March 14, 2022 § 1 Comment
By Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Research and several studies will tell you that social media can take a real toll on people’s mental health. With writers, the impact is even more given the low pay, fewer opportunities, loneliness of the profession, feeling misunderstood, needing external validation, and fiery insecurities. Constantly updating our Instagram and Facebook feed to see if anyone has liked it? Tweeting based on hashtag trends on Twitter and feeling disappointed if no one engages with our content?
Social media is an important medium for many of us, I get it. Social media helps us connect with our readers, editors, other writers, people across the globe, and much more. I too use it quite fervently. But the algorithm keeps changing, impacting both reach and engagement. Of course, it can feel frustrating—just when you thought you’d cracked the code to connect with your readers, you are turned into a humble beginner all over again.
What would happen if you weren’t so attached to your newsfeed? How about if we maintain a presence on social media (if that’s something that speaks to you) but we detach ourselves from the “outcome” aspect without being overly emotional, judgmental, cynical, or critical? How you let any social networks impact you can be a choice. I have read articles and heard podcasts where people ended valuable friendships because their friend wasn’t “supporting” them on social media.
We overthink social media. We over-analyze people’s behavior without knowing their motivation. We sulk without knowing the truth. All the ego, the attachment, the I-am-ness, the projected rejection leads to suffering. Can we agree on that? Quite honestly, my husband as well as most of my close friends don’t care about social media. My husband is on social media for all things football and sports. It’s not their responsibility to join Instagram to like my posts or even like my posts just because we are connected on social media. That’s a vanity metric for determining the value of a relationship in your life. People show support in many ways; let’s not force them to do it our way. For example, if a friend of mine starts to bake and sell cookies, I will suggest her name in rooms where she might get traction. I will inform her about opportunities. But it doesn’t mean I will always engage with her posts on social media because I have defined goals for why I am there. My work/business/dharma is around creativity, wellness, and productivity … well, cookies don’t necessarily fit in there. Support comes in different forms.
What if we didn’t give social media so much power over our lives? If we can write with abandonment for ourselves, our healing, our voice, our inner turmoil, our joy, our sanity…why can’t we apply the same philosophy to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.? Could we use it without being attached to how it performs? All our suffering (disappointments, heartaches, expectations crushed, not feeling liked etc.) come from a place of unhealthy attachment. Mental projections, false values, and unrealistic expectations create a toxic relationship with the world around us. It can make us feel lonely and unloved.
I enjoy being bendy on the mat, but I appreciate the mental flexibility off the mat equally. As a modern-day yogi, I rely on texts like Yoga Sutras, Ayurvedic textbooks, Bhagavad Gita, Buddha’s The Four Noble Truths (You’d be surprised how relatable and relevant they are several thousands of years later) and other kinds of wisdom and holistic teachings to navigate life in the 21st century.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, who is at war with his cousins and feeling conflicted about hurting his family, “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction.” The conclusion of Bhagavad Gita is that we should always do our duties without attachment because attachment is the root cause of suffering.
The Pali word dukkha is translated in English as “suffering.” We all experience suffering. Buddhism holds that, above all, desire (selfish craving or tanha) and ignorance (unawareness or avidya) lie at the root of suffering (unsatisfactoriness or dukkha.)
In Yoga Sutra 1.12, Sage Patanjali introduces two essential elements of yogic philosophy: effort (abhyasa) and non-attachment (Vairagya). When we practice abhyasa and vairagya together, they can serve as a practical roadmap for navigating almost every aspect of life with greater calmness, including but not limited to social media.
So, how can we find this balance between effort and letting go in our social media usage practice? How can we find a place of calm, instead of comparison, when we post the next time? How can we create, curate, and post content without any expectations of others to like it? How do we find the motivation to post even on those days when you feel meh and would appreciate strangers validating you?
Start with understanding that desires produce a bondage. Remember that there are no guarantees in life and suffering is inevitable. What we can control is how we react to any situation.
§ Show up to social media for yourself—it’s helpful to have defined goals.
§ Pay attention to how often you log on.
§ Limit how much time you spend online.
§ If you share what feels truest to you, you’d be surprised how fulfilling that can feel.
§ Instead of asking your pod of people to engage with your posts, have the faith to share your words/pictures/thoughts authentically.
§ It feels freeing to not be attached to expectations or burden your relationships.
§ I promise you; we all find our tribe. I once connected with writers in England who attended my book launch in London. We had organically connected on Twitter.
§ Have faith—our stories have a humanitarian thread that connects us to the world around us.
§ When you detach yourself from your newsfeed’s performance, you start to have fun.
I am not here to tell you whether social media is for you or not. But as a writer, I do know that protecting our mental health and energy is integral to our creativity.
“The wise are not bound by desire for rewards.”
Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an international speaker, best-selling author of 13 books, and Ayurveda and mindset coach who is committed to helping people thrive on their own terms. Her latest book, A Piece of Peace, (Modern History Press) was released in September 2021. As a trusted source on health and wellness, most recently appearing on NBC and Radio Lifeforce and in an Ayurveda documentary with Dr. Deepak Chopra, Sweta has dedicated her career to writing about and teaching a more holistic approach to creativity, productivity, health, and nutrition. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Sweta is a trained yogi and certified Ayurveda health coach, is on the board of Fly Female Founders, and holds a Master’s in Strategic Communications from Columbia University. Voted as “One of the Most Influential Asians of Our Times” and winner of the “Voices of the Year” award (past recipients have been Chelsea Clinton), she lives in New York City with her husband and works with clients across the globe. She also teaches yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as well incarcerated men and women. Find her on: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.