Social media is an ever-evolving online world that allows us to experience life through the eyes of our friends, family, and favorite celebrities. It can be a great way to keep in touch with people across the globe or stay up to date on current events. However, if we are not intentional about the way we use these platforms, we can lose valuable hours every day to scrolling, liking, and consuming content.
The majority of social media users worry about the time they spend on their apps every day. Unchecked social media usage can become a barrier to living freely, rather than the tool for connection it was intended to be. A startlingly small percentage of us have tactics for limiting our usage, but there are many mindfulness tips we can use to rediscover a sense of freedom from our phones. Mindfulness is all about connecting to the present moment, and using that awareness to make supportive choices.
Non-judgment is a key pillar of mindfulness. If you suddenly find yourself six days deep in your Twitter timeline, take a moment to breathe. Ask yourself, “What am I hoping to get from this? How could I lovingly shift my attention?”
Snapping into self-judgment will not help change the habit. Rather, gently notice what’s happening without judging it as good or bad—what was going on for me when I started scrolling? Am I lonely and looking for connection? Am I avoiding something I don’t want to do?—and then give yourself compassion. This will shed light on what you really need, and increase your awareness around the habit next time.
Another easy way to mindfully engage with social media is to set a timer before you start. Our habits often drive us to open apps without intending to (have you ever looked up from Instagram and wondered how you got there to begin with?). Empower yourself by consciously deciding when to go on social media, and for how long. Set a timer. No matter how juicy the debate in the Facebook comments, walk away when the timer goes off.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Turn off push notifications for your most frequently used apps, and silence all unnecessary sounds. If your phone isn’t constantly pinging, vying for your attention with flashy lights and bright colors, you are less likely to answer the metaphorical call. Remember that app developers are paid to grab your attention and hold it as long as possible.
Similarly, when we are at work or at dinner with a friend, placing our phones where we cannot see or pick them up allows us to stay engaged in the present moment. Enjoy the thrill of being fully present, and remind yourself of this feeling next time you’re tempted to check out of the moment by checking in on Facebook. Remember that life happens in front of our eyes, where we can see, hear, and touch—not in palm-sized glass boxes.
Install Apps that Support You
Another way to bring mindfulness to your internet time is to download apps that support your wellbeing, such as Headspace, a free meditation app. There are also a multitude of options for limiting your social media time with apps like Moment or Freedom. By increasing the ratio of supportive apps to social media apps on your phone, you set yourself up for a more balanced and mindful experience. You may find that adding positive options into your rotation has a domino effect, leaving you feeling more peaceful and in control.
Remember the Reality
You may have heard the common quote, “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.” Much of what compels us to overuse social media can be an addiction to comparison, drama, or an idealized version of reality. One way to break the illusion of social media and bring mindfulness to the experience is to remember that most of what we see is carefully curated. Highlight reels are not always reflective of reality. Remember that you are free to unfollow any accounts that feel discouraging or disingenuous, even if they are people close to you.
Practicing mindful social media means remembering to stay positive in the internet space. If you’re tempted to engage in or stoke the flames of an argument, pause to remember that on the other side of the screen is a dynamic, living human being who will be affected by your words. Mindfulness means embracing inclusivity, encouraging positive dialogue, and keeping it light.
At the end of the day, social media should support and enhance your life just like any other tool. If you feel that Instagram is stealing your serenity, or the hours you spend on Facebook could be better spent writing your bestseller, try out some of these tips. Then let us know—mindfully—how it goes!
Written by Featured Guest Writer – Madeline Winchester