We hear it every day. Articles, blog posts, news stories and complaints over coffee about how social media is taking over our lives. Yep. It’s true, at least for some of us.
So, why do we crave social media so much? Maybe it’s a sense of community, a sense of belonging. Maybe, in some ways, it’s bringing us together and removing some of that loneliness that we feel because our personal communities are not as rich as we think they should be.
Of course, it could be that social media sets an unrealistic impression of the world. Not so many people share their dark days or their struggles. Noooo. We tend to share vacations, the most amahzing meals, The highlights of our life reel.
OK, so social media can be an immersive, all-consuming obsession. But whose fault is that? We can’t blame the tools. It’s our responsibility to use the tools wisely. To exercise self control and not get all FOMO every time a new network pops up.
Let’s just put the Fyre Festival out there as an example where FOMO gets you.
This doesn’t mean we should abandon social media. It has great value to us as individuals and as a society. Let’s consider a mindful approach to how we use it.
How to use social media mindfully
Even if it’s your job, as it is for me, you don’t have to be “on” all the time.
Set times of the day you will open your networks and check your networks. If that’s too rigid, set time limits on how long you will be “on” and set a timer. It can be hard at first, but with practice you’ll find yourself more present in what you’re doing when you are on, as well as when you are off.
You don’t have to be everywhere
Most people who try all the social networks tend to settle on just a few they actually use. Sure, I sign up and play with the toys, but in reality you’ll mostly find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin. I scan a few other networks on a weekly basis but I don’t live there. Some are great fits for my clients but not for me personally, and that’s OK. I can use them for work and move on.
You don’t have to like everyone
One of the beauties of many of the modern social networks is that we can follow, connect or like who we want to. If there are trolls or hate speech on your social networks, you need only unfollow, block, or in some cases report the individual. You don’t have to absorb the negativity. Simply turn it off.
I’ll tell you, on my networks I participate in some polarizing dialog. Not everyone agrees with me and that’s OK. I can choose to have a conversation or not. It’s my network. If they want to go on and on about how global warming is bogus, for example. I am not likely to dissuade them from their truth by arguing. So I just don’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t talk about it or put my views forward, but I can choose not to get into a fruitless discussion. Trolls are trolls, they’re going to be cantankerous and provocative. Just don’t rise to the bait and they will move on.
I set alerts for all of my own accounts as well as those of my clients. I don’t automatically check them though. Once every hour or two I pick up my phone, scan alerts and see if anything needs immediate attention. If it doesn’t? I’ll leave it until my next check in time. In almost all cases it’s not the end of the world if you take a little time to respond.
When you’re ON, be ON
I participate in Twitter chats and other live events where I need to respond quickly. In that case I’m not listening to a webinar, a podcast or checking my email. Being fully present when I’m on social media allows me to be more responsive and my posts are truer. Because I’m all in. Well, except typos. I have a lot of those.
When you’re NOT ON, be truly where you are
How many events have you missed because you were on your mobile device? Home runs in little league, a beautiful sunset, a conversation with a cherished friend? Being present 100%, all in, is one of the true joys of life. We see the nuances and the tiny moments of beauty that last only a moment. We are missing living.
I was/may still be addicted to taking somewhat lousy photos of my meals when I cook or eat out. I’ve been slowly weaning myself off this annoying habit. How rude it is to be at the table for a glorious meal and spend all the time with a phone in my hand! As a step-down I snap a quick photos and put my phone down until an appropriate time. Someday, I may actually find it un-necessary to do it at all, but that one is going to take a little more time.
It’s us. You and me, who are responsible for how much time we spend on social media and who we give our attention to. It’s a choice we make, for whatever reason. If we don’t like what we see on a particular network or from a particular connection? We don’t have to be there.