How many times have you checked Instagram today? Facebook? How much of that has been just to see if one of your posts has been Liked? Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not calling anyone out on sneaking a peak to see if the Likes have turned double or (gasp!) triple digit. I’m pretty guilty of that myself. My point is that we do it quite a bit, and that our need for approval via social media has grown exponentially in the last couple of years. This never-ending point system of approval can certainly do a number on our self-confidence, and if we’re not careful, can begin to affect how we feel about ourselves.
As a yoga teacher, social media has a big influence on my career — and thus my marketing strategies. These days, most teachers promote their classes solely through social media, and their posts will usually have at least some impact in the number of students that stroll into class that evening — especially if the post is interesting, memorable, or just plain nice to look at. When done well, marketing your services (and basically yourself) through social media can be an incredible way to reach out to your community, pique interest in potential students, get people to attend your classes or events, and make important connections with others in your field.
But when is it too much? How do we stop ourselves from getting wrapped up in this world of Likes and the perfect yoga picture when it all feels so necessary nowadays? For me, it’s important to think about a few key things before posting. I’ve tried hard to develop a more mindful way of interacting with the online world — one that creates a presence that reflects my personality, my beliefs, and is authentic to my voice. I want my posts to show who I am, not only as a yoga teacher, but as a person. Most importantly, I want to attract people who connect with my style, and build relationships with like-minded individuals.
Here are a few self-reflection strategies that have helped me along my journey to a more mindful and gratifying social media presence.
Ask yourself: why are you posting this?
If the answer is anything close to “I just want to see how many people will like this” or “I’m needing a little external affirmation that I’m prettier / stronger / more skillful than I think I am,” then maybe re-think that post. Don’t get me wrong — there is nothing like a well-Liked picture to make you feel good about yourself. However, the negative side is that the gratification is usually very short-lived. You’ll be looking for more affirmation and approval in no time, leading you to post more for external approval than for whatever message you’re actually trying to convey.
Post because you want to share a message that is important to you, or because you stumbled over a beautiful poem, or because you are proud of how you nailed handstand and just want to share your joy! Post something that already feels good to you, not something that needs multiple-digit likes before you think it’s worthy. Also, most approval-seeking posts tend to be pretty transparent, causing people to disengage instead of connect with your online presence. In other words, most people know when you’re posting for approval. Think about what you felt last time you saw an overtly self-glorifying post. Did it make you want to engage with that person, or did it make you want to roll your eyes and keep scrolling?
Post because something feels authentically good to share, and let the approval come from within instead! You’ll be less likely to get that “hooked-on-the-Likes” feeling in the future, and your posts will likely feel way more authentic to your followers and friends, attracting the right people to you.
Does this post have the potential to inspire, bring happiness, or simply make people smile?
If the answer is yes, then post away! There’s no downside to simply spreading those good vibes around. And no, not all posts are going to be super deep or inspiring, but that’s okay. The simplest posts can be the most joy-inducing. Think about how baby animals or a really funny meme make you feel. Pretty good, right? Use your presence to make those around you feel joyful. Even if the Likes are few, you’ll feel great knowing you made someone smile (even if it’s just your sweet grandma who likes everything you’ve ever uploaded).
Follow people who inspire you… and don’t follow those who do the opposite.
Still have that ex-boyfriend, mean boss, creepy neighbor, or angry, politically-obsessed friend on your feed? WHY? Remove everything and everyone from your timeline who doesn’t make you feel good right now. There is absolutely no reason to have your day flooded with negativity, anger, or anything that doesn’t sit well with you. We oftentimes keep these people around because we feel guilty, or maybe we just forget they even exist (until they post something that makes you want to throw your phone out the window). This is why the Hide button on Facebook is such a great tool. All the clean up of an unfriending, with none of the hurt feelings. Same with Instagram — unfollow any accounts that don’t make you feel positively about your life, job, looks, and Self. And finally, if anyone is being directly aggressive or negative towards you, please do not be afraid to use that Block button.
It can be such a great relief to de-clutter your feed of negative things and people, and I promise it’ll make you look forward that much more to checking your feeds. Knowing you won’t accidentally come across anything that will cause you to feel uncomfortable, angry, or insecure can be very freeing, and can make your time on social media uplifting instead of deflating. Once you’re done purging the yucky stuff, go look up accounts or people that make you smile. Search for those who are conveying positive messages, or even accounts that tickle your funny bone. Create a feed that is full of positivity, and make a concentrated effort to only add people or accounts who are in line with what makes you happy.
And finally, just put the phone down!
Like any habit, social media checking and obsessing are strengthened the more you do it. If you notice you've had a media-heavy day, go take a break. My cue for myself is usually tired eyeballs and a sense of anxiety in my chest from information overload. When you notice you’ve gone a little overboard, put your phone away and go unplug. Play with your pet, have a stretch, take a long walk, listen to some music, or go read that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table for the past month. Treat your brain (and your ego) to a little break.
And finally, just relax about these made-up symbols of approval! After all, at the end of the day, no one is going to remember you for the Likes you had or the followers you accrued. What will most live on in people’s minds is the memories they had of your joyful presence and your authentic voice — and no amount of Likes is worth more than that.