If you’re like me, you have a bit of a love-hate relationship with social media. I have reconnected with old friends via Facebook – a blessing that would never have happened otherwise. I also use Facebook to promote my writing. Indeed, Facebook has proved to be a useful tool for many professionals, non-profit organizations, writers, musicians, and artists. On the other hand, I have often found myself wasting valuable time reading tweets and status updates, and I sometimes feel the pangs of imagined inadequacy when perusing the pages of my friends, whose lives all seem to me more glamorous than mine.
This article in Good Magazine offers some simple tips for how to engage with social media without being overwhelmed by it. As someone who tries to maintain a meditation practice and live mindfully, I am often struck by the extent to which social media pulls me out of the present moment. When I’m out with friends, I often whip out my iPhone and log in to Facebook to “check in.” This is not always a bad thing, but it does take my awareness away from whatever it is I am supposed to be enjoying with my friends.
At concerts, I frequently see people recording the performance with their phones or camcorders, actually looking the performers on the tiny screen rather than watching the real-life musicians standing mere feet away. No doubt these videos are Facebook and YouTube bound. It is easy to fall into the trap of allowing social media to turn our lives into constant performances. Rather than allowing ourselves to be fully present, there is a part of our brains that we dedicate to thinking about how to make our experiences look sexy on Facebook or Twitter. So on a certain level, our lives become like movies played out for our social media audiences.
For those of us who strive to live mindfully, it is important not to swing to either extreme. Social media can be a wonderful tool and a force for good in our lives. Those of us who enjoy the benefits of social media need not cut it out entirely. On the other hand, it is necessary to be aware of how we use social media so that we do not fall into the habit of allowing it to detract from our awareness or pull us out of our present experiences. Approaching social media with awareness is the key to using it productively.