubles.
No one’s happiness or abundance disrupts your own potential for happiness. The more we can express gratitude and compassion for the abundance that is available to all of us, the more easily it will flow into our own lives.
4. Use the Internet to Your Advantage.
Though it can be argued that the Internet has done more harm than good, it is possible to adapt and maximize the potential of social media. You can manipulate Facebook to benefit you by broadening your real, authentic connections with actual people. How? Events and groups!!
Rather than following the highlight-reel lives of hundreds of online friends, find local events and attend them in real life. There are always new yoga studios and interesting festivals marketing themselves through Facebook.
Whenever I travel somewhere new, I search events on Facebook based on my interests. It’s a great way to get a feel for what’s going on in the community, plus give you some fun inspiration. So next time you have the urge to zone out on Facebook, make something productive out of it by finding a cool event for the coming weekend.
As Facebook becomes a bigger part of society, it’s critical to reflect on the effects it has on our lives and take control of our social media usage. While we mindlessly scroll through our newsfeed, our attention is taken away from the present and we miss important moments in real life because we’re too busy trying to share them on social channels.
You can choose to be a victim of the depressing Facebook news feeds or you can turn it around, remembering the importance of real connections and respecting what that means for you, personally. Fight the urge to let Facebook take over your day, look at your newsfeed with a new perspective, and make the most of the productive features of social media!
Remember, you’re not alone. Nourish your innate need for real connection and explore how genuine moments can enrich your life.
Image credit: Mandy Martini