Social Media Zen

welcomeIf there’s one thing I’ve learned to be absolutely true, it’s that there is an immense amount of freedom in taking responsibility for yourself.

The concepts of “freedom” and “responsibility” sound like conflicting ideas, no? But this is what I’ve found to be so freeing: I am the only one in control of me. Other people are the only ones in control of themselves.

That control extends to just about everything – thoughts, feelings, outlook in just about any situation, actions, etc. If someone else feels unhappy, I can apologize if I did something wrong* that caused that unhappiness, but I’m not responsible for that other person’s feelings. In fact, they’re the ones that chose that feeling. There’s not a damn thing I can do to “force” a different feeling for them.

* – (Something wrong, I should clarify, does not include respectfully expressing a conflicting opinion, making a choice in my own best interest, standing up for myself, or not allowing another person to control my actions or attempt to control my thoughts and emotions.)

Wow, I got off on quite a tangent here. What I’m really here to talk about is taking control of your own space in the world of social media. But really, I think you’ll see that these ideas can certainly translate into the “real world” too!

Social media can be both fantastic and awful. There is some amazing, uplifting, funny and creative content out there. We can connect with people we’d never meet otherwise. We can find ideas and knowledge with speed and access never before possible. All good stuff!

But along with it can come bad. It seems some users feel inclined to interact online in a way they’d never dream of communicating in real life. Maybe it’s a “sense of anonymity” that comes with online interaction. It seems some folks have lost their sense of accountability because they’re not in the same room as someone, telling them something to their face. It can get toxic and nasty in a hurry.

But guess what! You don’t have to stand for that. It’s possible to keep your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., and still keep your sanity too. Here’s my four-step plan for Social Media Zen:

1. Remember, above all, *I* am the one responsible for reactions to anything I encounter online. If someone posts something that angers or upsets me, I am the one who originated that emotion and the thoughts around it. I can choose to believe it and even act upon it, but that’s MY choice. I have to be willing to face the consequences of that.

2. Don’t feed the trolls. Is there someone who likes to make nasty comments on my posts? I don’t have to respond. If possible, I can find ways to keep them from seeing what I post. If it’s not someone I want to “unfriend,” I have no problem with blocking people from my Facebook wall. I’ve done it before and won’t hesitate to do it again. But in the meantime, I don’t need to get dragged down into the gutter to wallow with someone else who wants to take me there. I can peacefully move on without reacting.

3. BUT … I also need to be mindful of what I put out there. If I share things that are deeply personal (hello! like this blog), I also need to be prepared for the consequences of that. I can’t attack people, ideas or institutions and not expect retribution.

4. I can create my own “happy space.” My Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with positive, uplifting messages from different spiritual healers and other folks who spread a sense of peace, happiness, and serenity. On Facebook, I can block people from my newsfeed without unfriending them. Sometimes it’s the best way to coexist.

So what do you think? How have you learned to own your happiness online?

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Andrew Hines

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