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20 Apr

Finding meaningful connection with social media friends

Martha Rinehart, MA, LAC, MFT, NCC, our Featured Therapist for April 2018, employs mindfulness-based approach in her practice. If you are interested in therapy with Martha, request an appointment today at our Oxford Valley or Lawrenceville offices.  

There is considerable push back sweeping the country with the “Me Too” anti-sexual harassment movement, the “Never Again,” anti-gun violence movement, Black Lives Matter, the rising clamor for equal pay for women and a livable minimum wage, just to mention a few. People are awake in a way that feels refreshing, optimistic, and empowering. The best part is they are often fighting for the rights of others, not just themselves. This means that they are feeling more connected to one another, more seen, and more heard by those who share their views.

Facebook and other social media platforms are a place for like-minded people to connect in meaningful ways.  It’s also a place where people may feel emboldened to voice their most strident opinions from the safety of their computer screens, and share only their most successful, elegant and favorable selves with their “Friends.”  For those who don’t feel like their lives are so glamorous and exciting, this can be a constant irritating drip of acid that erodes one’s self-worth. The latest post of Facebook is often not fact-based news; we’re never getting the whole story.

All of these factors can make us question the value that these social media platforms bring to our lives. Despite this looming thought, many people still spend hours a day engaging with these apps. As a therapist, it’s my job to help people outgrow harmful patterns, create new habits, and live their healthiest lives. And what the patterns and habits I see emerging around social media worry me.

I’m not advocating that you delete your social media apps because I think they can be the start of meaningful interaction. I am suggesting that you move past the superficial and focus on cultivating real connections. Students at Connecticut Ridgefield High School started an online petition that has quickly grown to more than 150,000 signatures demanding action to reduce gun violence. They turned an online forum into real action that is making a difference. And surely, along the way they’ve made new friends who are similarly passionate about these issues.

So don’t just click “Like,” talk to the people who populate your world– the neighbors, bus drivers, classmates and co-workers, and make a REAL connection. I believe it’s important to engage with those who agree with your point of view and those who don’t. And it is much harder to ignore the real experience and perspective of someone who is standing right in front of you than some comments on a thread.

The next time you’re in a bad mood after looking at something on social media, try this: push back from the computer for a minute and think about moving your center of focus from an internal place (but what about me?) to a more external place (how can I make a difference today?). Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do I value in others?
  • What makes a good friend?
  • What are the most important lessons learned I’ve learned that I would like to emulate and pass on?
  • What small steps can I take to begin to make a difference in ways that are meaningful to me?

Then see if you don’t feel just a little bit less jealous that your friend is having the vacation of a lifetime in Tahiti, and a little more inspired to act in ways that are both productive and meaningful for you. Because when we operate from our values, we tend to feel we are making a productive contribution to the general good, regardless of our bank account or if we are having a good hair day.  But first we must remember our values – or decide to create some new ones.

 

Martha Rinehart, MA, LAC, MFT, NCC, our Featured Therapist for April 2018, employs mindfulness-based approach in her practice. If you are interested in therapy with Martha, request an appointment today at our Oxford Valley or Lawrenceville offices.  

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