I love social media, but sometimes I wish I could disconnect from it entirely. I used to enjoy it (like the occasional chocolate brownie) but now that I have an iPhone on me at all times, I’ve developed a particular form of OCD where I compulsively check my emails, Facebook, Twitter feed and 30 other sites, as if magically whatever it is I’ve been waiting for will appear there and change my life.
When I’m in that rabid state of endless checking and updating, I notice that I don’t feel right. I feel drained of vitality and energy, as if I’ve been gorging on fried chips and haven’t seen a green leafy vegetable in a while. Sometimes, instead of engaging in conversation with my teenagers, I’m liking other people’s family holiday pictures and commenting on their new outfits.
Social media gives us the illusion of connection. But when we lose ourselves in it, we can feel disconnected. Here are some ways of using social media so we feel more — not less — connected, to ourselves and to others.
1. No bitching, whining or complaining.
Social media is not a personal journal, a verbal spittoon to catch the sludge of our thoughts. It’s a form of communication — meaning there’s an “other” on the other side. Remind yourself always that someone has to read what you’ve written. And really, do they need to know we just ate a great breakfast or got a parking fine?
2. Be helpful.
Share moments and ideas in your life that you think will be helpful and useful to others, not just the first lazy thought that pops into your head.
3. Do intermittent Internet fasts.
Take a day, a week, a month offline. Stay completely disconnected. Read a book. Talk to a friend. Go for a walk. Meditate. Get back inside yourself. Notice the FOMO that comes up. Work with it.
4. When you’re feeling lonely and disconnected, don’t get desperate.
Don’t post things like, “How many people would say hello back to me if I say hello first?,” “Describe me in one word?” and “I want to see how many people respond to me when I post?” We all feel needy and lonely at times, but is this an effective way of reaching out? It’s a complete turn off. Instead, post something like, “Sometimes social media makes me long for real connection. Anyone want to take in a movie today or meet up for a walk?”
5. Draw on spiritual principles of right speech.
Before posting anything, ask yourself, “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?” We’re so addicted to immediacy, and have become used to posting or pressing “send” before thinking through the implications of our communication that simply slowing everything down might allow our higher judgment to hold us back and rethink.
6. Become an avatar of the best version of yourself on social media.
Turn your social media interactions into a form of personal manifestation — who do you want to become? What vision of yourself makes you feel good, generous, compassionate? Speak in that voice. Become that person.
7. Don’t be manipulative.
If it doesn’t work in real life, it doesn’t work in social media. Avoid posting things like “Most people won’t share this because they don’t care about disabled kids / our troops / people with cancer.” Don’t guilt people into responding, or fish for compliments.
8. Remember that bigger isn’t necessarily better.
You don’t need to accept all friend requests or grow your network, unless it’s part of your business strategy, in which case, do it strategically. Better to have a responsive, yet small, list than an enormous, dead list.
9. Delete offensive comments or people.
You don’t need haters puking all over your pages or feeds. You control the interactions.
10. Never ever ever ever spam people.
It’s just rude.
11. Don’t compare yourself to others.
It doesn’t matter how many followers, friends, parties, overseas holidays or boyfriends other people seem to have — it’s not a commentary on your life. People construct the social image of themselves they want to project — people never post pictures of themselves having a hard time or feeling lonely (which we all do, at times).
12. Every now and then, check in and ask yourself how using social media makes you feel.
We’re so busy chasing likes, comments, replies and retweets, that we forget the reason we’re using social media (which is different for each of us). Come back to your “why” (why am I using social media?) and make sure that using it makes you feel good, connected to yourself and others — more often than not.