Social media has changed the world significantly. You can interact with someone who lives on the other side of the world in seconds and you don’t even have to pick up the phone to talk to anybody anymore (positive outcome for those with social anxiety, myself included). But in this digital age of non-stop communication, it’s easy to become consumed, it’s easy for it to take over your life and that is what happened to me.
Try this: on your lunch break, sit down outside, on a bench (away from your desk) and be with your food without looking at your phone. Eat slowly, pay attention to each bite, taste all the flavors and look at all the colors. After you’ve finished eating, just sit. Be with nature, take in your surroundings, and people watch rather than flicking through your phone trying to find something to do. How do you feel?
We live in a society where our heads are buried in our devices, like we’re trying to get away from the present moment and be somewhere else. And we’re always thinking about the next moment, “What am I going to have for dinner?” “Shall I walk to work tomorrow morning?” “Maybe I’ll go to Borough Market on Saturday and buy some food.” Mindfulness teaches us how to be in the present moment and that’s pretty scary for us, because we always want to be two steps ahead of the game. But it’s important to be in the here and now, to look up because who knows what we might miss.
Social media gives us the ego boost we need.
I will be one of the first people to put my hand up and admit that I have been caught in the trap of posting on social media for validation. These days it’s more about how many ‘likes’ we get and if other people will like what we’ve posted than actually posting for ourselves. When you take a great picture of something or yourself, what’s your first thought? I know, “I need to post this right now.” Why do we do this? It’s because we need to feel validated. We want to show our 1,000 friends on Facebook that we’re doing interesting things and with each ‘like’ we get that ego boost and that approval that we need, because doing this on a daily basis has led to it becoming a habit.
Facebook makes our FOMO even worse.
Do you ever feel if you haven’t looked at Facebook in a couple of hours something significant has definitely happened and you’re missing out? When I first realized I need to take a step back, I deactivated my Facebook for 5 days and yes, several times a day I’d get that FOMO feeling. But when I reactivated my account 5 days later, I realized I didn’t miss much. Just a few pictures here and there of people enjoying their weekends and holidays. And this made me realize that we get so addicted to constantly checking social media, that even 30 minutes of putting our phone down sends a rush of anxiety into our systems.
Try this: limit your use of social media to twice a day for 10 minutes. I started doing this and it made me realize how many hours in the day I have to work on my goals and dreams and just be.
The Internet puts our entire life on display.
Yes, we have privacy settings on social media and it’s nice to share pictures and news with our friends and family, but how about the other 400 acquaintances you’ve got on there? You know, the old schools friends you haven’t spoken to in years. Why do they need to know that you bought a cat and named him Eric? They don’t. And you don’t need to know that they just went travelling for 6 months (reminding you that you hate your corporate job and are a boring human being. Do you see where I’m going with this?) It’s great to share things with people you love and care about, but what happened to sharing holiday photos with good ol’ mum and dad? Or spending time with your friends (in person) and showing them all the things you got up to on your weekend away to Prague?
Facebook has become a virtual counseling forum.
Be honest, when you’re angry, do you vent on Facebook? With the EU Referendum just passed, I know hundreds and thousands of people were unhappy with the result (myself included). The day the result was cast, an influx of opinions, vents, frustration and anger was posted all over Facebook. It was a news feed of negativity. Everybody has an opinion and it’s great to share things, but there’s a thin line between sharing and oversharing. What happened to sharing photos of your 6 month old daughter who went to the zoo for the first time? We don’t need to see pictures of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson on our screens people, we all know what’s going on around us.
Social media has taken away the mystery.
You can find out almost everything about everyone before you even meet them in person. Remember when you used to go on a first date and had no idea about who the person you’d be sitting in front of was all about, what their job was, what they’d like to do for fun, what pets they had? Well, in this age of dating apps and social media, you can now find out all these things before we even see them for the first time. You know, about Ben who’s 27, works in finance, has 2 dogs named Ellie and Rory, who and is originally from Devon and who’s ideal Friday night is to watch foreign films with a glass of red. Why do you need to know this before you meet someone? What happened to having a face-to-face conversation?
It baffles me how social media can sometimes be the bad guy and take you into a realm where you spend your days comparing yourself to Betty from pre-school who has the so-called perfect life, whilst you’re wondering what toppings to get on a pizza for your night in of Netflix and, well, pizza. I am really glad we have social media, but I have been consumed by it and it has sent me into dark places where I don’t think I’m doing as well as others. I love sharing great moments and pictures that I love, with people that love and care about me, but there needs to be a balance between reality and virtual reality. Now when I’m waiting in a queue or on my commute to work, I have limited how much time I spend on my phone and instead read a book, get lost in a story and not worry about seeing a picture of Ella’s new dog on Facebook.