After this month’s theme on how social media impacts health, you may be wondering how it’s possible that social media can actually improve your emotional wellness. While it’s true that social media has been associated with increased risk of anxiety and depression in studies, it’s simply a tool, and how a tool is used determines whether the outcome is positive or negative. Though nothing can replace face-to-face human interaction, social media is here to stay…for now, so let’s make the best possible use of it. I truly believe that social media can be used to create greater awareness of our thoughts and feelings, tune into and amplify the best parts of ourselves, while transforming our shadows so light can emanate.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” – Proverb
Have you ever wondered what this common proverb really means?
In the simplest sense, beauty isn’t objective. Each individual has a different ideal of beauty that’s influenced by unique life experiences which shape a subjective definition of beauty. The beauty we’re able to perceive around us reflects the aesthetically pleasing elements we’ve experienced in our own lives and then attached this meaning to.
Now how does a proverb about beauty relate to social media? Social media is not black or white; not bad or good. Social media is what it is – it’s our perception of it that’s a nuanced grey, with a different shaded lens for each individual who perceives it. Social media also provides a singular experience for each user that is narrated by their life experiences, psychology, emotional state, and unique lens of perception.
Social media is like a mirror. It holds in front of us a continuous stream of sounds, colours, words and images that tells us what we look like – on the inside. It reveals clues about our internal landscape. Your personal experience of social media reflects what your internal experience is, including your thought patterns, your ideas about the world, your emotional state, and the meanings you ascribe to things. One person can see wedding photos and perceive love, but for another, this may cause deep pain. How can the same image cause such contrary reactions in two different people? Did the image cause the feeling of love or pain? Or was it the perceived meaning the image holds for each person? The person who sees love can only perceive this because they experience it internally – perhaps they have been raised in a happy, well-to-do family where weddings were loving, joyous celebrations. The other who feels deep pain can only perceive this because they are experiencing pain internally – perhaps this person was recently divorced and is feeling a detachment from family values and bitterness.
Here is a short list of reflective exercises you can try with social media that can cultivate your internal life and turn up the dial on your emotional well-being:
- Next time you are engaged with social media, observe your emotions. Your emotions are like a compass that tell you where your thoughts are oriented. Do you feel happy, sad, jealous, excited, angry, annoyed or something else? Each of these emotions has the power to lead you to a greater understanding of what your thought patterns are. Simply observe.
- Observe your emotions and now write them down. For all the social media that makes you feel negatively, write down anything positive you can about it. For example, an article makes you feel enraged – what can you find that’s positive about it? Maybe they offer a rational, balanced point of view, you resonate with the truth of one aspect of it, or the author did well at presenting a consistent message throughout. Anything that you can think of that’s positive, write it down. Now go back to your initial emotion – does your first reaction have the same impact on you? Chances are that your feeling relative to it has improved and you’ve derived appreciation.
- Find something on social media that makes you feel positive. Write down why you can relate to this and what is highlights about your own positive qualities.
- Next time you’re online and you feel envy creeping in, sit back and reflect – write down 5 things you are super grateful for in your own life. Taking inventory of your own gratitude can powerfully dispel envious feelings.
- Set an intention when approaching your online session – before you sign on, set a timer for 2 minutes, close your eyes and fill your heart with compassion and love. Allow this to be the lens through which you view online content.
- Share an image or statement on social media that makes you feel happy, positive or grateful. A recent study found that every happy post on social networks generated an extra 1.75 positive posts, which had a stronger impact than negative statements.
When on social media, use these exercises to engage with it in a conscious, deliberate manner to observe your thoughts and feelings and to improve your emotional well-being. Now take a break from technology and go experience life in-person! 🙂