Can Mindfulness & Social Media Coexist? (March 2017)

If you have seen my Instagram (@catvaladezyoga), you’ll know that I’m pretty active on social media.

I’m also a big proponent and practitioner of mindfulness.

And yet, I have caught myself wondering lately if it’s even possible to say that I practice mindfulness and also engage (heavily) on social media. Seems laughable, doesn’t it?

Most of my social media activity is to support my online yoga business, to inspire others to practice, and to get the word out about my local teaching events in San Diego. But of course, I also use it to catch up with friends and stay abreast of news. I use it for inspiration. I use it to connect with those in the yoga community I’d not have met otherwise. I also, quite honestly, often end up misusing my time on it (read: mindless scrolling), and that part I’m not so keen on.

I do my best to keep my phone out of sight when my 3-year-old is around, seeking and deserving my attention. I avoid engaging on social media when I’m eating out, for the sake of killing time in line, or when in the presence of friends or loved ones–especially at social events–kind of a no-brainer.

And yet, I notice there is a habit of reaching for my phone when there is a little too much space between this moment and that. “Just to check,” I tell myself. Check what? Check and make sure I caught another bit of information assaulting me at the exact moment of receipt? Check to see if anything has changed in my world or the world at large, within the past 2 minutes? That part is definitely not mindful. I’m working on it.

Actually, I recall seeing articles comparing social media to crack cocaine. We really do get addicted and every “let’s just check my phone” is a hit on the reward center of our brain, setting us up to go for it again, perhaps in increasingly ridiculous or dangerous situations. Forget driving and texting–let’s talk about social media and driving, folks!

So I really have been working on it, and increasingly the work itself of allowing for more space is thrilling and a beautiful practice of mindfulness in itself. It’s the mindful work toward being more mindful, really.

I am finding many more moments in between those social media impressions, where I intentionally don’t pull out my phone while I’m in line somewhere, where I revel in people watching (definitely a guilty pleasure). When I’m stopped at a red light I turn and look out the window in awe of how the sun dazzles me, how delicate and smooth are the blades of grass and the green veins in each individual leaf on any precious plant nestled in my suburban surroundings. I drive on, but I notice. And then I notice the texture of the steering wheel, the sunlight across the dash. I drop down into my body and hear my breath, feel my pulse beat within. I am present.

This is my new crack, competing with technology. It’s a real high, and I have realized that so long as I set boundaries with my consumption and activity on social media–not striving for perfect, but striving at all being the real key–and I continue to strive toward mindfulness practices wherever I go throughout my day, things are better. Things are in balance. All the little moments of mindfulness drop me down from fight-or-flight into true presence and they build up to really support me. They also build up and feel so good that I want more.

The more I am mindful or practicing toward that end, the more often it happens overall.  It’s kind of like if you want to build a regular home yoga practice or even a regular studio/gym practice, if you shoot for a daily practice you might hit it. If you don’t hit it, but you get close, you’ll probably hit the sweet spot anyway with a couple practices a week. If you don’t hit it and miss entirely, you’ll probably still have made it to your mat at least once–which is better than none!

So in conclusion, like most things in life it’s not so black and white as to say that you are either a social media consumer/user OR you practice mindfulness. I wasn’t exactly proposing that in the first place. But you can be a practitioner of mindfulness and still care about these virtual communities we’ve created, without feeling bad about ourselves. It’s about balance, and it’s about consistently showing up to do the practice. Make each moment count. Be all in, whether it’s commenting and connecting with others for short periods of time (or within a certain hours), or being mindful where you are.

Do it with full presence and you can’t go wrong. Just keep practicing.

 <3 Cat

Catherine ValadezComment