January 31, 2019
Do you feel the need to check how many of your friends are reacting to your photos on Facebook? Is the number of the accounts you follow on Instagram increasing every day? Is it hard for you to disconnect from social media at any time of the day? Many of the articles I read to add insight to this blog had something in common: We’re constantly seeking validation and instant gratification on social media and comparing ourselves and our lives with that of others, even with those of celebrities. It seems hard to find contentment in the way our lives unfold. We spend too much time following others and trying to be more like them and many times we forget how great our life already is.
Whether it’s spending long hours on social media, engaging in multiple group chats or having Apps buzzing all the time to remind us to check out the latest fill in the blank, we are consistently being prompted to do something or to react to something on our phones. Thumbs up, hearts, likes, and follows are usually expected.
It seems as though we’re living two lives: one that is in front of us and a virtual one. In both instances we hope to have meaningful experiences and to connect with our loved ones. And although social media gives us that in a myriad of ways, it also robs us from the present happiness if we’re not careful. For example, a study by the University of Pennsylvania found that excessive use of social media leads to depression and anxiety. (Read the summary of the article on Science Daily here.)
It has been over a decade since I opened my Facebook account and I must admit, I have experienced self-doubt and the need for validation by my “friends” there. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that not getting the expected reaction from a social network is not a reflection of who I am or of what my values are. Knowing myself a bit better now as I grow older, I can see the beauty of doing what I love without having to share it with the Facebook world. I also understand that it is a useful tool that brings me closer to my loved ones faraway, especially when you live overseas and that, if used for all the right reasons, it can be a very fun experience.
Another realization I had recently was that, for the most part, our lives on social media are filtered and curated. I know mine is. During a recent conversation with my friends, we all agreed that we tend to post the best photos of ourselves, our most fun adventures and exotic travels or the nicest parts of our lives; leaving aside the struggles, insecurities and feelings of inadequacy most humans experience.
Not all is bleak or negative about spending time on social media. Thanks to our engagement, we learn interesting things, get inspired by new ideas and reconnect with people we couldn’t connect to otherwise.
So how do you find contentment [and joy] in a busy social world? Here are five tips on how to be happy and content in a busy social world without having to give up social media completely.
Invest time in cultivating true connections - Give all of your attention and time to the people in front of you. In a podcast I listened to a while back, the guest said that the most important person is right in front of us, not the one (s) on the phone. Sending replies, messages, photos and emoticons can wait. When you’re an expat, it is specially important spending quality time with the people you like the most as it is inevitable that we will say goodbye over time. Cultivate true connections. Life is short. Change is constant.
Rejoice and be present in those moments that you’ll never get back - If there’s a funny, exciting, wonderful moment, savor it to the fullest. What were the things you enjoyed doing before getting a smartphone? Was it reading or going for long walks? What about enjoying that birthday gathering with your favorite people, the wonderful meal your thoughtful friend prepared for you or the deep conversations you had with your friend who was going through a tough time? Be there. Just there. Those memories will be the most valuable and only possessions you’ll take with you.
Embrace JOMO Vs FOMO - I personally need to start with this one. In an article I read for this post, I found these magic words that deeply resonated with my soul: The Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) is the antidote to the Fear of Missing Out (aka FOMO). For example, a friend of mine, father of three, told me some time ago about how he longed to stay home in his pijamas with his wife and kids instead of attending all the play dates, birthday parties and social events they had every single weekend. He made it sound as though it was almost unattainable. Despite that being his deepest desire, he couldn’t do it. It made me wonder, why are we afraid to say no? Why is it a struggle to do less and feel good about it? Take the day off from social commitments. Give yourself more of what makes you happy.
Enjoy a digital detox day (or hour) - Have you tried leaving your phone away from your desk for an hour? Have you placed it in another room and not touched it for a whole afternoon? What about charging it in a separate area at night to avoid the temptation or setting it up on “airplane mode” at 9 p.m.? According to the Global Mobile Consumer Survey carried out by Deloitte in 2017, millennials check their phones over 80 times per day. (That’s almost 20 times a day!) Many do so even before leaving bed or brushing their teeth. I know there’s fear in not being connected. I always think that if something bad were to happen, only a phone call could save me. I forget, people too could help me out. In this blog post I talk about starting your mornings without using your phone for a smoother, calmer day. If you need an extra hand to use your phone less, try scheduling an alarm to remind you to switch off. You could also use different Apps to help you spend less time on your phone. I haven’t tried this one called Moment, but it got good reviews on iTunes.
Choose calm - We all hear wellness sites and gurus prompting us to slow down and that in doing so we will be able to be less reactive towards situations that irritate us. Checking your phone constantly is also a source of stress, according to this article by VeryWell Mind. But how do you choose calm? How does that look like on a daily basis? For me, it is scheduling less errands, shortening meetings (including social gatherings) and spending less time on WhatsApp. Honestly, the times when I’m more at peace and more productive are when I don’t have my phone next to me. Creating moments of calm can be going for a bike ride, listening to an uplifting podcast or drinking a cup of tea. Pursuing a craft, organizing your office space or reading your favorite quotes can be a gratifying simple experience.
By being more present in our daily non-digital worlds and seeing all the things we can be grateful for, we will find more contentment and joy. And when we stop comparing ourselves and our lives to the feeds of other people, we will be more contempt knowing that what we have today is not only good enough but precious.
This quote by Brené Brown sums it up very well.
“Cultivate creativity and let go of comparison.” —Brené Brown.
What about you? What is your relationship like with social media? Do you have some tips you could share with our community on how to disconnect more from the digital world? What are your struggles? Would love to hear.
Thank you for being here.