Every year, when I’m teaching college freshmen in their first semester of school, we talk about mindfulness and social media. Even in the quietest of classes, with the most soft spoken students, discussion explodes when I ask this simple question:
“Have you ever noticed that Facebook makes you feel lonely?”
While on Facebook, you see pictures of people you know smiling, having fun, and bonding, and you’re not in them. Everyone looks like they are having more fun than you are, more success than you are, and more joy than you are.
What you are looking at are images, reflecting something to you that is in your own mind: A desire for love, a desire to feel connected to others, and a desire to belong.
We find satisfaction in these areas in one way – by being fully engaged with our lives in the present moment and working towards what it is that we want. Fulfillment comes from a sense of being present to this very moment. “This” moment doesn’t exist on Facebook, because you’re looking at and getting absorbed in images of the past.
When we notice that Facebook is making us feel down, the best thing we can do is take a breath, and ask ourselves, “What is this bringing up in me?” “How is what I am seeing making me feel?” “What purpose does it serve for me to be on Facebook right now?” “Am I procrastinating? Bored? Avoiding something?”
If you notice the Facebook-loneliness link, it is time to reconnect with your life and your relationships in the now. You have the ability to connect with others. You have the ability to belong. You have the ability to give love to the world.
Try picking up the phone and calling (not texting) a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while. Or write someone a letter that you send through the mail – the “old fashioned” way. Commit to doing a random act of kindness next time you are around people. Connecting and helping others, even if they are strangers, can help us feel like we matter, and that we belong.
Facebook can serve a positive purpose – it helps us keep in touch with people we know. If you ever feel lonely while on Facebook, the positive “purpose” of Facebook has been lost. If you feel lonely, chances are people you know do too. Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and tell them you are thinking about them and wishing them well. The best way to receive love is to give it.