Social Media & Your Mind
For all of the Catholic folks out there, you know we are in the heart of Lent. I would love to hear about what this season has looked like for you thus far. If you’ve followed me for a while you know this is my favorite liturgical time of year. It’s always been a beautiful illustration of the church coming back to all of the spiritual practices that make life rich and then, adding in some extra disciplines to align us closer with Christ’s sacrifice. My Lents look very similar year after year. I’ve always been pretty self-aware and know my vices well. I know what keeps me from my best spiritual life and this season provides the perfect time for change.
This year, I have given myself very strict limitations in regards to phone use, more specifically social media use. I have only been using social media for specific tasks. Using my time on there with a purpose and not mindlessly scrolling. I have been waking up early to spend time in prayer and I don’t check my phone as the start to my day. I am not continuously checking for notifications throughout the day and I plug my phone in during the early evening and it stays there for the night.
Like everything in our human experience, social media is a mixture of good and bad. The connection it can bring us to people who we’d simply never encounter otherwise is incredible. However, sometimes that connection brings us a false sense of closeness. It doesn’t replace face to face interaction or real conversation, yet somehow you’re tricked into thinking it’s the same. Then, there’s the dreaded compare game that happens. This is what brings out my worst. Before I know it, I am comparing my life with that of both strangers and friends, suddenly wanting things that aren’t meant to be mine in this season. And, then there’s the addictive quality that takes you away from reality. In the first week of my limited phone time, I was embarrassed to find myself checking these apps out of muscle memory! Yes, muscle memory. I would pick up my phone and go straight to the app before I even realized what I was doing. The addiction is REAL.
As weeks went on, I was noticing that my mind felt less cluttered. I wasn’t bothered by someone else’s vacation while I was at home working. I didn’t see someone’s perfectly coordinated kids and compare it to my daughter’s Punky Brewster get-up. I didn’t have the desire to redecorate my entire home because I saw a new line of home decor from a designer I love. My mind has been in a much simpler place. A place of contentment in MY life and MY reality. It’s been refreshing and a nice reset for my media diet.
Next, the connection component. I have found myself picking up the phone and making a call to check on a friend instead of searching for a recent post to possibly fill me in. This has brought me back to a time when these conversations were the only way we connected. It feels more genuine because it IS more genuine. Hearing a tone of voice and seeing a facial expression can’t be replaced by a filter and perfectly curated feed. I had missed that real connection and am happy to have it back.
Of course, there are ways to do this the right way all year long (imagine that).
A few questions to consider before scrolling:
Am I seeing posts that make me unhappy?
Do I follow accounts that make me feel like I need to be someone I’m not?
Am I comparing my life with others?
Is the way I use social media affecting my mental health?
Keeping these questions in mind is a great guide when choosing what media to consume. Also, intention. Am I using social media in love? As a place to encourage others, to make my story readily available, to showcase memories OR am I using this as a tool of ego? Frame your social media use with intention and questions that will sift out what may be bringing you down.
This last point does not have to do with my Lenten experience, but it does have to do with a social media topic that comes up quite a bit with the women I work with, so I wanted to throw in my two cents ... Don’t check your ex’s social media! There is absolutely no good that can come from this. The little squares that make up their current life without you are NOT meant for you to see. Oh, but you’re curious? Guess what will happen when you see them? Your healing will be halted. You know all the work you’re putting into feeling better and moving on? The triggers that finally sting less? Yeah, all of that will shift. You are allowing something in that’s not meant for your heart or your mind and mark my words, it will put you in a funk. The worst part? It’s self-inflicted. You decided to look. Frame your social media consumption with the questions I mentioned above, remember how seeing your ex’s posts will make you feel, and then scroll accordingly.
I hope my Lenten lessons will give you something to think about in regards to your own habits. I am thankful for this spiritual season revealing parts of myself that needed pruning. I pray that you will be encouraged to evaluate your own media diet. I pray you are mindful of what you take in and how it affects the state of your heart. I challenge you to be intentional with this because we all know healing is hard enough without us getting in our own way.