Social Media: Helpful or Harmful?
Ten years ago I despised social media. I felt that it created more distance between people than connection. Then my son became a teenager. He saved to buy his first phone and with that came his desire to communicate with his buddies on social media. I remember being torn between my reluctance for him to become caught up in what I felt to be anti-social addiction and my acceptance with the reality that these platforms were becoming THE way for kids of his generation to communicate. We caved and allowed him to use Facebook under the condition that I would also join Facebook and he would have to friend me so that I could monitor his posts. (In retrospect, what a nightmare for him!)
What I have enjoyed through Facebook (and now Instagram) over the years, is that social media has allowed me to communicate and connect with friends from all over the world who I wouldn't normally email on a regular basis. I love seeing pictures of my friend's kids growing up and reading the interesting articles they post. I love these shared stories of hope, of people overcoming adversity, of brilliant people all over the world creating innovative solutions to the mounting problems our world faces. These stories make me feel inspired, hopeful, open hearted and they begin to generate my own creative ideas on how I can be of service and make some kind of positive contribution within my community.
I think we all get bombarded enough with the destructive, hateful, inhumane ways we treat each other, our planet and animals. Our newsfeeds are full of negativity. Everywhere we look there are cynical broadcasts of doom and gloom. When I see posts like these I feel outrage, fear, anger and often hopelessness for our world and for our kid's futures, just as I'm sure you do. A sense of helpless paralysis creeps in, the world's problems seem so big - how could any effort on my part create a meaningful impact?
So I decided a while ago that while it may not change anything at all, I can make a decision to only share beauty, inspiration, creativity and solutions-oriented ideas in my posts. My intention is to add to the collective field of creativity and inspiration and hopefully that will ripple out and uplift others so they are inspired to do the same.
This may be seen by some as a "head in the sand" approach to life or that I am only looking at the world "through rose colored glasses". I see it differently. I know the world is full of pain and suffering. And I also know that if I have any chance of keeping any kind of sanity and balance in my life, I need to limit my exposure to negativity, accept the present moment as it is, do what I can to change what isn't working and keep looking for the good.
So this is not about passivity and doing nothing to change an awful state of affairs. Far from it. Rather, it advocates an approach used by yogis and wisdom teachers from all over the world. We see and feel what is going on in the world - the wonderful and the appalling. We may immediately have a feeling of horror and rejection at what is going on, however the practice is to accept it. After all, it is already happening. This is not easy. Allow yourself to feel all the dark ugly feelings that come up. Take several long, slow deep breaths and bring your attention to what you are feeling in your body - maybe a clenching in your gut or a tightening in your throat. Keep breathing and focus on the inhales and exhales. Focusing on your breathing is a powerful tool and will help you find your center again.
We may not like the current situation, but when we choose to breathe deep and stay with what is going on in a relaxed and centered way, we are able to access a wiser, more creative part of our brains. From that place of wisdom, we are better able to "think outside of the box", respond and then act and hopefully improve the situation. When we react to the atrocities in the world with outrage, fear and rejection, we are operating from another, more primal part of our brain which does not have the same access to creativity and problem solving. Albert Einstein supposedly said that we can't solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it, so there ya go.
We can't control everything happens in our lives and in the world, which stinks, I know. What we CAN control is how we respond to what is going on. When it comes to social media, it cuts like a knife - it can be helpful or harmful, depending on our intention, how aware we are when we use it and how much we use it.
So instead of adding more hysteria and fear into the collective, we can do our part in spreading helpful information, creativity, innovation and beauty. And guess what? If we can be more mindful about what we share and what we spend our time absorbing, we just might all feel a teeny bit more chilled and happy, which may improve our relationships, which may create more harmony in our families, which may lift our communities and maybe even change the world. Can't hurt, right?
All it takes is bringing our Attention to what we are sharing, our Intention to spread the good and the uplifting and the Will to act on it. Who's with me?