I’ve been quiet for a while. I’ve not been posting, writing, sharing…I’ve turned inward. I needed time for myself. I didn’t want to be on social media.
After a couple of days and weeks, I began to feel this obligation to “get back out there”, to “stay connected”. It filled me with dread. I didn’t feel like sharing. So, I didn’t. I focused on what my mind and body were trying to tell me. I’m still working through it. But while I was working on it, a beautiful thing happened. I wanted to share the experience. After a month of no blog articles, very little posts and zero desire to be seen, I wanted to share. Not the wisdom, but the struggle.
Sometimes we feel that we can only share the triumphs. We can only show people the good side of who we are. We can only show the successes. Everything else is too vulnerable. Too difficult. Too messy. It’s not good enough. We’re not good enough.
We live in a world where likes and heart emojis are a sign of our worth.
We post to share our experiences. To express ourselves. We want to feel connected. We want others to appreciate and value us. We want to feel we are understood and accepted.
So, we post that picture or thoughtful message and we wait.
The rest of our day is spent sporadically checking our phone; hopeful to see those sweet little emojis. Each one is a hit of dopamine. A happy chemical released in our brain, designed for rewarding us for behaviours that are beneficial to our wellbeing.
That’s how we evolved. It’s a beautiful design. We do something that’s good for survival, our brain tells us we’ve done well. It rewards us with this surge of happiness. Do it again, it says.
I’d imagine the dopamine our ancestors got for social interactions were slightly more survival-based than some of the ones today. An early Homo Sapien who connected with a new friend finding food together, would get a hit of dopamine. And that experience could be the difference between making it through the winter or not. I’m not sure the same level of importance should be taken on whether people like my avocado on toast with chia seeds.
Still, we’ve evolved to seek pleasure and reward. It’s in our make-up. We’re all addicts. We all want dopamine release. It just so happens that we’re all unique enough to seek it in different ways.
For a huge majority of us, social media is a quick and easy tool for getting our fix. We want to have that feel-good chemical, so we post.
Initially, I didn’t really like social media. Sure, I had a Facebook account like all the other millions of people, but I didn’t spend hours of my day scrolling through it. I logged on, checked to see if there were any new photos of my nieces and nephews in America, and then I signed off.
For years, I was happy with this method. I didn’t have any desire to share anything of my own. I just found it a useful tool for “staying connected” AKA, knowing vaguely what’s happening with my family that are 5,000 miles away from me.
But the problem I find now is that I want to share more. Not because it’s in my nature, but because I’ve found that some of my experiences have really helped the people around me. I’ve shared with my friends, colleagues and clients and seen the way it helps them to feel connected. Naturally, I want to do more. I get that dopamine hit when I help someone. It makes sense to grow that. To share with more people. Social media is the tool to do it.
Even through my certification of Holistic Wellness Coaching, social media played a big role. You’ve got to do it in order to reach more people.
The problem for someone like me, is that my value and contribution to the world should not feel validated by the number of likes I get. I appreciate that everyone seeks different things and that it’s what makes this world beautiful. But for me, I cannot be tethered to the idea that the number of likes is directly related to my connection with the world around me. I’ve always been someone who wants one true friend rather than 20 acquaintances. I’ve always wanted one deep conversation rather than 20 quick interactions.
Social media isn’t really designed for that.
Yes, I use it as a tool to reach more people but alongside that I have to be very careful not to get absorbed in numbers. In the beginning, that was hard. I have 167 followers on Instagram. My dear friend’s Instagram page for her house plants has more than that (who doesn’t love house plants, right? @junglebytheriver ).
But the followers, the number of likes and the comments do not determine the value of me or my content.
In the past, I’ve had a couple people message me privately to say that a post about mindfulness or depression or self-care has been exactly what they needed to hear when they needed to hear it. Ultimately, that is all that matters for me. That is my purpose for social media. I shouldn’t need someone to tell me that. I just need to remind myself of that purpose.
We don’t always know who we impact by being ourselves. Sometimes we hope that social media can help us capture that idea into numbers but it’s just not always the case. Always be true to yourself. Don’t seek approval from numbers unless that is your purpose.
The dance between social media and wellbeing can sometimes be as beautiful and fluid as a ballet. Other times it’s the equivalent of Bambi on ice. If you struggle with your wellbeing and feel that social media is playing a part, it’s your responsibility to question what purpose it has in your life and if you are using it to that purpose.
Social media was designed to connect people. Make sure that you are connecting in a way that is authentic to you. Afterall, the world is a beautiful place when we feel accepted for who we truly are. Not the person we think the world needs to see.
Top Tips for Social Media Wellbeing:
-Don’t feel you need to be on social media all the time. Take a day off, take a week off, take a month off. If you need to turn inward for self-reflection, social media will not help. Step away from it for a while. Delete the social media app from your phone or use a tracking tool to monitor how much time you spend.
-Don’t compare yourself to others. If you are doing this and it has a negative impact on your wellbeing, remove the people that you are comparing yourself to.
-Be authentic to you. Don’t share what other people are sharing just to get likes unless it resonates well with you. Lip syncing videos are all the rage for wellbeing on Instagram but I’m pretty sure you won’t see me making one of those anytime soon. Never say never but it’s just not my style, and that’s OK.
-Ask yourself why you use each of your social media apps. Are you getting what you need out of it? If you aren’t, question how you can use it differently or question whether you really need it anymore.