Social media is an essential and inescapable part of our lives today. If you are reading this blog, you have most likely discovered it through social media or, at the very least, an internet search. The world wide web is a wonderful thing, as it has spurred much progressive thought, the sharing of opinions, and cross cultural dialogues. All of these are incredibly positive things: mainly due to the connectivity which many more people can participate in, despite being miles away or even across the world.
Social media also has many faults. Since there is no true filter for what words we all share on various social media platforms, a lot of toxicity, ego, and collective fear and pain are shared alongside the positivity and engagement that these websites promote. How we use social media designates what kind of energy we expose ourselves to and how it affects us in our daily life.
If we own a smart phone, we’re probably guilty of endlessly scrolling through feeds on our favorite social media platform. This usually occurs when we are waiting to catch a bus, killing time before meeting someone, we're bored in the bathroom, or we're procrastinating from work. Exposing ourselves to a flow of information and content is not inherently toxic. It is possible to come across things in this pursuit that will bring us down, but there is also a lot of uplifting an inspirational material. What accounts we choose to follow most often determine what our feeds, dashboards, and home pages are composed of.
The first part of introducing a deeper consciousness to our use of social media involves selectively following specific accounts. This doesn't mean avoiding all hard to handle material, since being socially aware of the difficult things in our world or supporting a friend who is going through a hard time maybe worthwhile and a productive use of our energy. The key is to be aware of what we our exposing ourselves too and how much of a certain type of content we can handle. Following things that glorify pain, are incessantly egoic or toxic, or we are following due to the perceived obligation rather than an actual want, may be draining our energy more than filling our mind up with interesting stories and tidbits. Taking some time to revisit our accounts and filter the content we expose ourselves to is the first step in being more aware of the energy within social media platforms. Remember, you don’t have to cross your own boundaries just to support someone else.
We are all very aware of the stereotypical “social media drama.” Discussions and conversations are not specifically dramatic, as differing opinions can be respectfully approached and do create important and necessary dialogues. How these situations are handled denotes the type of energy created on the social media platform, post, or feed. When we become involved in a conversation like this, it is vital that we pay attention to how we are expressing ourselves. There is nothing wrong with commenting on how we are feeling, or how the other person has invalidated us or created a toxic or unsafe environment, if such a situation arises. But to promote the invalidation of another will automatically create a toxic situation, erase empathy, and not lead to constructive dialogue.
It is also vital for us to pay attention to the words of the other person we are in discussion with. With social media and the inherent lack of body language and vocalized tone, there is a certain necessity to provide each other with the benefit of the doubt. Clearly, there are some situations where individuals’ intentions are very clear, antagonistic, or invalidating. Yet, time and time again on social media platforms, we will jump to assumptions in cases that are not any of these. If you are active on such platforms, you have probably witnessed this or experienced it firsthand. It is painful, as is any sort of assumption made against us or another.
When the intention of an individual is ambiguous, it will serve us best to open up conversation rather than make assumptions about what they were thinking or how they have come to create a specific thought process. When it comes to activism on social media, this is especially important, since not everyone has had the same experiences or information available to them. Although it is not anyone’s duty to educate another, some individuals may not be aware that education is needed and that they must pursue it on their own. Usually, after a short conversation and dialogue, it is very clear to see the intention of an individual and whether they genuinely want to learn, or if they are resistant, where it is then best for you to let them go.
The constant pursuit of toxic conversations with resistant people seems also be often seen on social media platforms. The idea of taking down oppressive voices is extremely positive, but it is rarely this intent which drives conversations against resistant individuals. When someone is resisting, it is possible but unlikely that a single conversation will get through to them. At some point, it becomes more mindful to simply leave the conversation and allow the individual to learn from other experiences, much like when we choose to cut toxic people out of our lives. This concept applies beyond our personal relationships and onto those of the internet. The Universe will always provide opportunities for healing and growth to these individuals, but it simply may not be our charge in that moment to awaken the individual. Continuing to do so may only foster more drama or drain us of energy that we could spend pursuing more viable leads.
Lastly, making a conscious decision of scrolling through our internet feeds is essential for controlling how social media affects our energy and mentality. Choosing to browse is not a innately something that will drain us, but if we allow it to absorb us and become an automatic action rather than a conscious one, it will very likely zap our energy. Like all actions, on the Internet or in “real life,” if we are driven by auto pilot, we are not consciously experiencing the moment and—therefore—we are not fostering a mindful life.
Like with all things, bringing conscious awareness to interactions is the foundation that we all need to foster to live such mindful lives. Breaking the cycle of automated conditioning that we all experience with social media will be an essential step to regaining consciousness over our actions. How we express ourselves, what material we promote ourselves stumbling upon, and how we interact when conflicts arise are things essential for every aspect of our lives, not just social media. With the technological structure of today's world, social media is the first place we can start to foster this deeper awareness.