I seriously doubt most people would consider using social media and technology a “mindful” experience. For me at least, the adjectives that come to mind are more like anxious, frustrating, disheartening, and scattered. Ick.
A lot of us are embracing mindfulness in other areas of our life–mindful meditation and yoga are huge trends right now, after all–but how soon we forget when we see a Facebook post about someone’s promotion or an Instagram photo of our friend’s engagement. Then there are feelings and comparisons, right?
It’s time to shift our focus on social media. But first, let’s define mindfulness (courtesy of “Psychology Today“): “A state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
Ah, yes. Here’s how to put mindfulness into action when you’re on your smartphone or tablet.
While texting…choose your timing wisely.
There’s a time and a place for texting. It’s super convenient if you’re making plans or if you need to catch up with someone quickly, on your own time. But if you’re texting your friend while in line at Starbucks or while you’re hanging out with other friends, you’re missing out on everyday opportunities for interactions and getting to know other people. Those opportunities are everywhere, we just don’t embrace them anymore.
I have a friend who only answers text messages twice a day: once at lunchtime and once after dinner. All other times, she’s engaging with people IRL. At first, everyone was baffled by her approach to texting, but now I see that she’s got it right and 99 percent of us have it wrong. Commit to choosing a time for answering texts; otherwise, only use text if you’re conveying necessary information, like your location within a restaurant while waiting for your date or telling your BFF what time happy hour ends. Get off the keypad. Be present.
While tweeting…add something to the conversation.
A Twitter newsfeed is a lot like the newspaper headlines of yesterday, conveying important soundbytes of information. In this way, Twitter is a valuable tool for scanning quickly and interacting with people you probably wouldn’t get a chance to interact with otherwise. That said, lots of people tweet too much: too many jokes, too many unnecessary tidbits, too many overshares. If you’re not truly adding to the conversation, you could probably be doing something better with your time IRL.
Try to adopt the “three Cs” mindset on Twitter: consuming, conveying and conversing. You are reading a modern, digital, interactive newspaper. Everything you do within that platform can and should serve a present purpose: consuming what is happening in the larger world right now, conveying what is happening in your personal world right now, or conversing with someone to glean more information. If you’re not growing in knowledge or your tweets aren’t enriching in some way, you’re probably wasting your time.
While on Facebook…look for check-ups, not comparisons.
I know all the traps on Facebook. It’s so easy to get sucked into what we think is happening in other people’s lives, and that newsfeed is absolutely littered with information about your sister, your best friend from high school, and your sister’s best friend from high school. There are tons of people, all at various stages in their own personal journey.
Being mindful on Facebook is all about your attitude toward what others are posting. If you can check yourself every time you see a sparkly engagement ring, job promotion post, or new baby photo and think, “It is not a race to get through these milestones,” you’ll be far better off. Adjust your mindset and enjoy Facebook for what it actually is: a chance to see where other people are in their lives at any given moment, near and far, past and present.
While on Instagram…use it to track your moments.
Lots of social media stars use Instagram as a platform for self-promotion. It’s incredibly easy to flip through photos, mindlessly double-tapping them for “hearts” as we wait for our lunch–and they know we’re all doing that! They can build a business around that (and more power to them). The biggest problem with Instagram is when we start to post photos for personal promotion, trying to gain validation through the number of likes.
Instead of going this route, makeover your mindset. Why do you want to use Instagram in the first place? For me, the number of likes or hearts doesn’t matter. Those are totally afterthoughts, and most of the time I’m not even sure what photos get the most double-taps. Instead, I use Instagram to capture moments. When I think, “Ah, this is great! I want to remember this person/place/event/fill-in-the-blank as it is right now,” I take a photo. And then it becomes a digital memory box. I’ve reflected on those memories as a chance to realize how full and blessed my life truly is–just when I need that reminder.
So, yes: Social media can further our present experience and expand our lives–but only if we’re mindful. Let’s commit to the effective, blissed-out consumption in the Age of Rapid-Fire Information. Who’s with me?