You know how it goes. Wake up, check phone, thumb effortlessly switching between apps, a motion so ingrained it's almost as natural and involuntary as breathing. Before you know it, you’ve subconsciously woken an inner narrative questioning why you don’t look like/are as successful as/have the lifestyle of x, y or z. Sound familiar? I hear you.
A few weeks ago, my Monday morning started exactly as above. I wasn't teaching my first class till lunchtime, so I woke up, fed the pets, made some coffee, started mindlessly scrolling. Then, as keeps happening since I’ve started meditating daily (more on that another time), I caught myself mid-self-destructive thought cycle. I witnessed that aforementioned narrative loop as it was building and building (and building) and said STOP.
I mean seriously, I’m a 35-year-old woman and, quite frankly, I just don’t have time for that nonsense anymore. And besides, regardless of age (or gender), you shouldn’t be letting that rhetoric seep insidiously into the corners of your mind, slowly leaching your sense of worth and self-esteem, while also quite literally changing how your brain functions.
'We are destroying how society works'
In December, Facebook's former vice president for user growth Chamath Palihapitiya gave a damning keynote speech at a Stanford Business School event, saying: 'The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.' Moreover, the social media giant's founding president Sean Parker claimed that Facebook 'exploit[s] a vulnerability in human psychology' by creating a 'social-validation feedback loop'.
Hearing Palihaptiya's speech on Radio 4 one evening planted a seed: what was my social media consumption doing to the way my brain worked? As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, was I making myself worse? As yoga teachers, there is an increasing pressure to have a large social following, to 'build your brand', so to speak.
But, as my teacher Jason Crandell wisely pointed out during training last month, is it worth investing all your time and energy creating content that people expect to get for free? Surely we should be instead investing said time and energy into the stuff that really deepens our knowledge and understanding of this practice, so that we can in turn serve our students better. To focus less on creating content for social media and more on creating a rich, textured curriculum for the people actually willing to pay for our knowledge (the knowledge we've spent thousands on trainings to gain) so they can develop and grow? To me, the answer is clear.
'change your consumption habits'
The thing is, I actually quite like Instagram (and it’s Instagram, coincidentally owned by Facebook, I’m focusing on here, so synonymous it is with modern yoga). When I’m feeling mentally strong, I find it a wonderful way to stay connected to my community, and I also find it motivational and inspiring – to a degree. I often find myself scrolling, watch an beautiful flow or new transition and peel myself off the sofa and go practice as a result. Many of the teachers I love and respect post really valuable, knowledgeable content.
Personally I notice a huge difference in how social media affects me depending on the time of day I consume it. Mid-afternoon? Often leads to a practice. Early evening? I just like looking mindlessly at beautiful pictures with Netflix on in the background and the pets on my lap. But first thing in the morning? Hell no! That just sets me up for a day of self-loathing and self-doubt. I mean, it’s just not healthy to wake up, see what everyone else is doing (only a million times better than you, because everyone is #livingtheirbestlife online) and start the day feeling like you're not ‘enough’, is it?
So, after noticing a pattern in my social media consumption and moods, I decided to try a little experiment. No Instagram first thing. In fact, no Instagram till after I’d done the things that enrich me, and even then maybe none at all that day. For me, that means waking up, feeding pets, meditating, drinking coffee, going to teach, then a swim or a practice, then I'll allow myself a peek. In short, no social media pre-midday. After two weeks, I can already notice a big difference, so I'm being strict with myself and sticking to it. Why don't you give it a go, and let me know how you get on? Let's embrace this new dawn, one in which social media doesn't rule the day.