Media are busy sharing studies about the heavy mental health toll the overuse of social networking and smartphones takes on us. A correlation has been drawn between quitting a social network and feeling happier. Addiction to smartphones is compared to that of opiates, with overuse “linked to depression, anxiety, and loneliness”.
Obviously, the greater part of social networks content we interact with is far from ecological. We come in contact with a number of emotionally agitated, “toxic” people. However, it is in our hands to neutralize or at least mitigate the impact of such encounters on our state of mind.
If we maintain balance, equanimity and do not produce emotionally charged thoughts — our interactions with toxic content, people, both pleasant and unpleasant irritators remain harmless. The problem is we barely notice our reactions in the cascade of digital experiences. What’s more, we frequently dive in with existing emotional baggage… Usually, aiming to distract ourselves from it with new diversions.
To get a better idea about what is happening to us during social networking, scrolling through news feeds, virtual communication — we can conduct a brief mindfulness experiment. Before opening a social network: stop our activities, concentrate on breathing, etc. to balance our state of mind a bit. Reach an achievable clarity of perception and self-awareness so we can notice emotions and thoughts arising during social interactions. All kinds of micro-agitations that remain unnoticed in our “normal” state, cluttered by daily hassles and emotional backgrounds. Even a 1-second look inside can be a step outside of our current emotional involvements and thought loops.
How did this awareness reminder impact the subsequent online session?
Virtuality as a unique mind training opportunity
External limitations, like quitting a social network or cutting device time — may offer temporary relief from ourselves. However, this is an escape from states of our own making. Instead we could fix them in a convenient virtual setting with lower risks and intensity than during in-person, real-time interactions.
Social networks are excellent simulators for self-development, locating and tackling our unwanted responses. The same goes for emails, chats, even games. An acceptable delay before submitting a comment or sending a message also offers an opportunity to improve its quality.
Prevention is the best medicine
Deliberate manipulations or unintentional toxic contacts may impact us if we offer our own mental issues for them to trigger. Hot buttons to push, e.g.:
- polarized or extreme views
- destructive emotional habits, e.g. inclined to anger, fear, depression or anxiety
- attachments, exaggerated desires, traumas, obsolete worldview, etc.
Allowing the buttons to remain, despite numerous alarms regularly set off by our destructive emotions is, basically, giving the keys to our behavior to others.
|Digital communications and media can be used as a safe training ground for observing and improving our reactions.|