How to have a healthy relationship with social media
Do you refresh Facebook 15 times an hour to track the likes on your status? It’s likely the answer is yes. In some way or another, many of us have become slightly (or not so slightly) obsessed with the social media feedback loop. While it may seem like a sign of the times, it’s actually just another way we reinforce a desperate need to feel good enough.
Social media has offered us a new way to anesthetize a deep-rooted feeling of lack: the more likes we get, the better we feel. But what happens when the "like" button isn't pushed or the retweets just don't happen? Then what? A social media meltdown, maybe? Do you experience an unconscious sense of self-lack, uncertainty about your last post or (worst of all), do you spend the next hour refreshing your page for some semblance of positive reinforcement?
If this resonates with you, trust that you're not alone. Remember that last scene of The Social Network? Even Mark Zuckerberg refreshes his page for feedback.
I, too, have struggled with the social media feedback loop. Early in my career as an author, speaker and dot-com entrepreneur, it became super clear to me that social media was the most powerful way to carry my message to the masses. I worked up an unhealthy obsession with it: My boyfriend would ban me from posting during dinner, and my mom could only get in touch by tweeting at me. At the time, I didn't perceive it as an issue. Thousands of folks were liking my fan page and retweeting my posts -- it was heaven for my ego.
Then one afternoon, I noticed myself wasting an hour watching my Twitter feed and Facebook fan pages for positive feedback. As a self-help book author and Spirit Junkie, I found this behavior quite alarming. I turned away from the screen and said out loud, "Uh-oh, I'm addicted to social media feedback."
Rather than beat myself up or deny the reality of my obsession, I chose to work towards creating a more balanced relationship with my online status. I'm a big fan of 30-day plans, so I put myself on a social media detox. No, I didn't shut down my Twitter page or deny my fans. I did quite the opposite. I continued to post as frequently as before, but I made a 30-day commitment to ignore the retweets and seriously lay off the likes. I dedicated a half hour a day to respond to my fans and monitored my Twitter correspondence.
Remember, the issue was not social media. In fact, I love social media and am endlessly grateful for the service it provides. This was an issue of self-esteem and a deep-rooted need to feed my ego through other people's positive reinforcement. The hours I spent seeking feedback from my fans were hours wasted on a false belief that some number of comments or RT's would make me feel any better than I already did. But when I backed off from this positive feedback loop, I cleared space for self-love and self-soothing. For a month, I meditated and affirmed my sense of self-worth instead of frantically checking my notifications. I deepened my connection to my own inner spirit by putting the kibosh on my social media feedback obsession.
This 30-day practice did me good. A month of daily repetition broke me of the obsessive pattern and enhanced my sense of self-worth. When I no longer cared about responses, I could spend more time focusing on sharing what I honestly felt rather than what I thought might get the most RTs. Ironically, this practice increased my social graph. Without even trying, I grew my fan page by 1,500 members in 30-days and got more impressions on Twitter than I'd ever had before.
Once I placed my social media strategy on sharing great content rather than wowing my audience, I shifted the energy behind my correspondence with my fans. When I was looking for feedback, the energy behind my tweets and posts was needy and manipulative. But when I started tweeting for Twitter's sake, the energy was clear and released. Energy is in everything -- even in your Twitter feed.
If you, too, are a social media feedback junkie, consider my 30 day practice. Get honest about your behavior, commit to lay off the "refresh" button, and clear space to share honest content rather than some canned comment that you think might get a ton of activity. Enhance your self-worth from the inside out and shine light on the Twittersphere.
Featured in the New York Times Sunday Styles section as "a new role model", motivational speaker, life coach and author Gabrielle Bernstein is making her mark. Expanding the lexicon for the next generation spiritual seekers, Gabrielle is a #1 bestselling author of the book Add More ~ing to Your Life – A hip guide to happiness. In September 2011 Gabrielle launched her second book, Spirit Junkie, A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles. In 2008 she launched her social networking site HerFuture.com for young women to find mentors. HerFuture's growing community exceeds 13,000 members.