I was a late adopter of the whole social media thing.
Reluctantly, I joined FB in 2009 – which was pretty late to the party – and I’m just now sticking a toe into the Instagram waters. Admittedly, to this day I remain terrified of LinkedIn and am honestly so overwhelmed by Twitter that it makes my head spin.
I suppose it’s sort of weird that I feel this way. These are just new ways to talk to people (or, at least, they were new).
And God knows, I love talking to people.
But this method of talking seemed sort of hollow or artificial or something. It felt one-dimensional - like we had all become little magazines for one another to consume.
Initially, it really creeped me out.
Of course, I got used to it. I grew to appreciate the immediate re-connection with people I rarely see anymore, the ever-expanding circle of a like-minded tribe, and the ability to see into circles that are so different than my own.
Communicating and connecting has always been the main driver for me – trying to understand myself and others. I can’t turn it off.
In childhood, it made paying attention in school difficult because I was thinking about the teacher and the kids around me more than the subject on the board.
Now, my husband laughs at me at concerts because he watches the stage and I watch the audience.
To me, people are amazing.
At a concert, their energy is united. And when so many of them are in one place, simply loving the same thing together, the energy is palpable … and almost overwhelming. Everyone (not just the geek watching the audience) feels it.
There’s something to that. And I’m beginning to believe that social media creates that same kind of energy – an energy that permeates the glass and connects us – for better or for worse.
In truth, it's the intention we have in using social media that matters. The attention we pay to it, in the moment that we’re on it, that holds the power to electrify and connect us or deplete and divide us.
Think about those concert halls. If we were to look into the FB profiles of every person there, in the very moment where the energy is highest and visceral – we would discover a myriad of backgrounds, opinions, and (in today’s political climate,) polar opposites.
And yet, in that space and moment, they are connected. They are one. They are a community. They belong to each other, and it’s breathtaking.
No doubt creating that energy of connection is a bit more challenging in a virtual setting. People so easily become those little magazines – just a highlight reel of opinions that are like or unlike yours, of modern day Norman Rockwell scenes that trigger the reflex of social comparison, and of comments (whether edited or impulsive) that only offer a glimpse of a real conversation. But I believe we can truly tap into the connection available in social media - if we practice a mindful approach to it.
Use mindfulness to experience your world as fresh and new.
PAY ATTENTION: Notice your own energy as you scroll through the posts on your FB, IG, LinkedIn, or Twitter feed.
● What sorts of posts build your energy in a productive and useful way? These don’t need to be things you agree with. Productive, useful energy inspires problem solving, creativity, connection, etc….
● What sorts of posts energetically drain you? What about them specifically shuts you down, makes you angry, frustrated or hopeless?
RELEASE JUDGEMENT: Intentionally separate people from their actions. This may sound counter-intuitive. Fear not, you needn’t change your opinion about how they behave or what they believe. You may discover however that by separating the two, you can learn to protect your own energy from being drained and then use it in ways that build and add to the conversation.
● Choose one or two people whose posts or comments deflate or anger you and scroll through their profile.
● Make note of at least 3 things that you can relate to. (For example: They love their pets…)
● Notice where your own judgement gets in the way of your energy around problem solving, creativity, connection, etc….
SHOW UP INTENTIONALLY: As you engage on social media ask yourself the following questions:
● How much of myself am I filtering for “the magazine?”
● Who are the insiders in my circle and how authentically do I communicate there? How can I deepen the conversation to be more like my non-virtual connections?
● How much of what I post elevates the overall energy?
● Which circles or people do I want to disengage myself from because the energy there is not productive.
When we show up as whole and real, when we can release enough judgement to respect every human on the other side of the screen (regardless of their beliefs), when we are intentional about the energy we’re putting out there, that is when we can and will build a community of creativity, of problem solvers, of innovations and ultimately of deep connection.