We can use social media to connect and support each other. Or be reactive. We get to choose.
If you are active on any social media platform you are very aware how crazy, heated and hyperbole things have gotten. It’s understandable that people feel passionate about their views and that they share that with their followers but it feels to me like things are getting more than a little out of hand at times.
Whether it’s politics or other topics emotions are flying extra high these days. And that is very obvious on the social media platforms. Everything goes now and it’s often done in order to get the greatest public exposure possible. More media coverage, more tweets, more posts. And the one with the most retweets and comments wins. It’s no surprise that “post-truth” has been chosen the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionary.
What we share on social media can have a big ripple effect. We are not just saying something to an individual or a group of friends. Things can spread easily to hundreds or even thousands of people in a short time. The average social media user in the US spends 1 hour and 40min every day checking and posting. That’s a lot of time to posts, comment and share.
The combination of being emotionally activated, not being face-to-face with people plus the rush of excitement to get a lot of likes and comments is a dangerous mix.
Mindfulness gives us tools to help us navigate these perilous waters.
Aligning with our intention and guidelines for sharing
You might want to take a step back and ask yourself why you are on social media in the first place? What is your intention? What do you value? Do you want to bring those values to how you show up?
My intention is to connect with like-minded people, to share what I like and what inspires me. My guidelines for posting are the same as the ones I practice for speaking and interacting with people in general.
5 questions to ask before sharing:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it beneficial?
Is it appropriate and timely?
Is it deepening or healing a rift in our community or society?
Applying these 5 questions doesn’t mean we have to be all nice and agreeable. Not at all. Express yourself, be firm, stand your ground. But using the questions as a filter can go a long way in being in alignment with your values while being authentic. For me it’s a great safeguard especially on social media.
Practicing awareness of being reactive
But what if someone pushes your buttons? What if someone provokes you with their comment, hurts your feelings or if you feel challenged in your opinion?
Bringing awareness to how we feel goes a long way in practicing mindful social media habits. When we are feeling reactive we are so much more likely to respond or to post something that is out of alignment with what we value.
How do we know we are being reactive? This is a great mindfulness practice right there, whether it’s around social media or other areas of life. For me, my shoulders tighten and I feel a pressure on my chest. My thoughts around the topic speed up and are usually not kind. I might feel defensive energy rising up from my belly into my chest. I feel ready to pounce, literally and figuratively.
You might have heard of one our favorite acronyms to support being in the present moment:
Practicing S-T-O-P or simply taking one or two deep breaths in moments like that can help to break the reactivity cycle.
S – Stop, T- Take a breath, O- Observe, P- Proceed.
Maybe say it out loud or just to yourself: “Reactivity. This is what being reactive feels like.” Create a little space with your breath and then return to your intentions.
Want some help dealing with provocative posts?
Here is a decision tree with a few questions that I find helpful.
Question: Am I feeling reactive?
A little: I start with taking a couple of breaths and then proceed with caution. Very: I try postponing my reply for a while.
Am I ready to reply?
Question: Do I have something valuable to contribute (using the 5 questions above)?
If no: I don’t respond.
If yes: I ask the next question:
Question: Is there a chance that the other person can actually take in what I’m saying or if others on the thread can? Because if they are triggered they probably can’t hear what I want to share with them and opposing might just fan the flames of their anger.
If no: If I suspect they can’t hear me, I don’t respond.
If yes: I will post.
If my decision tree ended up at “don’t respond” there is one more question I ask myself.
Question: Is the post disrespectful or harmful or do I suspect the poster is a troll?
If not: I leave the post sitting. I think that not responding is a powerful answer in itself.
If yes: I will unfriend, unfollow, or block the person. And I delete their post if it’s on my timeline. I don’t allow people to poison my space.
In a nutshell: I try not to b*tch.
Happy posting! Let’s make social media part of our mindfulness practice and be the good change we are looking for on social media.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below how you are practicing social media these days?