I feel so lame asking this, but I don’t know what to do about social media!! I have such a love-hate relationship with it. Or maybe even more like a rollercoaster relationship with it. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by it and it makes me so miserable that I delete all the apps and swear it off. Then, I add them back because it feels like a nice way to connect (maybe?), and I miss knowing what people are up to and sharing, too! I also think it is good for professional relevance. Then, I find myself getting obsessed with likes, and pressure to post, so I start making rules about how often I look and how often I post, which doesn’t seem to make me feel any better. I feel like such a spaz! It’s so exhausting! So, my question is: what is the best way to approach social media? How do I know what is “healthy” and if it is a “problem”? And, is it ok to just quit for good?
-Social Media Spiraler (SMS)
Dear Social Media Spiraler,
You’re certainly not alone in this one, so lame or not, this seems to be one of the most challenging relationships of “living while human” these days.
In fact, one of the reasons I chose to answer this letter in the first place is that this email ends up in my inbox at least once a day, so it felt like it was really time to speak to our relationship with social media.
The other two reasons are:
- Vulnerability: I love the radical honesty of capturing the “spiral” and the “cycle” so well! (So brava, SMS!)
- Broad application: The framework and paradigm through which we can look at this particular issue applies to anything with which we have a difficult/confusing/toxic relationship. Just insert whatever the thing is in place of “social media” and proceed!
First, let me disappoint you and say that I don’t have an “answer” for you, per se. This is more of a “non-answer” answer! 😉
The reason we are in “non-answer answer” territory on this one is because there isn’t one “right” relationship to social media, only YOUR right relationship to social media.
There are so many articles and blogs and all the things out there that will give you a specific “detox” or a prescriptive answer for what is the “right” way to engage with social media. My guess is that if you’re here, then you’ve read them all and tried a whole slew of them, and they didn’t work, or didn’t work for very long. In short, if you’re looking for a quick fix, crystal ball solution, let me be clear that you’ve come to the wrong place! That’s just not how we do.
Instead, there are The 2 “Icky Relationship” questions you can ask yourself to determine when something is “healthy” versus “problematic” (aka icky) for you individually.
And, then, I offer my 4-step “Right Relationship” framework to arrive at YOUR unique “right” relationship to social media (or anything else you’re examining).
The 2 “Icky Relationship” Questions: “How do I know when something is ‘healthy’ vs. when it is a ‘problem’?”
There are 2 questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if something is problematic or “unhealthy” for YOU?
1.) Is it “unmanageable”?
- By this we mean, does it get in the way of other things in your life that are important to you? Relationships? Work? Exercise?
- Does it take up a ton of mind space (or time, or energy)? Are you thinking about this thing much of the time?
- Does it cause you to be ashamed? Do you feel like you need to keep it secret? Or the extent of it a secret? Or do it/use it in private?
2.) Is it stoppable/changeable?
- Do you want to change and you just can’t seem to?
- Do you want to dedicate less time/energy/mindspace to it and you can’t seem to?
- Do you want to stop it from getting in the way of other things but you keep doing the same thing?
The 4-step “Right Relationship” process: How do I have a “healthy” relationship with social media?
1) The All-or-Nothing Baseline
2) The Why
3) The Fears
4) The Feels
1) The All-or-Nothing: If it isn’t a HELL YES, then it is a hell NO.
The shortest possible “answer” is: if it isn’t a HELL YES, then it is a hell NO. And, let’s be honest, if you’re asking this question, then it probably isn’t a “hell yes”, “joy-sparker” for you!! And, let’s keep being honest, and call out that if you’re asking this question then also, you probably don’t like this answer.
In truth, it is usually slightly more nuanced than this, and we may not need to do an all-or-nothing approach (sometimes we do, though!), which is why this is 4-steps, and not just one single step!
We do need to start here, though, as a baseline. If this freaks you out and you want to stop reading at the very suggestion, then it is even more important that you consider this question!
So, first consider:
- why do it at all?
- What if you did take the “if it isn’t a hell yes, then it is a hell no” approach?
- What would that mean?
- What does that bring up for you?
And, yes, it is absolutely, 100% wonderful to quit for good if that is where this investigation leads you!
2) The WHY.
Now, onto The WHY.
a) FIRST, the radical honesty version: why are you REALLY doing what you’re doing?
This is not meant to be a reasoned response, or necessarily one that you are proud of. But do dig a little here.
- WHY is this question in your letter even important to ask?
- Why are you posting at all? Prestige? Status? Relevance? Competition? Dopamine hits? FOMO?
On the flipside, when you “quit” in a fury, WHY are you really doing that?
b) THEN, the aspirational version: what do you *want* your WHY to be?
Can you think of a “light and right”, aligned reason to post, or engage with social media?
- Connection counts, for example: but is it really generating connections you value? Or is it proliferating connections that are holding you back and aren’t aligned?
- Inspiration counts, too!: Are you being inspired in a positive way that sparks your curiosity? Are you learning about something you’re really interested in and taking advantage of all the incredible thought leaders sharing free content? Or is it being “inspired” to dislike yourself, your body, your relationships and “compare and despair”?
3) The FEARS: Here we go through each of the scenarios you can imagine, and ask what you may really be afraid of happening.
Again, fear isn’t rational, so don’t try to “logic this out”.
- What are you afraid of happening if you don’t post? Or don’t post enough? Or don’t post stories? Or only post stories etc?
- AND what are you afraid of if you post a ton? Do stories all the time? And get really invested in it?
- Post the “wrong” thing”? Post the “right” thing?
- Get no “likes”? Get tons of “likes”? (I.E. Humiliation? More pressure?)
Examples here might be more humiliation, abandonment, aloneness, criticism, failure, pressure to perform etc.
You get the idea…keep rolling with it!
4) The FEELS: how do you feel when you’re engaging?
How we feel is the way to understand what our inner GPS is telling us. It’s the best proxy we have!! Remember that we want to feel “light and right”, not hard and heavy. Search around inside yourself and pay attention to how you feel with various parts of social media. This will help you find
Some prompts to get you started:
- When was the last time you posted something and were so glad you did and felt really inspired and connected? What was it? What were the conditions?
- When was the last time that it felt hard and heavy? What were the conditions?
- How do you feel on each platform? Does it vary?
- How do you feel at different times of day or different times of week?
- Does it vary by account/type of account?
Your responses and insight from the above 4 steps will provide all the information you need to discern your right path in your relationship, or at least the one right next step.
Remember that this framework can apply to many things that we have a difficult relationship, not just social media.
So, Social Media Spiraler, and anyone else reading this and struggling with their own social media spiral, or a spiraling, cycling relationship of any sort, this 4-step process, layered on top of the 2 “Icky” questions, will lead you to discerning your awesome, healthy relationship with social media!
Furthermore, my guess is that whatever you uncover in this process of examining your social media relationship will unlock insight into a whole world of other patterns, behaviors and beliefs that have been holding you back in other areas of your life, too!
Because it is never just social media (or insert other tough thing here).
SO FUN, RIGHT?!
If you want help with those little “other parts of your life”, I invite you to check out this free “Intro to Finding Purpose” lecture as a great next step.
Let me know how it goes applying these frameworks to your life!