If social media has become our food, how well are you nourishing yourself?
Women's Circle "The role of social media in our lives"
For a few of us, social media is a positive, inspirational place. But for many of us, the way we engage with social media is also a source of tension in our lives—from making us feel numb and distracted from what we really want to do, to making us feel lonely and unsatisfied with our lives/looks (“I look so fat in that picture”, “everyone else seems to be having a great time expect me”, “my life ‘looks’ great, but at the moment I feel like shit”)
This Women's Circle left me thinking about a podcast I recently heard, where Judson Brewer, Director of Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness, talked about “reward-based learning”.
Since ancient times, our brains have been wired so we’d know how to avoid danger and remember where food (our reward) is, “you eat the food, and then your body sends this dopamine signal into the brain that says remember what you ate and where you found it.”
This biological structure helped us in the past— it kept us alive as a species. But this behavior is not serving us in the same away anymore. According to Brewer, our reward-based learning can also be responsible for our unhealthy habits, in his words: “maybe I can eat food when I'm stressed out, or eat food when I'm sad or when I'm depressed and I'll feel better because I get that dopamine hit.”
For many of us, social media is becoming our food.
When we need to do something uncomfortable or scary (write a long email, prepare a proposal, have a difficult conversation), our brain says wait! just check Instagram to distract yourself, avoid the unpleasant emotion and get that dopamine hit.
There are so many autopilot behaviors associated to our social media use. But what became clear throughout the night, is that we all want to become more conscious users. We all desire for social media to be a place that lifts us up, makes us feel good (beyond the quick dopamine hit) and connected to other people.
Key takeaways (aka Healthy Social Media Protocol)
- Curate your feed. Unfollow those people who bring you down or feed your self-doubt (unless you get turn them into a source of inspiration).
- Take breaks when you feel like it. Close your accounts, have social media free days/weeks.
- Consume responsibly. Be aware of the autopilot behavior (i.e.: using Facebook as an escape every time we are bored), and consciously choose when to check our feed.
- Share consciously (with intention). Not just creating content for the sake of creating content but for the sake of connecting, inspiring others and even healing ourselves i.e.: showing the world (and us) that we are—and can be—OK after a difficult breakup…
- Think of connection as a compass. Being aware if engaging with social media is making you feel connected or lonely/detached.
Things to experiment with
On a scale of 1-10, how good/inspired/connected do you feel after using social media? What needs to change so you can increase that number? Try doing that this week.
The Women's Circle is a a monthly event that brings together a small group of women to talk—with vulnerability and openness—about key sensitive topics in our lives (i.e.: self-confidence, dealing with fear, etc). If you know anyone who may be interested in participating, feel free to forward this link and have them subscribe to the newsletter.