Where would we be without social media! Staying in touch with friends, sharing news and funny animal videos, posting that crazy picture of you a little wasted with friends which you regret the next morning... we love it, don't we?
Social media is all about connecting people. And it does to a large extent – we can stay in touch with family and friends even though they may be hundreds or thousands of miles away. But let's be honest for a minute... how authentic is that connection?
Let's look at some of the words we are using. What do I mean by authentic? When you are authentic, you are able to be yourself. You don't feel you have to hide something, and you can speak freely and openly about how you feel. You are confident in yourself so that you are not socially nervous or anxious about what other people will think.
On the face of it, social media gives us tremendous freedom of expression, but when we use social media we tend to perform. We show off our best clothes, best nights out, best meals and best friends. We compete to see who has the best compliment, sarkiest put-down, or wittiest retort. Facebook almost seems designed to make you jealous of your friends having such a nice time, so you post things that will in turn prove what a great time you are having. How authentic is that, really? How much opportunity is there to have a real conversation, like you would over a cup of tea?
And let's talk about connection. Connecting with another person – when you are in a room, talking to them, and you make a connection with them. It doesn't have to be romantic – it could even be at work. Your make eye contact, you see each other, you discuss something that is important to you, makes you feel something deeply, or makes you laugh out loud. You share some experience together that social media can't come close to.
And we've all done it too... kept someone waiting while we replied to that last crazy comment on one of our Facebook posts, or interrupted the flow of conversation to report the latest badly phrased celebrity tweet.
When we have a conversation in person over lunch, tea or a drink, we experience two way communication. This is balanced and healthy. On the other hand, social media rewards us for talking mostly about ourselves. When we get likes, shares, and re-tweets, our brains are happy and feel rewarded – they signal we've done something good with a strong dose of dopamine. The brain needs to reward us for doing good things for ourselves, so dopamine release is triggered by many things. When we eat food this reward is healthy. When we do drugs it can lead to addiction.1 Social media use gives us this reward so frequently for such little effort that we can quickly become addicted to it... our brains tell us we NEED more, and more, and more....
According to Warren Knight, award winning entrepreneur and social media coach, the average UK citizen spent 2 hours and 13 minutes PER DAY on social media last year.2 Yes, nearly 2 ¼ hours every day. That's over 14 hours a WEEK! Some people say they need an extra day each week to get everything done.... I believe we have found where that day goes! And just to push the point home, that's over 60 hours every month, and 731 hours a year.
If you are looking to be less jealous, more authentically yourself, and to deepen the relationships with the people who matter most in your life, try using social media less.
Then you can have connection with people in your life that looks more like this:
- Make time to be with people. Ring a friend for a chat on the phone instead of messaging them. Schedule a coffee with your mum. Go for drinks after work. Show up! You can even schedule a date with yourself and go to an art gallery, museum or music event – spend time allowing a conversation with yourself to develop (but maybe don't talk out loud to yourself at the museum!) Once you are there....
- Turn your phone off. Just do it. Switch off so that you can switch your SELF on. What are you bringing to the world today? What can you see? Who can you talk to?
- Choose to connect. Ask the other person 'how are you today?' Find out what's going on with them, and share what's going on with you. Strike up a little conversation with someone on the bus or train. Smile at the person at the till – he or she probably doesn't get that very often and it could really make their day. Reach out, and people will respond.
- Get physical. Body connection is powerful, and attractive. Of course in certain circumstances you may get lucky and get to go the whole way and have sex, but there's a lot more to this – simple things you do with your body can make all the difference to your connective power. Focus on your breathing – it will calm you and make you more aware of others and your surroundings. Make eye contact with the stranger next to you in the queue. When you meet a friend give them a warm hug (you can also try this with new people you meet, but just be careful they don't get the wrong idea!) And if you just need to connect with yourself, go for a walk, or get some exercise. Stay connected to your body and you will connect much better with the world and everyone in it.
- Stay present. This takes a little work, but it is so worth it. Notice the smells in the air, that crook in your back that needs a stretch, the warm bitterness of the coffee, the sharp lemon bite on your fish and potatoes, the light penetrating your eyeballs (can you let a bit more in?), and the feel of the wooden table where you sit. Soak up every sensation you can find. It turns out that real life is so beautiful, if we just stop to notice it.
Don't forget that if you want to explore your authentic self more and find greater freedom to express yourself offline, come to our Social Freedom workshops.
Next time: How to use Social Media to become Happier!
(Yes, now that we've made social media out to be the bad guy, we've got to redress the balance!)
- Ghodse H (2010). Ghodse's Drugs and Addictive Behaviour: A Guide to Treatment (4 ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 87–92. ISBN 1-139-48567-9.
Researched and written by: Heidi Hollis