Navigating the Information Age with Serenity
Every time I get on Facebook or Instagram or a myriad of other social media networks, there are an increasing number of events, issues, and information to which I am suddenly privy. Before the digital age, this new “information” may have never even crossed my path. On occasion, some article or blog post that I browsed seemed to trouble me so much that I felt different psychologically and physically.
I used to think that this was just a social media presence. I believed that by eliminating social media from my life, I would come back down and feel grounded again. I went on a few “Facebook fasts” and tried to stay focused on the things that mattered in my life. This fast did help but it only lasted for a short while. I would stay off Facebook, feel relieved, but then access it for some legitimate purpose such as coordinating an event or to viewing photos of a friend’s wedding. Without a moment’s hesitation, I went back to the same routine of checking Facebook throughout the day and getting upset.
I do believe that social media has its positives. In April of 2015 Forbes.com reported on the theory that social media and the decline of mental health has little to do with social media itself, and much more to do with our comparison of our lives to others on a consistent, ongoing basis. In other words, our thinking about and judging others’ lives. Usually this judgement is based on a mind-made illusion of thought because social media just displays the “highlight reel” of other’s lives – thought fills in the gaps. Forbes.com states that many qualitative studies reported that people who focused on making sure they were following the crowd and lived their life the way others were living were more likely to exhibit negative mental attitudes about their lives and spectacular, grandiose views about others’ lives.
It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I realized what my problem was.
It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I realized what my problem was. I wasn’t feeling sad because Facebook made me that way. I was feeling sad because I was choosing to feel that way about my life, while simultaneously choosing to feel jealous about other’s “highlight reels.” It was then that I remembered these words from The Serenity Principle, “For a situation or event to be stressful we must perceive it to be stressful. We create stress through our thinking. When we believe, what others tell us, we accept the emotional consequences. A thought that is allowed always creates a negative emotion.” I needed to deepen my understanding concerning the nature of thought and understand that it is not Facebook, but my THINKING concerning what I see on Facebook, that is creating my negative feelings. I’m basically creating my own unhappiness. It just SEEMS that it is Facebook.
For the past week, I have been aware of the understanding of the nature of thought while I browse Facebook. Rather than passing snap judgments on others and myself, I am choosing to take the information that I see and assess my feelings and the thoughts associated with those feelings as I go. If I read something and I feel uncomfortable, I recognize that the feeling is coming directly via thought. I then realize I feel that way because I am choosing to feel that way. I can alternatively decide to let that feeling go and be free of the stress-filled cycle lead by negative thought. On the other hand, if I see something good that has happened in another person’s life, I might feel jealous about it. However, when I recognize that feeling as a product of insecure thinking and then acknowledge that it is just a thought, I immediately experience relief. I can then alternatively choose to feel happy for that person. It hasn’t taken me long to see that my social media experience has dramatically changed and I can now see all the good that can come from such a simple yet powerful understanding. Equally, my peace is no longer affected by the presence or lack of presence of social media in my world.
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