Do you remember the last three posts you double-tapped? What about how many posts you have viewed on TikTok this week alone? I am sure you cannot answer either of those questions off the top of your head-and that's okay. In fact, it illustrates the point profoundly.
For many consumers, social media can
become a series of mindless scrolling. There is no "finish line" like there once was once you reached the bottom of your followers' feed. By that respect, there is no retention of everything the consumer is taking in. With the way the algorithm works, you can find a new feed in milliseconds once the old one fades away.
Scientists are trying to comprehend the effects of this type of activity. The article "Nothing Beneficial Comes From Mindless Scrolling," written by Joe Fedewa, explains the impacts that come from mindlessness online. Deemed "doomscrolling" by many, the practice is intended to fill every moment a person may be doing nothing with some form of stimulation.
The concern really becomes present when it is viewed from a medical perspective. The Addiction Center actually considers a "social media addiction" to be a real thing. In fact, 5-10% of Americans meet the criteria to be considered addicted. Unlike substance use, social media harbors a behavioral addiction in people. This causes them to feel as though they need to be scrolling online in order to feel satisfaction.
The Addiction Center also highlights rather important signs to look out for in yourselves and others. Answering three out of these six questions with a "yes" could be indicative of addiction:
Do they spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
Do they feel urges to use social media more and more?
Do they use social media to forget about personal problems?
Do they often try to reduce use of social media without success?
Do they become restless or troubled if unable to use social media?
Do they use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on their job or studies?
How Do I Use Social Media Mindfully?
I am not here to shut down social media...that would not be a wise business endeavor. However, people working in social media hold an obligation to the public to keep them safe and informed with accurate information. Convince & Convert released a study by The Infinite Dial which states that as of 2021, 233 million Americans use social media platforms. This represents nearly 70% of the US population. With that in mind, I also find my job as a social media manager is to ensure that I am helping people learn to use these connectivity platforms mindfully.
In practice, this can look like a lot of things. To highlight Mindful's approach to using social media, here is their nine-step approach (written by Christopher Willard) to mindful social media usage:
Find a comfortable, alert, and ready posture. Shrug your shoulders, take a few breaths, and bring awareness to your physical and emotional state in this particular moment.
Now open your computer or click on your phone.
Before you open up your favorite social media site, consider your intentions and expectations. As you focus on the icon, notice what experiences you have in your mind and body.
Why are you about to check this site? What are you hoping to see or not see? How are you going to respond to different kinds of updates you encounter? By checking your social media, are you interested in connecting or in disconnecting and distracting?
Close your eyes and focus on your emotional state for three breaths before you begin to engage.
Opening your eyes now, look at the first status update or photo, and then sit back and close your eyes again.
Notice your response—your emotion. Is it excitement? Boredom? Jealousy? Regret? Fear? How do you experience this emotion in the mind and body? What’s the urge—to read on, to click a response, to share yourself, or something else?
Wait a breath or two for the sensations and emotions to fade, or focus on your breath, body, or surrounding sounds.
Try this practice with one social media update, or for three or five minutes, depending on your time and your practice.
Implementing usage techniques such as the plan listed above can make for a far more aware, conscientious approach to social media intake. Anyone is capable of posting and scrolling, but not everyone has the skills ability to do so with intention and with healthy boundaries. Start putting these steps into practice today for a more productive, informed, and AWARE experience online.