Facebook has been an enormous force of good and bad for around 17 years, but how can we use mindfulness in our use of this giant to have better experiences and better mental wellbeing?
Mindfulness means "maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens," according to Berkley University.
It's a fantastic tool to have up your sleeve when you're working on improving your mental wellbeing. However, we all have heard how detrimental social media - and Facebook in particular - can be, harmful for minds young and old alike, so I am examining today how mindfulness can help us improve our relationship with these modern platforms.
How To Use Facebook Mindfully: Examining 6 Top Reasons People Love That Platform!
1. It's great for reminding you of birthdays. An 'on-the-day' reminder may be too late to post a gift, but at least you can drop them a message. How can you be mindful about this? You could set aside some time to write the birthday boy/girl a proper message, or give them a call. From another angle you could look ahead for the month and remember who is coming up with celebration days. How do you feel about that? Would you like to do more for them than sending them a quick meme?
2. Attention seekers - a perfect tool for them!
Posting what you had for lunch, a post-workout selfie, updating the world with photos of the slow growing cactus in your greenhouse... The people who incessantly share mundane moments in their life are looking for validation and don't have much in the 'real' life to entertain themselves, IMO! Yes, share your life and connect with others, but we don't all need to know all the things. Tackling this mindfully could be to unfollow friends who post mindless crap - they won't know you've done so - and be aware of what you're posting yourself. Ask yourself why you're posting this. Should you be connecting directly with someone specific, or actually talking about what the reader may see between the lines? Don't feel like you should comment on everything, especially inflammatory posts.
3. "I like to stalk people."
Perusing other people's profiles obsessively can be just that: An obsession. Be it a crush, an ex, a role model, a celebrity... Perhaps more of us have done this that would possibly admit... Sure, no one will know you're looking at their profile, but isn't that a little sinister? Facebook has a specific FAQ on their help centre which addresses this, so it is VERY common.
If you're worried you may be bordering on unhealthy levels of social stalking, a way to tackle this mindfully can be to set yourself a time limit, or set yourself boundaries as to who you allow yourself to browse and scroll through. Also, make a point of registering how you feel when you observe what these people post - if it makes you feel negatively, there's your sign. Perhaps it's time to let go of the hold that ex-boyfriend has on you.
4. Facebook can help while away boring moments in your day.
But these moments should be just that - moments. Small sections of time when life is quiet, paused - my favourite example of this is when I'm at the bus stop. It's rare, so it's not a great example, but that situation is when I find myself reaching for my phone for entertainment, without fail. In general though, life is too short and too interesting to be scrolling through masses of cat videos and family photo albums by people you wouldn't go for a coffee with.
5. "It is an essential tool for my work."
This resonates with me more than any of the other five reasons. I believe if I didn't get 90% of my cake orders through Facebook I would use it much less. It's a great source of exposure for my little local business, and such an easy way to engage with customers. I take an approach which has a formula for my business postings - albeit a very simple one - in regard to content, but it seems to work, and keeps me focussed on why I am posting at all. I also try to keep a strict limit on how much time I spend on this.
6. It's a great way to follow a cause or charity.
These organisations love their followers, but you're only useful to them if you like and share. And ultimately donate, in most cases. So why not be a little mindful of your causes following and only really follow and engage with the ones you really care about? Go one step further and volunteer!
How have I stepped away from Facebook myself?
I'm not here to prescribe anything or to tell you what to do, this is purely me sharing what has worked for me.
- I've turned off my Facebook mobile notifications - I only see I have notifications when I actively log on.
- I installed a phone activity tracker for a week to see how many times I checked for messages. It was
shocking. I have since turned off notifications for Whatsapp and Instagram too. It is me who decides when I look at
my phone, not a pinging sound.
- I often take a break from Facebook - mostly when I go on holiday. I want to be present for me, for my family, to get
the most out of the precious times we have together. This also works at the end of the day - I don't touch social
media after around 8pm to help clear my mind before bed.
- This isn't a Facebook thing, but a wider social media point - I've really stepped back from Twitter now, with my
business hat on. I researched where my orders come from and the engagements through tweets were not fruitful
enough. I now focus more in Instagram and Facebook. I dip in and out of Twitter still, but only when there's
something specific happening, like #collabhour or a national food day (e.g. Chocolate Cake Day - Jan 27th - when I
share my chocolate creations).
- I only share what truly amuses or informs me, something I really care about and I've enjoyed
reading/watching and think my friends may gain something from it. Otherwise, what is the point?
- I've had a 'friend purge', cutting right back to people I'd actually care to see updates from. This knocked out some
old school friends I realistically know nothing about aside from what they've posted recently, and businesses who
have their own profiles and are based far from where I live now we've moved.
Facebook will always throw in a curveball, the odd advert/possible connection/news article/blog post/friend update to tempt you to buy or view elsewhere or connect with someone you don't really know; that's their business. You can control what you see, to a degree, (especially by having a purge, like above) even though the algorithms have massive control.
Being 'present' and aware of your activities and emotions helps. Try not to mindlessly scroll, but actively look for people/things which interest you. Facebook is the biggest social network in the world, but you don't want or need to know about it all.
Let me know what you think - am I talking sense? Anyone have any more tips?
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Born to be a Tourist