As someone who’s philosophically Taoist, I am generally suspicious of blanket statements that something is good or bad for you.
It isn’t about looking for flaws everywhere— you know, the kind of person who shoots down everything or has something nasty to say all the time. Rather, it’s about asking, ‘how true is this’, ‘who is this most true for’ and ‘how can we make it more true?’.
Let me give you an example. There are many types of three-letter therapies.
Practitioners who are very wedded into a particular type will tell you that theirs is best and how everybody else’s sucks.
And then there’s also a whole bunch of people looking out for the next three-letter miracle. Without considering how it’s about the extent to which this three-letter method aligns with your personality, goals, and lifestyle. Or that it’s really about working on both the root to eradicate the origins, and the symptoms so you keep your motivation pumping. And then, the question And Then What?— how do you continue to practise it in your life when the therapy or retreat is over.
In the same vein, social media has a terrible rep.
The algorithms are milked so you see the same type of content over and over again, reinforcing your world view. There’s loads of fake news. There’s Instagram vs Reality. Your information isn’t private, people are milking it!! Comparing on social media or trying to create the appearance of that beautiful life is causing depression and anxiety.
So whilst that is true to an extent, the questions ‘how true is this’ and ‘who is this most true for’ come to mind again.
Sure, forewarned is forearmed; we partner with reality, otherwise we’re deluded.
We can also partner with reality because there’s other things happening. There are also people who greatly enjoy social media.
And because we’re likely to continue to post on Facebook and Instagram anyway, we might as well explore options on how we can use these for our benefit. Here’s my personal slant.
Developing a new skill
Everytime I introduce my friend Kris to anybody, I always add “She was my only source of stress in Cambridge”.
You see, back then, my photo-taking skills were legendarily abysmal.
I made her head look like it had been cut off and served on a platter, à la John the Baptist.
And that was after considerable faffing about to get it ‘right’.
Contrast it with her, taking three seconds to compose the perfect shot.
To be fair, she was already a professional photographer then.
So I vowed to learn how to take photos properly.
Social media has become my perfect playground for honing this skill, and as a living track record to see how I’ve evolved.
From food to landscapes to cats to people, I’m learning to compose my photographs, edit them, and present them.
It takes discipline to dedicate my time and energy to developing the skill, to choose to try to make the most mundane street scenes interesting, or challenging myself to work with terrible lighting.
I also have amazing photographers on my feed, so I learn by studying them.
After so many years, I can attest, it really works.
It’s also reflected in real life— I’m pretty proud of my interior styling and gardening skills, all honed via studying social media and my life through the lens of my camera.
This one’s kinda a Duh!, but for someone who lived abroad for 10 years and then has a very international circle, social media is a godsend.
I don’t need to be personally messaging everyone to know what’s going on— I just have to tune into their posts when they pop up on my feed.
And of course, it’s so easy to launch into a chat or a call as and when we get inspired. Across any timezone.
I remember how we were quipping after watching Ms Saigon, “Imagine if she could just ping him, “HEY WAIT FOR ME”. Or he could see her feed “Just lounging with my son!”. Things would be so different”. We’re lucky, our generation.
Of course, being connected comes with downsides. Which you can easily get on top of.
- Switch off your notifications
- You’re not obliged to answer everyone
- If someone is being weird or creepy, call them out, block them or ignore them.
- You’re allowed to disappear from posting or to deactivate your accounts.
All you need are boundaries!
Sharing awesome things
I learn alot from social media.
From sociopolitics to genetics to neuroscience, there’s no telling what may delve into next. And then, the books that I buy and devour as a result.
This all comes from the fact that I have got great people in my feed. And I also occasionally share the things that interest me or which I believe are worth expounding.
Everybody who wants to learn, learns.
It’s a win-win.
Know how it may be harming you
Social media has its downsides. Especially if you’re feeling vulnerable or thinking why your life doesn’t match up to everybody else’s (curated) feeds.
So if there are periods it’s overwhelming or when I have other demands on my energy, I choose to step away.
If I’m feeling like I’ve gone a little over-the-top, I may choose to step back.
If people expect too much, I withdraw. I’m not obliged to provide content.
It’s a dance. And the only way we learn is to actually feel our rhythm through practise.
Get real – your information isn’t private
I feel a little befuddled when I hear complaints about how someone is mining our data.
I remember back in 1997, from the moment my 11-year old self set up her first Hotmail account (don’t judge, there wasn’t Google then!), I knew that whatever I put out was gonna be tracked.
And over the years, of course I’m taking some risk everytime I pay via card or bank online.
It’s no point being stunned or crying foul.
If we make the decision to engage in social media (and the Internet generally), we have to get real about the price we are potentially paying.
There’s a lot of bullshit about how the social media generation is narcissistic, posting selfies means you’re a narcissist, and. . well, everyone can potentially be labelled a narcissist these days.
*Cue eye roll*
As someone who specialises in Dark Personality Traits— your narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, Machiavellians— we are not getting more narcissistic.
To have a real personality disorder of these sorts you have to be callous, lacking in empathy and enjoying harming others.
And of course, if everyone is posting a selfie, it’s human nature to join in. . and sometimes we get carried away. A phase or certain temporary behaviours doesn’t make it your personality type.
And then there are some of us who are autobiographical in nature.
I love how my food instagram is essentially my gratitude journal. For the meals I’ve savoured, the delightful condiments I’ve picked up, all the awesome things life and people have treated me to, and. . the list goes on.
Sure, some people may tell me that when I am in my posting periods, I post too much.
To which I tell them to unfollow me, I never asked them to follow me in the first place.
(Plus the instagram posts don’t always make it to Facebook, so I’m mindful of not flooding people).
It’s also a reflection of the experiences, ingredients and the journey.
On particular milestones, I muse about how things have changed, how I’ve grown, and what needs to be different. I use these to create closure, so I can put chapters to rest; it’s therapeutic. And I also use these as a way of accessing gratitude.
And we know that gratitude is fabulous for your mental fitness.
“Actually if I can post something months later, and be able to write about it in detail; or look back on that post even later, I know I will never go senile”, I told my uncle.
He looked at me, thinking I was joking.
But really, it’s a way I train my memory.
Rehearsing information, and retrieving them from my brain is what’s great for keeping our memory strong and active.
So for instance, I may be writing about a recipe in a particular post, and two years later, I may dig that post up to get the specifics. The fact that I remember I posted that piece, and am rehearsing the details by accessing them, strengthens my memory.
Keeping my posts and saved stuff organised also runs in parallel with keeping my brain organised so I know how to look for cues to retrieve what from where in my memory.
Or, I might be looking at a certain event in my life, and wanting to remember the date. Remembering I posted something on that day also helps me anchor my memory in time and space.
Being motivated to write about all sorts of strange and wonderful food and ingredients also makes me read up about them. That way, even more interesting information stays in my brain.
And I’d rather fill up my brain with that than needless worries.
If you’d like to find out more, join the conversation in our next open workshop.