Note: If you are an adult, we hope you’ll find this post helpful in curating your social media feed to feel less stressed, more grounded. We ask that you share it with a girl(s) in your life who you think it will help.
It is so easy to lose yourself in the limitless scroll of social media. With the current mandate to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic, the call of social media has never been stronger. As a girl or young woman, the desire to be connected and be seen makes the endless swipe especially attractive during this time. That said, it is imperative that we learn to create a positive social media experience and we can do this by tuning into the messages our bodies are sending us.
Does this scenario sound familiar?:
- A fleeting desire to ‘check-in’ or ‘check-out’
- Reaching for your phone
- Popping open your social media app of choice
- Scroll, scroll, scroll
- Undefined amount of time passes
- A series of emotional flashes – worry and shame to inspiration and desire
- End result: A feeling of increased disconnect, almost like you are floating around in space, not grounded in the present.
By tuning into your body’s physical experience, we can create awareness and boundaries around our social media experience. This will allow us to be intentional with our scrolling, and to come away with a more positive experience instead of a zap to our energy or boost in stress levels.
Three ways our bodies can help us navigate social media now and forever:
Step 1: Anchor your body before logging on.
Try this: Wherever you are sitting, plant your two feet firmly into the ground and channel the energy all the way through the top of your head. Bring your awareness to your breath. Take two deep inhales into the belly through the nose, and one deep exhale out through the mouth. Do this a couple of times. Do you feel more present and calm? This quick anchoring exercise is something you can practice before you whip out your phone and start feverishly scrolling through your preferred social media app.
By being more present and aware, you are able to check in with yourself and set an intention to your experience. Are you looking for a break? Checking in on someone specific? Posting yourself? Without taking a moment to be present and set an intention, you will more easily find yourself in the mindless spiral mentioned above.
Step 2: Let physical reactions guide you.
Our bodies are designed to react to external stimuli (conditions out the body). When we sense danger, our bodies immediately go into the classic freeze/fight/flight responses as a defense. When we are on social media, posts are our stimuli; when our brains sense a threat, or simply something we don’t like, our bodies get the same kind of message to react. If we are aware of how our bodies are reacting to any given post, we can pick up on physical reactions and use them to guide us towards curating a more positive social media experience.
That post about rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in a nearby city? The virtual gathering your friends are having that you somehow didn’t get the invite to? How is your body reacting to that post? Do you sense a tension rising in your shoulders? Have they started to hunch over? Are you feeling your jaw tighten and your eyes narrow into a squint? These are all expressions of stress and threat. What about that post about how you can help support people who are suffering…how does your body react to that? Do you grow taller and expand in your body, has a slight smile played across your lips? Being aware of how your body is physically reacting to each post sets up to start setting your boundaries.
Step 3: Set boundaries to protect yourself.
So you are starting to become aware of how your body reacts to various posts. What now? This is the time to create boundaries so that you get more of the good stuff and less of the stressful stuff. The last thing we need right now is to drive ourselves crazy through poor social media management. The easiest way to create a filter is simply to “unfollow” or “mute post.” What you can’t see can’t hurt you. It is worth mentioning that “unfollowing” is something the other person can see and will send a stronger message than simply “muting” an account.
If you want to protect yourself without sending a loud message that might offend someone, simply mute the account or a specific post. This means you keep following them, but you won’t have their posts pop into your feed. This is not mean to the other person; this is compassionate for yourself.
Step 4: Practice, practice, practice.
None of this will happen overnight. It will take practice. You are basically having to rewire ingrained habits around your social media intake. Maybe you’re thinking this is a lot to take in. So let me summarize it for you and try it out the next time you log into your account. If you find it helpful, keep doing it.
Summary of the steps:
- Check in with your breathing and be clear about why you are heading into your social media
- Ground your feet and settle into an open and easy posture
- Once centered, you have your physical anchor
- Start scrolling slowly through posts
- Pause at each one and notice if your body has changed at all
- If this seems too slow, go more quickly and see if perhaps after a couple of minutes, your body has shifted in its posture
- Have you started fidgeting with a necklace? Biting your nails? Has your posture closed in on itself at all?
- If you’re getting negative physical cues, take a pause, re-center and see if you can figure out which posts are causing this behavior
- Take note of how your body tends to react
- Note which posts your body is most reactive to
- Remember to also take note of those posts which make you feel more energized
- Make a decision to unfollow or mute those accounts which are causing you physical stress
- Remind yourself to practice steps one-three every time you veer towards your social media
- Celebrate yourself for being more intentional; you don’t have to “nail it” every time to celebrate
In so many circumstances in our lives, our bodies are here to support our experience. We understand the world through our senses and this does not change simply because we have a screen dividing us from the content. Stress caused by social media is just as real as stresses caused by our more immediate physical environment. Especially with the current COVID-19 pandemic, one might argue that these stresses are even more dangerous because connecting digitally is what we have right now. But you’re now on your way to a more informed and positive social media experience.
Rachel Cossar is the founder of Choreography For Business, LLC (CFB), a consulting practice that focuses on the physical parameters of communication and leadership in professional settings. She was on the Canadian Rhythmic Gymnastics team, competing and representing Canada internationally. From this career, she joined the Boston Ballet, performing lead roles in front of audiences at the Boston Opera House, and stages across the globe over the course of a decade. Rachel has designed revolutionary programming that teaches people how to immediately alter the way they show up and perform under pressure.