Be Free, Be Outside

Breaking Free from the Social Media Trap

snap pea flower
I feel more connected to the world looking at the snap peas in my garden than browsing social media.

You know the feeling. You open an app or new browser tab, to “check in” because you might miss something important. The feeling of pleasure about the number of social media notifications, or disappointment when there are only a few. You scroll down a feed full of posts and photos from people you know, looking for something interesting, liking a few things, maybe leaving some comments here and there.

A few satisfying minutes later, you feel more awesome and fulfilled about your life.

No wait. Scratch that. Maybe a few minutes (or an hour) later, you feel more isolated and lost.

Join the club. Research indicates users who spend more time on social media feel less productive and more isolated.

Speaking to the portion of the world with power, electricity, and the education to read a blog post: we’re pretty damn lucky. Then why are we so unhappy?

It’s not just the fault of social media. But it has contributed to our modern habits and feelings we did not expect. The allure of social media draws us in with the promise of friendship and connection we all crave. And for many of us, it’s now a habit to unlearn.

These posts don’t “feed” our desire for true connection. The desire to look into someone’s eyes and to feel understood, to laugh, or savor the presence of being together.  The social part of social media is almost entirely an illusion. It’s a virtual social life, devoid of so much real-life satisfaction.

Social media is by default, full of updates from other people’s lives, which probably have nothing to do with you. Essentially, it’s a window into all the fun activities that you’ve been left out of.

And that’s how your brain responds, by reacting as if the herd has abandoned you. You go looking for social connection, only to walk away feeling isolated.

Skip passive consumption, go make something!

One of the takeaways researchers found about how we use social media, is that a surprisingly small about of time is spent actually engaging with other people. They found only about 9 percent of social media time was spent engaging with others. The largest usage pattern was consuming random pieces of content.

After closing out the tab or app, users felt a profound sense of remorse. Despite the small pleasure of viewing content they found interesting or “liked,” their time was wasted.

The antidote to unproductively consuming a string of disconnected content?

Make something. Build something. Grow something.

It’s hard to explain how enjoyable it is to look at the snap peas growing in my garden, see a new flower, and pluck off a pod to eat.

Get away from passive consumption and start producing. Don’t get trapped in a cycle of anxious multi-tasking productivity though. Concentrate on a single task and reap the satisfaction of true effort.

If you’re consuming content, dive deep. Much as I love following links and can fall into a rabbit hole of online posts, even long-form content may not bring the sense of reward and accomplishment at the end of a book.

Following the same train of thought for an extended period of time is significantly more rewarding that scrolling down a quick-hit listicle. Mulling over ideas for the length of a book, or reading multiple books on related topics, gives you a deeper insight that you’d find from days of online “research.”

Appreciate the now

It’s easy to look at the grand adventure someone shared on their feed and wish you had the time/money/guts to do the same. Or perhaps it wasn’t even your friend’s adventure, but a video about a someone who quit their job and somehow survives off adventure.

Envy is another one of the unintended consequences of social media use.

Appreciate the time you have. The money and possessions you have. Enjoy it. You need to “like” your life, you don’t need a bunch of other people to validate it.

Take a moment to be grateful for a good breakfast. Without sharing a picture of it.

Get back to real life

All these oh-so-important posts also distract us from opportunities for solitude, contentment, and gratitude. Essential ingredients for a confident, fulfilled, and happy life.

That’s right. The opportunity for solitude. Confidence without the need for approval and outside validation. Contentment and gratitude for what we already have.

You don’t need to delete every social media account you have. But uninstalled the apps for a while. Turn off the push notifications on your phone. Sign of the website on your browser.

Seriously, go for a walk.

Savor the world around you. Be outside. Touch a leaf. Be amazed at a vine twisting its way around a mailbox. Stare at the reflection in a puddle. Eat a snap pea from your garden. 😉

When you’re with friends or family, be with them. Appreciate those moments, don’t check your phone as if there’s something more important happening online.

Break the habit. You won’t miss that much.

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