Self-Compassion & Social Media – How to Reconcile the Two

 

Last week I gave a lecture that included information on self-compassion to a group of adults. Dr. Kristin Neff, a University of Texas researcher, conceptualizes Self-Compassion as Mindfulness + Self-Kindness + Common Humanity. I’ll focus on the last of these three components – Common Humanity – which encompasses the idea that:

 

Suffering (i.e., distress, pain, grief) is a part of life, we all face it, you are not alone, and nothing has necessarily gone “wrong” even when you are suffering.

 

I often talk about how we use things - wine, Netflix, work - to avoid feeling feelings we don’t want to feel – boredom, sadness, and loneliness – in other words, suffering. For many people, engaging in social media serves as a primary means to cover up unpleasant feelings.

 

One of the lecture participants, asked, “How do I engage in social media in a way that allows me to connect with others on our common humanity (i.e., suffering), when it seems like everyone else is doing so well based on their social media posts?”

 

My off-the-cuff advice to her was the following:

 

Option 1 - Get off

Get off social media all together. Perhaps I shouldn’t have led with the most extreme, but for those of you who know me well, you know it’s hard for me to beat around the bush. I calls it like I sees it.

I have personally made the choice to disengage from social media at different points in time over the years. I’m currently on such a hiatus. I could go on and on about the drawbacks I see with social media. Even the “benefits” are difficult for me to embrace…how real is the “connection” you have with someone whom you only engage with on social media?

Our online personas are slick and contrived. Even the ugly stuff isn’t all that ugly. And, anecdotally, I’ve found that people who use social media as the primary means of connecting with others actually have a difficult time showing up in real life.

 

Option 2 - Set constraints

I suggested that she set up boundaries with her social media use so that she could better employ conscious consumption

Rather than jumping on social media any time you are bored, waiting, or feeling insecure, lonely, or unmotivated, apply certain guidelines for when you will spend time on these platforms.

An example is that you will only look at social media once a day for 20 minutes during lunch, which should lead to a more discerning approach to what you consume.

We “know” that online personas are crafted, but our subconscious brain does not. We need to recondition our minds.

Setting constraints around social media use can help with our autopilot behaviors, which often include logging on to social media when we are trying to avoid feeling something we don’t want to feel.

Setting small, deliberate periods of time to engage on social media allows us to practice new, realistic thoughts that counter such automatic thoughts as “I wish I could be that happy [or insert any adjective that describes most of us some of the time, but none of us all of the time]."

 

Option 3 - Post things you wish others would post

The woman in the lecture who raised this question specifically stated that she wished others would share on social media the ways in which they suffer – genuinely – so that she could connect with them on this level, on this platform, on this topic.

My suggestion was for her to share on her own social media pages the things she wished others would share. I suggested she might attract others who were looking for the same thing if she “put herself out there.”

 

Solid relationships are partially built on being what you need.

 

 

The woman’s response to my suggestions was “That’s a lot.” I laughed (love the honesty!) and acknowledged it was.

I said “Yes, it is. It’s too much to do it all right now. Just pick one and do a tiny part of it.” When it comes to behavior change, size does matter – choose something small.

My goal with offering her several suggestions was to help give her an option that fit where she is right now. We are not all working from the same place, and we differ in our levels of comfort with types and amount of change.

It’s important to assess where you are coming from and what is realistic for you right now.

The situation I've described also highlights the importance of working one-on-one with someone who can help you with your health behavior goals.

I love lectures and working in groups, but there are some drawbacks. Giving personalized advice happens better in an intimate setting. If you are interested in getting personalized help that fits within your context, contact me today.

 

I am genuinely interested in your thoughts on this topic - please leave a comment below!

 

Much Love Y’all,

Lara