It has been a month since we have been told to stay indoors while the world fights the COVID-19 virus. Non-essentials have been shut down, streets are vacant and spirits have been deflated. Without access to our physical community, social media has turned into society’s confidant, disease expert, news correspondent and friend. Many people are starving for connection and social media is the perfect cure, however, the underlying effects of too much social media use can be detrimental to our health if habits are not being monitored.
I recently watched a Tedx talk from Bailey Parnell, Founder and CEO of Skills Camp, called “Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health?.” Bailey highlighted the need to find ways to curate the content we digest. She goes on to say that anything we (or our loved ones) spend that much time on needs to be critically assessed and I couldn't agree more. It creates an internal monologue that is directed by stories that are created by what we see on our screens. According to Bailey, “abstinence is not an option, so how do you practice safe social?”
Here are Bailey Parnell's five game-changing tips that I am implementing in my daily life to keep calm, positive and hopeful while stuck in quarantine:
1. Complete a social media audit.
What is a social media audit you say? It means taking a closer look at what you are digesting when it comes to constant social scrolling. Are there accounts that you are following that remind you of a negative experience? An ex? Do you follow someone to remind you of how you're supposed to look, feel and act? Remove accounts that lead you to compare or make you question your worth. Sometimes it means removing friends who you no longer feel connected with, or are fueling your negative thoughts. This process helps you gain control of your head and your heart. Not all social media accounts are for everyone and the most important thing you need to protect is yourself. Remember, everyone is doing the best they can during this time including you. Everyone's life is not perfect - no matter how beautiful their photo filters are.
2. Do not attribute your value to how many you “likes” you have.
How many times have you posted a picture and then repeatedly checked the status of your likes and comments? I sure have. We have become a society that thrives on what others think and have built our personas on how others see us. Sure, Instagram influencers base their lives on “likeability” but that does not mean you have to. Unless you are building a business, keep your social feed unique to you - no one else. Refocus your attention on what value you are bringing to the real people in your life that mean something to you. Whether that is a friend, family member, co-worker or your dog, show up for them. They are the ones that matter.
3. Take (many) social media breaks during the day.
Being at home during isolation can be hard and turning to social media to fill a connection fix is easy to do. Constantly checking your phone for the latest updates can turn into an addiction and can lead to the biological response of fear of missing out, otherwise known as FOMO. This means you create social anxiety when you feel you’re missing out on connections, events and experiences. Break this cycle by scheduling space during your day to ensure you commit to time away from your screen. Meditate, write in a journal, call someone on the phone (what an idea!). Take small steps at first and then start to take larger breaks when you start to feel comfortable. When you do this, you will realize how much time we waste on social media and how it can sometimes control us. This leads me to the next point .
4. Instead of scrolling social media, ask yourself what productive or positive things could you be doing right now?
Make a list of all the things you would like to be doing and write them down and put them into your schedule. If some of those things are out of your control - remove them. Want to start that online course? Sign up. Finish reading that book you started months ago, pick a unique recipe to make each night, grab some paint and canvas and start to paint. Develop creative activities for you and your kids to do that does not include school work. Giving yourself a schedule with things to do outside of what you think you should be doing right now will provide a sense of freedom and purpose that is much needed right now.
5. Use social media for good, not evil.
Did you know that according to a US Cyber bullying study, nearly 40% of adults have experienced online harassment? Not only that, 73% of adults have witnessed online harassment. To me, that number is staggering. Together, we can change this statistic. Social media can be used for good. Since the start of quarantine, I have seen my communities coming together from around the world in support of each other on social media. Whether it is sharing messages of hope, tips on how to move through a crisis, or silly videos that are meant to make you laugh. In an ideal world, social media can be the glue that holds us together. To be able to connect with others globally is exactly what we need right now. We need messages of hope, happiness and gratitude. We need to be kind to each other because we do not know when this trip on earth ends. Find ways to spread kindness and share it with others. Reach out to a friend who may be suffering during this time, or maybe even offer your support to anyone who may be in need through a video or social post. These acts of kindness are the antidote to hate, anger and darkness.
Personally, I have found myself lurking on social media more than I should be. We have accepted this behaviour as our new normal and our direct access point to the outside world. Not only are millennials using social media 24/7, but people of all ages are using social media to fill their time and most of all become “informed” with the world news. I have watched many people become swallowed by not only social media but media in general . Now more than ever, we all need to be responsible for staying connected digitally while becoming increasingly mindful and socially aware.