In our digital age social media is a powerful tool. It helps us meet people with similar interests or keep in touch with past or current friends. It makes communication quick and easy. Social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Tik-Tok are made to catch and keep our attention. A survey recently published showed that “the average daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 145 minutes per day.” With how much time we devote to social media it is important to know how it affects us. Just like it’s important to know how the food we eat will affect us, it is important to know how the social media we view will affect us. Unfortunately there is a dark side to social media. Using it often can negatively impact our mental and emotional health. It can also greatly reduce our attention span which is important for learning and real life connections. A study performed in Canada showed that students that spent 2 or more hours a day on social media were significantly more likely to report poor-fair mental health as opposed to the students who had less or no interaction on social media. So...On average we are using social media for more than 2 hours a day, and by doing so are shown to report lower mental health scores. What is this telling us?!
Try this exercise for the next few days. Each time you end a social media session, notice how you feel. Did your time spent scrolling social media feeds make you happier? Based on my own experience and several studies, I would be willing to bet nine times out of ten your social media session will make you more stressed and more sad than before you started (not to mention just an overshadowing numbing feeling). Have you ever tried to remember what you saw or watched in the previous 20 minutes during your endless scroll? If not, you should.
“Some of y'all on instagram you're on there for 30 minutes If I ask you what you saw you don’t know! You're just scrolling through. That's a poverty mindset!” Eric Thomas
So how do you fight these negative effects of social media? Sure you could be brave and cold turkey delete all of your social media apps. But if that feels too extreme to you I have another solution. Start by trading some of the time you spend on social media with meditation. Meditation can offset the negative effects of social media by helping you become truly connected with the world and people around you, enhance your self acceptance, and increase attention span. What part of that sounds unappealing to you? ;)
Meditation will help you become more connected (FOMO)
It’s common to have your social media feeds filled with pictures of vacations, parties, and lavish get togethers. Seeing all of these perfect lives while leaving out reality can be a big problem. An article for the New York Times says Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) “refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media”. FOMO can create stress and feelings of social isolation. It’s easy to wonder why you aren’t invited to those parties. We start to feel a pull to do more so that we don’t get left behind. If we don’t change how we do things we feel like we will lose our connections with our friends and then possibly even lose our friends! Our thoughts can easily take a downward spiral. Does this sound somewhat familiar to you? If so, you’re at the right place.
This is where meditation can come in. One type of meditation focuses on mindfulness. Mindfulness is where you quiet your mind and tune in to your breath. You acknowledge what is happening right in that moment. You acknowledge emotions you are feeling and then let those emotions pass through. This practice can help you when you see unrealistic posts. Instead of getting swallowed in them and pulled into a dark place. You can see the posts, acknowledge any feelings they evoke and then like watching a storm pass from your window you are able to let those feelings pass. The feelings come but when you are actively practicing meditation or mindfulness their power over you is greatly diminished. As you continue to practice you are truly able to stay calm and reassured in the choices you have made for your life.
“In today's rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just Being.” Eckhart Tolle
Meditation will increase your self esteem
It is no secret that social media can decrease self esteem. Our world is competitive. So when we read posts about people doing amazing things and see photos of gorgeous people we start to compare. We get trapped in the mindset that we aren’t enough. If only we would realize that social media posts only show one moment in time. These moments can be (and frankly usually are) doctored to look like the best of the best. Using the mindfulness technique that you practice during meditation can help you realize that. However, to stop the comparison game with these unrealistic posts we need to ungloo from our screens. Turn off instagram and turn your attention inward. Take time to focus on the miracle that you are! When you take time to pause and listen to your breath you start to realize what a gift life truly is. No matter what it looks like, the fact that you have a body that is breathing and living is pretty amazing. There are meditation practices that use the repetition of mantras to increase self acceptance and love. Try repeating “I am amazing” or “I am enough”. In time, this repetition can have strong effects and actually rewire your brain. Even if you are feeling down and don’t believe the words you are saying at the moment with enough repetition you can actually reprogram your brain towards positivity. Taking this time to pause helps you focus on your reality and recommit to live for yourself and not to live to try and keep up with someone else.
Meditation will Increase your Attention Span
A study performed by Microsoft showed “since the year 2000 (the year when the mobile revolution surged) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.” Think about it. When you scroll through your twitter feed, how many different ideas are you jumping to in just a minute. So many! Our brains adjust to this fast rate of input. When we put our phones down and try to read a book or have a conversation we can easily get bored because the rate of input is much slower. This hinders our ability to learn or make meaningful connections in real life. A study on mindfulness meditation noted that short 10 minute meditation sessions can improve attention spans. This finding is impactful because the participants were not experienced meditators. So you don’t need to feel intimidated if you have never meditated before. Simply make the decision to put your phone down and tune in to your body. You can start with 5 minutes and overtime increase the amount of meditation time. Your attention will actually increase resulting in numerous benefits. If you’re looking for a place to just get started I recommend I love the Calm app. The more I use it, the more I like it. It's amazing how it has trained me to see my thoughts before they turn into emotions so I can respond with awareness rather than fight, flight, or freeze.
Meditation has been around since at least 1500 BCE. Many people saw the benefits and would pass down the practice from generation to generation. With our modern digital age meditation is a solution to the pitfalls of the vast influence of social media. Meditation can put a stop to FOMO by helping us acknowledge the feelings we have when we see posts. Meditation can increase our self acceptance and build our self esteems through the use of mantras and affirmations. Meditation can open our mind and our world by increasing our attention span. Alright time to do another experiment of your own. Start small, meditate for five or ten minutes. When the meditation is over, think about how you feel. My bet is you will have an increase of feelings of self worth and calm positivity. And who couldn’t use a little more of that in their lives right now?