Given my age and my current social media habits, people are generally shocked when they learn that I’ve been active on social media for only two years.
Until recently, I was adamantly anti-social media. I believed social media corrupted authenticity, facilitated superficial connections and was an overall hindrance to the mindful life.
Many people I’ve spoken to lately have complained that social media drains them of their energy. Overwhelmed by the deluge of content on social media, several of my friends have temporarily disconnected from their various social channels in an effort to be more productive, mindful and spiritual.
While I respect and to some extent can relate to this sentiment, I have found over the past two years, and particularly over the past four months through my participation in the Elephant Academy apprenticeship program, that social media has in fact contributed to rather than hindered my spiritual growth.
I realize that everybody has a different definition of spirituality. To me, spirituality includes remembering our interconnectedness as living beings, being mindful and committing to making the world and ourselves better, even in the smallest of ways.
Below is a list of ways that social media has inspired and cultivated spirituality in my everyday life.
1. Inspirational quotes. My newsfeed is filled with inspirational quotes and memes that remind me to be awesome and to live a healthy and happy life. When I read these quotes in the morning, they set the tone for a positive day ahead. Instead of just mindlessly scrolling through these gems of inspiration, I try to take them in and actually live them.
For example, I recently came across the quote, “Trade your expectations for appreciation and the world changes instantly,” posted on one of elephant journal’s Facebook pages, Wow of the Day. Though it’s often easier said than done, this quote is a powerful reminder that even though my circumstances are not perfect, there is still so much in my life I have to be grateful for. This mindset makes coping with these imperfect circumstances just a little bit easier.
2. Beautiful imagery. In addition to the poignant words that brighten my days, I also see breathtaking images in my newsfeed daily. Whether these images are of nature, architecture, people or objects, the photographer finds a way to capture the subject’s beauty.
Beauty surrounds us in our everyday lives, but oftentimes we are so consumed with our thoughts or our phones that we do not take notice.
Seeing the beauty in other people’s worlds on social media has inspired me to be more mindful of the beauty around me. I love to walk, and use it as my mode of transportation whenever possible. One reason I love walks so much is because I can take in and appreciate my surroundings. This appreciation for the beauty around me was one impetus for a flower photography project I recently undertook. Social media enabled to me to share this project with my network, and I received numerous positive responses.
3. Making mindful offline decisions. We’ve all heard people say that once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever. A few months ago I was celebrating my birthday with some friends, and we had a group photo taken. One member of our group insisted that I not post this photo on Facebook, concerned that her colleagues might see it.
While my friend made the decision to attend my birthday dinner and wanted to be there, there was clearly concern over how others would perceive her attendance. To assuage this cognitive dissonance, my friend could have either not come to my birthday dinner or made peace with the fact that other people might talk.
In any case, having a social media presence requires us to think about the decisions we make offline. If we don’t want something posted online, then we should either modify the circumstances that make us uncomfortable posting it, or we should not do or say whatever we don’t want posted at all. Given the fact that anything we say or do can be captured and posted, we must reflect on whether we are okay with this, and make decisions—on and offline— accordingly.
4. Mobilizing around social change. Today I am involved with several nonprofit organizations that I discovered through social media. Furthermore, social media has made it easier than ever to mobilize around causes that are important to us.
The organization Black Girls Smile, for example, recently hosted a campaign called Together We Smile. Participants posted photos, videos, poetry and prose demonstrating how they practice self-care using the hashtag #TogetherWeSmile. Seeing people from places near and far using social media to promote positive mental health is incredible.
Crisis Text Line also relies on social media’s potency to notify volunteers when there is a high demand. Within minutes, sometimes even seconds, of a Facebook message being posted, dozens of volunteers will jump on the platform to assist those in need. In this way, social media opens doors for us to actively make our communities better.
5. Connecting people. If it weren’t for social media, I wouldn’t have met several amazing people whom I consider close friends, despite not ever having them met in person. The best example of this is all of the people I have met through the Elephant Academy and in the elephant journal community. Without social media, I probably would never have discovered elephant journal, which I consider the epitome of spirituality and mindful living.
Additionally, I feel that social media has made me more aware of my interconnectedness with other human beings. I have colleagues from all across the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia whom I’ve never met before, yet still feel profoundly connected to through their writing. Despite being mountains and oceans away, their words and their posts have had and will continue to have a lasting impact on me.
Social media can never replace in-person interactions and living in the offline world.
However, if we allow it to, social media can open us to a wealth of opportunities that may not have otherwise been possible.
Though I may have been against social media until recently, I am glad that I finally decided to embrace it. I am grateful for the role that social media has played in facilitating my spiritual growth.
While it is all too easy to criticize social media for all its challenges, I intend to continue using social media as a means to inspire others, perpetuate positivity and be of benefit, just as it has done for me.