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Steps on How to Have a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

My fellow coach and friend, Rebecca LeBlanc and I, hosted a group coaching call on self-care and social media during COVID-19. We thought this topic would be especially useful right now as many of us are struggling with the need for connection, fears around scarcity, productivity and pressure to perform during collective trauma. Although our social media experiences are not direct, they are experiences that we accumulate throughout the day. They can weigh on our psyche and our heart center. We bravely took a look at that as a group and got curious about how we engage virtually with the world. Here were some of the take-aways. 

1. Check-in with yourself.  

One of the very best habits we can start to have (regardless of whether or not it revolves around social media) is to check-in with ourselves. Perhaps when we wake up we ask, how am I feeling?  Before we go through our to-do list for the day, checking in. What is my body needing today? My heart? My mind? How can I best honor these needs?

This can be 5 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of journaling, 20 minutes of yoga or taking a walk. It’s not easy to make time for ourselves, and perhaps it feels impossible to ask for what our needs are in the midst of caring for our families or waking up at 5:00a.m. to a crying toddler. Try, try, try, until it becomes a natural part of your day.  If you have a partner to help give you this time ask them for help, and vise versa. It is not selfish to take a moment for your peace. We need it now more than ever. Checking-in will be the framework for assessing your needs and everything that you do the rest of the day, including how you engage with social media.

2. Develop a routine

Navigating how and when to post, especially if it is for our businesses, can be tricky. We may be feeling more pressure to perform with so much of our world being plugged in right now. One of the things that can bring us less anxiety is having a schedule for posting. Setting Monday’s Wednesday’s and Fridays as the days to share. If we are talking business, picking one day a week and creating content for the week may decrease our anxiety when we do post. We can also set rules around our routines. “On Sunday’s I don’t go on social media.” Or perhaps, there are rules around not having our phones out during dinner or when we are having intimate conversations with our partners. The more consistent we become the less anxiety we face. Routines help train our minds for what to expect which, in effect, can result in less internal chaos. 

3. Meaningful engagement

If we are looking to be intentional about our engagement with social media, then let’s ask ourselves some questions. What is bringing me towards social media at this moment? What's the goal? Is it the need to connect? Having a sense of community?

How is my engagement on social media serving me? How might it not be serving me?

What values are being represented in my engagement with social media?

Try to remember the goal and go back to it when you’re plugged in as a way to help keep you from getting distracted. For example, our goal may be the need for connection but by the time we are done with social media we don’t feel connected, why is that? It may be because the need for connection was actually quality time or a good conversation with a friend who understands us. We may leave social media with a bigger void than when we started. That’s why step one, “Check-in with yourself,” is so important. If we don’t know what we really need before we walk into the vortex of social media we could come out more lost than when we went in.  

We are probably grabbing our phones out of boredom, insecurity, or habit, especially now. This is completely normal. We are not going to be intentional about how we engage with social media every single time we unlock our phones, the overall intention rather, is to bring awareness to it. If we are aware, we are more likely to seek balance and protect our peace. 

4. Follow accounts that bring you joy

Remember that you reserve the right to create your own safe spaces on social media. This may mean following accounts that bring you inspiration and joy or unfollowing accounts that are not in alignment with your values and needs. Only you can determine what this means to you. So as you grow make sure the accounts you follow are still serving you. Remember we are spending a lot of time in these spaces right now. Let’s make sure it’s making us feel safe, motivated, connected.

5. Less comparison. More compassion. 

Oof, this one, right? Social media can sometimes facilitate an environment where we size each other up and compare ourselves. Suddenly what we are doing feels not enough because the story we tell ourselves is that other people are doing something better or they are more capable, smarter, pretty, happier, etc. None of this is true, of course. 

No one can offer what we offer in the way we offer it. When we try to shrink ourselves to fit a mold we take away the most special thing we have to offer, our authentic selves. This is how people understand and relate to us. Our honesty and vulnerability draws people into meaningful connection. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself when you’re feeling the need to compare:

When am I finding myself comparing the most? 

When do I feel the need to people-please or perform? How might this affect my authenticity?

How much value am I placing on my likability? How might this be affecting the way I see myself?

What have I already created that I am so proud of? What are the things that make me unique? 

What can I tell myself to soothe the part of me that feels not enough?

When I feel the need to “keep up” or perform, what is the story I tell myself? What is the reality? 

6. Creative relief.

There’s heaviness in the world right now. Whether you’re on social media for business or personal reasons, it can be A LOT. Try to make time for moments of fun, joy, play. Bust out the color pencils with or without your kiddos. Paint something, anything, abstract art or painting by number. Pick up an old or new instrument. Write a joke, a poem, a story or prose piece. Cook something you’ve never tried before, and do all of this in the name of providing yourself with some much needed relief. THEN, my friends, decide if you want to share it with social media. Our knee-jerk responses might be to instantly receive reciprocity. The encouragement here is to notice the feeling we get from our efforts at self-care. Our phones may not be pinging and our likes will be nilch, but taking a pause between the actual moment we are experiencing and the instant gratification that comes with posting is worth it.  We get so used to the extra validation that comes with sharing our lives on social media that sometimes we miss the actual validation that we can give ourselves. The reward can just be the experience. 

8. Healthy boundaries

Self-care begins with awareness around our needs. Then setting boundaries and taking action in order to meet those needs. 

Here are some suggestions for effective boundary setting: 

  1. Back-up boundary setting with action.

  2. Give yourself realistic time-frames to follow-through with the action. 

  3. You don’t need to debate, defend, or over-explain to yourself or others.

  4. Have support available, people to help hold you accountable to your boundary and offer help.

  5. Stay strong. Don’t give in. This is for YOU, remember.

  6. If you do cross your own boundary, it’s okay. Offer compassion to yourself, but make sure you keep practicing.

Before you set your boundary, know what the need is. The need for example, might be “More intimate connection with my partner or family.” The boundary then could be, “I do NOT respond to work emails or text messages after 6 p.m.” The how or when of this boundary is daily at 6:00 p.m. Do not forget that bit. It’s an important part of the follow-through with the boundary. 

9. Love. 

Folks. It’s a tough time for some of us right now. Let’s love ourselves and each other through it. 

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