Social Media as an Invitation to Mindfulness

Social media has become fairly integrated into most of our lives. In particular, Facebook seems to be used most commonly. Despite the clear benefits for connection, advocacy and education, social media use presents us with numerous challenges. One notable example is the potential to reinforce and perpetuate unrealistic perceptions, which can have an enormously negative impact on our ability to maintain healthy views of self, others, and the world. Likewise, the endless social comparisons that take place both consciously and unconsciously can create many problems related to low self-esteem and negative self-image. However, social media and Facebook posts may present a creative opportunity for practicing mindfulness. 

One of the primary ways that people engage in social media centers around taking pictures of our experiences to post for others. This can become second nature to many of us, including myself. There are many reasons for wanting to share what we are doing or present ourselves in certain ways, all of which would benefit from some self-reflection. Regardless of why, many people post pictures and comments on a regular basis, even posting multiple times throughout the day. There is little doubt this routine can have an impact on the way we attend to the world.  

What is your first thought when you see something interesting or beautiful? What is your initial reaction when you are with others doing something fun or overlooking a beautiful scene? Many people now reach for their phone and take pictures to post on social media. As a result, we may develop a routine around the way we attend to and collect our experiences through our phones. 

Interestingly, this routine can present an opportunity to introduce mindfulness into your daily life. Specifically, the urge to capture an image or experience for social media can be incorporated as a cue to pay closer attention to the present. Next time you find yourself taking a picture for social media or to share with friends and family try the following practice:  

  1. Notice when you are reaching for your phone to capture an image (your cue).
  2. Before or after you take the picture, pause and bring your awareness to your present experience.  
  3. Notice what thoughts come to mind and where your attention goes. If your mind has started to think of a smart caption to post with your image, challenge yourself to let this go as you can return to it at a later time. 
  4. Challenge yourself to bring your awareness more fully to the present moment. 
  5. Take a mental picture using your alert mind and sit attentively in your experience. 
  6. Notice all of the small details around you as you allow yourself to be more mindful of the present.  
  7. When you do post your picture, recall your experience of taking the picture and reconnect more fully with your memory of that experience. Notice how this feels. 

In whatever way you approach this practice, using the urge to post to social media or take a picture with your phone as a cue to practice mindfulness can be an effective way to shift your awareness to the present and experience a deeper connection in your daily life. Allow yourself to come back into the world and engage more fully in your experience before you rush to capture and share it with others. Pause before you post.

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist 

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Published by tlindquistpsyd

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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