Social media consumption can be stressful at any time, but the days following the US Presidential election have made places like Facebook more emotionally volatile than usual. The internet and social media are part of our daily lives. We use them for work, to communicate with friends, and to make important plans. Pew Research has found that frequent internet users experience more stress than infrequent users. It may not be reasonable for you to cut out these stressors completely, but they don’t have to take a negative toll on your state of mind either. Here are three ways to remain mindful and peaceful, even when people on the internet aren’t.
1) Don’t Argue. It’s easy to engage in arguments on social media and internet forums. There is always someone to disagree with. But we have to be conscious of what we gain and what we lose during these emotional debates. Studies show that political Facebook posts, for example, are unlikely to change the minds of people who think differently. Same goes with other platforms. Anti Trump Instagram accounts, for example, won’t change your mind if you’re for Trump.
This is not to say that you should never use these platforms. If you use the internet for professional purposes and cannot get away from such exchanges, perhaps use online reputation management to do some of this work for you. However you choose to deal with this stress, pick your battles carefully and always prioritize peace of mind over correcting others’ opinions.
2) Be Intentional With the Time You Spend Online. Just as you work to manage your thoughts through meditation and other mindfulness practices, it is important to manage time spent online similarly. The internet is nearly infinite. It’s easy to drift through all kinds of material and content, whether or not the things you read and view are good for your mind. When we think about the internet as an extension of our own mind, with each site we navigate to just another thought we choose to engage with, we can become much more intentional about how we choose to use the internet.
3) Use the Internet and Social Media to Learn. When we allow our internet and social media usage to be dominated by negativity, we miss out on the vast resources that these same platforms put at our feet. Instead of spending an hour combing Facebook, why not use a free language tool to learn a new language, send an encouraging note to someone in need, or learn about topics that increase your mindfulness instead of jeopardizing it. Like the Buddha said, “Mind creates the world”. That goes for the internet, too.
We all get exposed to thoughts and images that threaten our peace of mind when using the internet. It is a challenging aspect of modern life that finds us wherever we go, even in our own bedrooms. However, it is always our choice whether or not to engage these voices. By making mindfulness a foundational priority, this will revolutionize the way we use the internet and social media, and may well make each of us a voice for peace in the midst of the modern internet din.