I recently listened to a really interesting podcast from NPR with Adam on our drive up to a family weekend in Connecticut. It was the November 3rd episode -- "Prisons of Our Own Making" -- of Hidden Brain, a podcast that uses science and storytelling to reveal unconscious patterns that drive our behavior. This podcast focused on an aspect of health and wellness that often plays second fiddle to diet, sleep, and fitness: social connection. The podcast discussed how connection to the people around us is so critically linked to our state of well-being. However, as with most things in life, too much (or too little) can be detrimental.
The portion of the podcast on over-connection discussed FOMO (fear of missing out) and how social media has created a culture of constant comparison, making people generally less happy with what they are doing and less able to live in their own moment.
This struck a chord with me – while the prevalence of information afforded to us by the Internet and social media bring so many positives, I’ve caught myself at times become less proud of a good workout or less satisfied with my day, where I am, what I’m doing, etc. when I see a picture of someone else who looks so happy and fulfilled. I’m happy for them, yes, but at times seeing those pictures launches a myriad of questions in my mind: am I that happy? Satisfied? Maybe what I’m doing is not enough? Maybe I should change what I’m doing? Logically, I know this is crazy – I have so much to be grateful for and so much in my life that brings me happiness! But that little tug in the back of my mind always seems to creep up when I spend a few minutes too long scrolling through that Instagram feed.
Greg and I have talked about this in the context of triathlon, and he refers to it as “the moving target.” Athletes look at others and think, “I need to do what they’re doing” versus just focusing on themselves. As someone who is always seeking to learn and trying to figure out how to be a better athlete, it can be a fine line between leveraging social media to learn from others and becoming plain distracted.
With this in mind, I’ve tried implementing a few habits this fall, using my annual break from training as the opportunity to hit “reset” on several fronts:
Mindful Media Interactions
I no longer go on social media in a moment of boredom or simply to fill the time. Not only have I found this to be a huge time suck, but it also becomes easy to mindlessly scroll through picture after picture and lose oneself in the process. Before I go onto Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., I have committed to this internal conversation: Am I in the right mindset for this? What is my purpose for signing in to the social media-sphere right now? How long will I allow myself to spend (sometimes I literally set a timer to avoid those 30second-turned-30minute Instagram sessions… you know what I’m talking about!).
Seeing what everyone else is doing, it can be so easy to say, “I should have done this or that.” As Adam will attest, I can be the QUEEN of shoulda-woulda-coulda. This fall, I am committing to “owning it.” From the smallest of scheduling decisions to major life decisions. I’m making them, owning them, and not looking back, regardless of what other people choose to do given a similar set of options.
Live in the Present
Social media is redefining the concept of living in the present. It’s not just about focusing on “the now” versus the past or future, it’s also about focusing on YOUR now versus others’. This is a perspective I’m working on cultivating, knowing that social media is part of my career as a professional/sponsored athlete and not something I can (or want to) cut out of my life completely. It’s all about maintaining the self-awareness to remember that at the end of the day I am living, training, racing for me, not for the picture/post that will come from it.
It’s a process and it is certainly not some black or white thing that happens overnight. I certainly recognize the irony of sharing my thoughts on this topic through an online blog, which I’m posting on social media, but I think that goes along with the fact that I believe social media is a part of our lives and a great way to learn, grow, and share in our family/friends’ joy and sadness. It is up to each of us to ensure that it does in fact play that role instead of morphing into something else.