Bringing a Bit of Mindfulness to Social Media

When I wake up in the morning, I often find myself somewhat mindlessly picking up my phone and scrolling through social media. I don’t think this is terribly uncommon. If I don’t have a strict agenda, I can sometimes find myself doing this for over an hour. I tell myself I’m letting my mind wake up to the day, catching up… but I really don’t think there’s a lot of value to it. Sure, there are often small delights that friends share, or something particularly noteworthy, or a news story that I should be aware of. More often that not, it’s just chatter. There is sometimes value to chatter, but I’m not sure it should be the first thing my waking mind experiences every morning.

Worst of all is the state of my mind while doing this though, or perhaps the lack of any mind state. It’s usually completely mindless. I do it without really realizing it. Before long, I’ll have spent a good portion of my morning reading the idle thoughts of others. At the same time I find myself rushing to find a spare moment to compose, to think, to relax, to do anything I care about.

The “social” in “social media” is a bit deceptive. Much of the time it’s not very social at all; we simply litter a crowded platform with our thoughts. And that’s when we’re actually posting to it; at it’s worst, we’re consuming this mental litter, dumpster-diving for the dankest memes, the hottest takes, a bit of idle titillation as we go about our days. Occasionally it is really wonderful the kinds of emergent dialogues that develop, but I can’t help but think there’s a better place for these kinds of interactions.

I don’t plan on giving up social media altogether as folks like Cal Newport recommend; as someone about to become full-time self-employed, it has too many benefits for reaching out to potential collaborators/clients/customers/fans/fellow-humans. Still, I can’t help but think that we could become a bit more minimalist and mindful with the way we use social media (…and by “we” I most definitely mean “I”). This idea isn’t particularly new or exciting, but for me at least, a reminder is well overdue.

So here’s what I’m going to do, and I invite you to join me.

The next time you find yourself mindlessly browsing social media…

  • Don’t immediately close the browser/app and go along with your day; keep scrolling through your feed
  • Ask yourself how you’re feeling
    • Do you feel relaxed?
    • Tense?
    • At ease?
    • Do you feel love or compassion?
    • Anger, hatred?
    • Satisfaction?
    • A kind of “hunger”?
  • Keep scrolling
  • Watch how this feeling changes
    • (…Or maybe it feels static?)
  • After a minute or so of this, go ahead and close it and move on with your day, but keep watching how you feel
    • Is there a sense of relief?
    • A sense of “missing out”?
    • Do you feel a pull back to the app/website?

Do this for as long as you can as often as you can. See what you notice. Whatever small amount of mindfulness you can bring to your social media habits are bound to at least help you understand them a bit.

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