“I'm sick of talking about me, me, me all the time,” my fellow yoga teacher and writer gazed down at the latte she was fitfully stirring.
I understood what she meant. While both writing and yoga require hours of quiet reflexion, today's world of endless social media requires us to produce, produce, produce.
I've seen countless articles on branding yourself, on personality capital, and on tips on how to build your platform. While I'm grateful for more opportunities than ever before to share ideas, we must also reflect on what this need to “brand” ourselves does to our work and souls.
Gone are the days when artists and teachers spent their early years honing their craft with a small group of students and readers. Now, regardless of your career, you can numerically track just how much people like every aspect of your life. Cameras are no longer whipped out on special occasions; they're around all the time.
What's wrong with a little social media addiction?
Numerous studies have asked this very question and found that being constantly plugged in isn't only a time waster. Spending too much time connected can make you feel pressured to have a more interesting life.
When I was leading a workshop about body image, one woman brought up how seeing how many people “liked” her posts and pictures altered her mood. All those stats can cause you to begin to chart your self-worth.
Unfortunately, many changes and challenges worth pursuing may not be overwhelmingly popular. Not to mention, most things worth doing take time and don't have a lot of opportunities for “selfies.” My most productive and meaningful work is usually done in sweat pants. While I enjoy a cute workout outfit, women shouldn't be pressured to look like they're posing for the cover of a magazine every time they hit the gym. (Even our sports bras have built-in push-up cups!)
I usually need to be in pjs or grubby yoga clothes in order to write. It helps me not take myself too seriously and to ease up on self doubt. Besides, I don't need to look fabulous while creating or meditating. Nor should I feel the need to snap a picture and update my followers. True work takes hours, days, weeks, months, and years of what appears to be uneventful repetition.This constant pressure to produce can lead to some very surface-level interactions.
It leads to the burnout my friend was experiencing. Instead of working on a substantial piece or depth of practice, a huge chunk of time went to feeding the social media monster—a creature with a bottomless stomach and a craving for fluffy snacks.
So, how do you learn to use these tools but not be consumed by them?
1. Know thy side effects.
Take a moment to free write about the way each social media platform makes you feel. Be honest with yourself. Do you experience feelings of jealousy or anxiety about wanting to look better? How much time and emotional space do your apps take up?
Now, every time you sign on, scan yourself for this adverse reactions. Identify your triggers and try to minimize the interactions that make you most miserable. Keep the stuff that inspires, uplifts you, and helps you feel connected.
2. Analyze your degrees of separation.
There is so much analytical data provided to you on every site, but no site can tell you about how well your interactions actually serve you. Take a moment to ask yourself: How much separation is there between the person I am, the person I present myself to be, and the person I really want to become?
Due to all the feedback, a platform for self-expression can quickly become a place of judgement and self-editing. Since everyone from your great aunt to your old high school buddies can chime in on your daily life, you might not be honoring your true self.
3. Take a fast.
Just like we meditate to become aware of the thoughts that govern our experiences, we must also take breaks from all the chatter in cyberspace. Turn off the push notifications to your phone. Set aside designated hours in your day to be completely undistracted by the insights of others.
4. For good or for evil.
Are you using your social media time to torture yourself? Stalking exes or old rivals is toxic. “Unfriend” if you can't help yourself. Remember, technology is not inherently good or evil. It's the application that produces positive or negative results. You're always in charge.
Ask my favorite question of all time: Is this serving me? If it's not doing you good, let it go.