Most of us have a love-hate relationship with social media. We love it because it’s basically the ‘new world’ way of communicating and it’s an awesome one at that. We hate it because… well, you can probably think of some reasons why you sometimes hate it.
People deal with the negative aspects of social media differently. Some people go on digital detoxes, some have screen time rules, some delete their accounts altogether while others don’t do anything at all. Understandably, social media is very alluring and addictive so I totally understand the latter.
While any of the above strategies can be helpful and I also use them from time to time, I have a specific way of approaching all of my personal social media accounts. The approach combines mindfulness practices and self-awareness. It creates a comfortable environment where I can discern the online world from reality and ultimately, protect my mental health.
A Little Back Story
A few years ago, I started a personal Instagram account that followed my fitness journey along with a few snaps here and there of my personal life. It was intended to be one for my partner and I but it quickly grew to having over 25,000 followers. Although that’s not considered ‘too’ high of a following (to say, 100,000 followers), it was still a good following with amazing engagement. As any young girl, I was thrilled with the attention, the engagement and the popularity. It was the validation to myself especially to my self-esteem and self-confidence which I had never received to this extent before.
So why did I suddenly deactivate it, then a few days later, chose to delete it altogether?
I simply felt like I outgrew my Instagram. The account was made a few years back and as the years passed, I grew up, matured and my heart and mind moved onto other things. There were more important avenues I wanted to pursue. Fitness (especially weight lifting), which was what my niche was, became slightly more personal for me and I didn’t like how it defined me in real life. I remember becoming anxious at always looking good at the gym, having correct form or lifting heavy… in case someone saw me! Also, the types of photos I used to post weren’t my style anymore and I wanted to do something different.
The Anticipation of Regret
Aside from that, an even more important question is: how did I not feel an inch of uneasiness as I deleted it? I anticipated regret in the seconds, minutes and days after but I was pleasantly surprised. There wasn’t the slightest feeling of it then and now. It was so easy and it felt so natural to delete it and move on.
The answer to that question is what I want to share with everyone here.
I believe it’s so important to understand this because there is no denying that we’re in the era of significant technological change. Social media will continue to be a massive part of our lives. Different platforms may come and go, or perhaps it will be transformed into something beyond our imagination. So we have to adapt. There are many negative things about social media but the positive things are also marvellous. So how can we reap the benefits of social media while minimising its downfalls?
A Mindful Way to Approach Social Media
The key is to dissociate our being and true self from it.
That was how I was able to delete my semi-successful Instagram without feelings of dread, agony, regret or whatever you want to call it. I left with peace and a sense of calmness. It was how I managed to move on despite my friends asking if I’m crazy or telling me how any young girl would love to have my account!
For a long time, I had already separated my Instagram from my reality. Although it didn’t start off like that, I learnt to seek validation from myself and from those who matter to me the most such as my partner, my close friends and family. Not the likes and comments on my posts.
I became more aware of the exact moment in time I would start on a self-depreciating quest of comparing myself to others on Instagram. So I knew it was time to log out, run, practice mindfulness, look in the mirror and know that I’m not less.
Adding on to that, I had my own social media terms and conditions. I took responsibility knowing that most Instagram pictures were likely photoshopped and filtered, it was kind of a ‘use at your own risk’ acknowledgement.
I became more mindful of what I posted on my stories… was it impeding on me living in that present moment or did I feel like posting a cute picture of my dogs would also make others happy? Did I really need to show off to other people that I bought new clothes? Not really.
But most importantly, I learnt that my Instagram was not me. I simplified my view of it. It was just a platform for sharing nice pictures and engaging with like-minded people, nothing more. I was extremely grateful and appreciative of my followers, but I made sure I stayed humble. A lot of my close friends would tell you that I disliked it when someone whom I had just met found out about my Instagram. I wanted them to know me, not this alter ego or the assumptions they made after looking at my feed.
Using Social Media Wholesomely
The good thing about dissociating yourself from your account is that you still can be active everyday and post as many pictures, stories or videos as you want. It just means that you detach your sense of self-worth from it. You know the likes only provide temporary, short-lived happiness (and it’s okay to relish in it!) because you already find happiness in yourself and what truly matters to you.
Deep down, you have so much respect for yourself that you know your true value and beauty. The likes and comments are just ego boosters. If you received less likes than you anticipated, you attribute it to people simply not seeing your photo or the Instagram algorithm is just whacky – nothing more and definitely not about you.
I’ve written a more in-depth article with 10 ways we can use social media mindfully if you want to check it out.
Your Mental Health Matters
I encourage everyone to approach their personal social media with this mindset. It helps to protect ourselves from the downfalls of social media especially those that are related to our mental health.
We’re all beautiful people with beautiful minds so it’s important to protect ourselves from anything that says otherwise.