4 Tips for Social Media Mindfulness

You’re scrolling through Instagram and see a beach photo of someone you went to college with. They look flawless in their swimsuit, their skin and smile are perfection, and they look as if they couldn’t possibly be any happier, all of which has no doubt gained them thousands of followers. You kind of hate them, but you also kind of want to be them. Looking up from your phone, you feel worse about your own Tuesday night, eating pizza and binge-watching the latest reality show on Bravo…

They look flawless in their swimsuit, their skin and smile are perfection, and they look as if they couldn’t possibly be any happier. You kind of hate them, but you also kind of want to be them.

Psychologists have recently started to look at the effect social media has on our mental health. There appears to be a consensus about social media’s risk for lower self-esteem, poorer self-image, the rise of “FOMO” (Fear of Missing out), general dissatisfaction with our own reality, and on and on. Unfortunately, teens and young adults are particularly susceptible to these effects. 

“But I can’t delete my Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, Hinge, Tinder, Bumble, and Slack … I need them all !!!” Is probably what you’re telling yourself in a panic right now…

Relax, that’s not what I’m about to recommend. After all, doing something “for the ‘gram” doesn’t have to be attention-seeking or shallow. Social media has revolutionized our connection to one another, in some really positive ways too. A new approach to social media called “social media mindfulness” can actually help increase your happiness and self-esteem. 

Doing something “for the ‘gram” doesn’t have to be the attention-seeking or shallow. A new approach to social media, “social media mindfulness”, can actually help increase your happiness and self-esteem. 

Social media mindfulness

Social media mindfulness is the act of being aware of our social media use and balancing our immersion in social media with immersion in what truly matters – “IRL” (In Real Life) human connection. Start by asking yourself these questions…

1.     Am I so preoccupied with getting a perfect selfie or photo of my lunch that I’ve forgotten how to to have IRL fun with friends and family? The opinions of strangers or online acquaintances should not become more important than genuine connections with those closest to us.

  • Try leaving your phone in the car. You might feel weird the first few minutes, or even feel “naked” as you reach into an empty pocket looking for your phone. That’s OK! Stick with it, and see if you don’t feel more mindful and connected to your loved ones. 

2.     Are people getting annoyed or frustrated at the amount of pictures you take during an outing? Taking pictures used to be a way of memorializing a special occasion, not a chance to boast to others about our how artfully our dinner is plated or how enviable our vacation is. 

  • Try limiting yourself to 2 or 3 photos. This way you will curate what is truly memorable about your experiences, rather than wasting time obsessing about whether your smile seems “weird” or your arm seems too big. Let go of the never-ending cycle of saying, “Ew! I’ve got to take a better one!” when scrolling through your pics.

3.     Do you use your phone during dinners and/or conversations with others? “But everyone does it!” you might reply. Okay, that’s true. But it’s also true that everyone might as well sit at home alone if they aren’t going to truly enjoy one another’s company. 

  • Before an outing with friends or family, reflect on what it is about them that you value the most. What positive feelings do you experience after being in their company? Set your intention to experience that person and that feeling during your outing. Chances are high that this positive feeling truly outweighs the fleeting excitement you’ll get over the amount of "likes” from a post.

4.     Are you constantly checking your phone for likes, comments, new followers, etc? True self-worth comes from within. 

  • It takes daily practice to remind ourselves…every single person on Earth has instrinsic value, even if they don’t have a single social media account. Treat yourself to a re-energizing solo activity (sans phone) to truly reconnect with yourself. Go on a hike in the wonderful mountains just outside of LA, go for a swim in the ocean, or go get a massage. Use that time to reflect on how grateful you feel for the amazing parts of yourself that you’ve cultivated during your lifetime. Your generosity, kindness, and compassion are true measures for your impact on society, not the percentage of people who “swipe right” on your photo.

In some ways, social media has made us closer, but rarely does it offer true emotional intimacy. As a therapist, I often see clients with similar stories of anxiety and sadness caused by the self-comparisons they make on social media. Using social media mindfulness is one way to become more aware of your social media use and take meaningful steps to insulate yourself from its harmful effects.

I encourage you to spend a week of your life giving it a try!  

Have you tried these tips but are still struggling to maintain your self-esteem?

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—-Author: Dr. Mackenzie Lambine