When the web became a difficult place to be, I would notice this about myself: On posting, I felt a sense of relief for having completed whichever task I needed to complete to be able to share it. I felt pleased with myself for the 'completion'. Excited usually and nervous about how it might be received. Quite quickly I felt a creeping angst and impatience taking over me: I would need to know what the feedback for my offering was instantly. So I would check. Often. Reports might say . '12 people have viewed...' They might say '120 people have viewed...' It did not matter, because I will still wanted to know that the next time I would check -which would always be soon-the report would show an increase in viewings/likes/comments.
My subconscious brain got very excited at this point. It LOVED that it could tell me that whatever it is I had to share wasn't enough: not bold enough, not stand out enough, not true enough... Because the 1 or 100 views and 'likes' simply highlighted all the absences. All the people who didn't click, look or comment. And then I would get ratty. Ratty at the indifference of the internet. Ratty for thinking myself worthy and putting that stupid thing up online in the first place and then even more ratty at myself for making it matter so much. Because it doesn't, not in the way I was trying to make it matter and it was always ME making it such a big deal...
If I choose to let my subconscious mind help me govern how I use the internet then it becomes a dark and difficult place, where I am trapped in a grim cycle of emotional dependency on never-manifested validation. I walk the path of peeping into the lives of others to compare myself to them, again looking for evidence about myself and my lack of qualification to participate in this sphere. Basically, I beat myself up for not being a mermaid yet.
Let my conscious, rational, adult and able-to-be-self-compassionate mind be in charge, and I sit easily with the simple reality: I get to choose. I get to think about how I scroll or don't scroll. How I regard and explore the online lives of others and how they relate or don't relate to my life. I get to choose how often in a week/day/month/year I visit social media pages. I get to set the time I spend. If I notice that I use these places to feel bad about myself, I get to stop engaging. I get to decide what fair use is for and to myself.
When I felt proud of us as a species and the way we use the internet, I was right. It is a great tool for community. It is a beautiful place for ideas to be shared and freak flags to be flown! Its a great place for socialising with and even confiding in people you would never otherwise have met, a place to find your people and be accepted for the truth of who you are. I love using it and can't imagine myself without it. The convenient immediacy of being able to maintain friendships over seas and lands, the safeness of the space for sharing work is invaluable. All of these aspects make it so very seductive and hard to banish.
My decision to be more intentional about how I use the internet emerged organically. It feels so obvious on this side of my reflections. There is nothing else I recognise in my life that I keep doing if it makes me feel rotten about myself or induces such intense impulsive behaviours - and if there is, I need to take a long look at it and try to unpick what lies beneath, but crucially stop doing it. It feels appropriate and healthy to think through and shift my perspective on how to engage with myself and others through the web. As with anything of this sort, it takes effort and mindful focus but it really helps!
- How does your engagement with the web/social media make you feel?
- How do you feel when you reach for it?
- What are you telling yourself about yourself when you use it?