Over the past 4 years I have been a freelance writer, blogger, marketer and social media manager. During that time, I have managed over 50 social media networks (including my own), clicking from one page to the next, finding enlightening clever things to write all-day every day and constantly checking performance, engagement… are we liked? Which even for the most confident, can quickly turn into, am I liked?
Growing online communities from 5000 to over 30,000 in a few short months, I even developed a Facebook following of over 20,000 people for my own personal blog, constantly chasing this fleeting sense of belonging and approval. Attached to my cell phone and computer like a baby’s blanket, seeking comfort in the form of likes.
The companies that I work with are all conscious businesses and/or nonprofit organizations, all offering products, services or events that brought something extremely positive to the world. The things I personally wrote about were about how to create and live a healthy life. My clicking motivation was heightened at the thought that with each new like, our networks were growing and somehow one step closer to changing the world, even in a small way. As I have come to learn, good intentions without mindfulness can quickly lead to the social media dark side.
The Social Media Dark Side
I would sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror after a “clicking session” only to see a frazzled, crazy haired, fuzzy eyed mess. I would walk away from the computer, and immediately start clicking on my phone, right back into the ridiculous social media hamster wheel of intermittent reinforcement that we all are trying to “win.”
As a regular practicing yogi, psychology major and someone who was literally posting the very messages intended to snap people into a heightened perspective or higher vibration each day, it’s not like I didn’t have the knowledge of what was happening. The conditioning gods of social media had officially infiltrated my brain. Clicking, clicking and more clicking. I was in it and my self-worth started to be in the hands of random strangers liking my posts at 11am on a Tuesday.
How could this be happening to me? I work with yoga and wellness companies, promoting healthy living through articles, social media, workshops and consulting advice. I promoted good health, mindfulness and the practice of yoga and meditation to tens of thousands of people on a daily basis. However, somehow, my tight shoulders up to my ears, stress levels, weird breathing patterns and frazzled mind would suggest I was working on Wall Street (aside from my yoga pants and perpetual messy top knot hair-do). Not only was I addicted to social media, I had become a yogi fraud.
I truly love to write (it’s my favorite thing) and share experiences or information that others could benefit from. I truly value the power of social media to share positive messages, promote real change in the world and to stay connected to the ones you love. I truly believe in everything I was writing about and saying, the issue was, I just wasn’t living it. Posting and writing about how to live your life, all the while I was an over-stimulated social media junkie.
It was at that moment that I decided it was time to focus on getting back to the place where I could speak truthfully from a place of presence and calm when putting anything out into the cyber world as myself or on behalf of any of my clients.
This isn’t a story of completely unplugging, although my first notion was to delete every social icon off my phone (which of course I did at first). Learning how to have a healthy relationship with everything in your life comes from harmoniously integrating it into your life, not letting it consume you or cutting it off completely. Here’s how I did it.
Social Media + Your “Real Life” Together in Harmony
10 Steps for Proactive Care to Escape or Avoid the Social Media Dark Side (Remember, you are so much more than your “likes”)
- Ground yourself. Before you get on social media in the morning, make sure you do something to ground yourself. Whereas the first thing I used to do in the morning was check social media, I started meditating, surfing, or going to yoga.
- Live what you say. i.e. If you write or post about yoga, meditation and living a healthy life, go to yoga, meditate and do healthy things.
- Be mindful, posts have energy too. What we put out into the world in any form (even a social post) has energy. Be mindful of what you are putting out there and what you’re giving away. This can be an effective way to reinforce your goals and aspirations, but can also create feelings of personal misalignment if your posts are not backed by authentic energy (as in my case). This is true whether you are posting on behalf of yourself or for a client.
- Unplugged weekends. Incorporate unplugged weekends into your life. No social media (or even better no computer at all) from Friday night to Monday morning.
- Leave your phone at home (It’s ok, you can do it. I do it all the time now). This forces you to be in the moment, and not capture it. Nothing to distract you from the people you’re with. If you have a compulsion to be “liked” just ask the people you’re with for some love.
- Send a powerful message to yourself. Go watch a sunset without your phone. This is a tough one, but if you can watch a sunset without taking a picture of it, it’s all downhill from there. Think of this…there are more than 350,000,000 pictures posted to Facebook every day and I’m guessing a good portion of them are of sunsets, the cyber world is good to go with sunset content; save a few for just you.
- Keep some things as little memory gifts for yourself. We don’t have to share every good thing that happens to us on social media. Keep a few nuggets just for yourself. It also makes it more fun to catch up with friends when you have some new things to share. Who knows, you may even get the reputation for being a little mysterious.
- Beware of the 5-minute impromptu post. If social media management is part of your job, set times to schedule your posts for the weeks ahead. Please beware of the 5-minute impromptu post. “I just have to post something real quick about something the Dalia Lama just said” can easily turn into 5 hours in the “clicking vortex.”
- Create Healthy Boundaries: Turn off your automatic alerts. Control when you go to social media, not the other way around.
- Honor the power of social media and use it wisely. “Social media sparks a revelation that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change.” – Brian Solis
Social Media Education
- Reboot or Die Trying (Outside Magazine): A star political blogger for Grist.org, David Roberts spent so much time posting and Tweeting and staring at screens that he almost went nuts. So he pulled the plug for a year, restarting his relationship with technology and actively seeking health, balance, and adventure in the real world. What he learned just might save you from meltdown.
- The Psychology of Social Media (Real Simple) What is it about screens that keeps our eyes transfixed and fingers a-tappin’? Psychologist Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of “Alone, Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other,” explains what keeps us tangled up in tech.
- B.F. Skinner Likes Your F.B. Status (Ceasefire): More than half a century ago, behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner conducted countless experiments in an attempt to condition the behaviour of pigeons. Corin Faife explores some uncomfortable parallels between Skinner’s pigeons and today’s Facebook and Twitter users.
After this post is published, I promise not to check how many people like it every 5 minutes.