The Question of (Anti?) Social Media

I’ve wrote a post before about social media. In that post, I wrote about how I believe social media can be a powerful tool to educate, support, unite and inspire people. I also touched on how it can indeed have a negative, darker side that centers around comparison, judgment, competition and self loathing. Social media is such an intrinsic part of most people’s everyday life now that it feels as though there is no escaping its long and twisted tentacles.

Do we use social media for productivity? Or does it do nothing more than suck away our time? Do we use social media as a way of connecting more with people we care about? Or does it disconnect us from engaging with people in real life? Do we share our lives on social media to inspire others also? Or are we looking for reassurance, justification or applause? Are the snippets we share actually an accurate representation of our life and ourselves? Or are they carefully constructed, edited, filtered, cropped versions of the life we wish we had and the person we wish we were?

Teenagers using cellphones

Since moving overseas my relationship to social media has drastically changed. When I started Bella and Bhakti, my mission was to use these social media platforms as a place to educate, inspire, uplift and connect with people who were interested in healthy living, raw food, a vegan lifestyle, yoga, travel and more. The intention was very simple, pure and heartfelt. As I think it is with many people who set out with a business page or fan page. Connecting with a greater audience, other than that which is reachable by physical proximity alone, is the lure and power of social media.

No matter how good the intentions are in the beginning though- human nature takes over. As ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ rise, you want more. As ‘comments’ and ‘shares’ increase, you expect more. As newsletter sign ups and work offers appear, the desire to share for the love of sharing alters as the desire to make a living off this social media game requires you to start ticking a few predetermined boxes. When can you start charging companies for sponsored posts? How many followers do you need to start charging for information rather than giving it away? How carefully do you need to watch each and every post you hit publish on to ensure a seamless and streamlined newsfeed or homepage? At what point do you stop posting out of enthusiasm and start posting out of obligation? If a day goes by without any posting, do you loose sleep at night over the ‘likes’ being missed or the fear of fading quietly into the background as other bloggers rise to greatness?

It’s crazy- right?!

Back in Australia, just before I departed, I was reaching this point. I was starting to be approached by health companies to promote their products and I was getting paid to work in the realms of social media. To me- it was a dream- but where had this dream come from? When had it snuck into my mind and obliterated the intentions and goals I had when I first set up Bella and Bhakti. Did I want to sit in front of a computer or permanently have an iphone stuck to the palm of my hand? Or did I want to be cooking, creating, sharing food with people, coaching people to reach their own health goals? Did I want to create recipes on a screen, or in a kitchen to share with enthusiastic people?

make-connection-with-customers

Ten years ago when I first came to this quiet island in Thailand, there was no reception, no internet and no phones of any kind. People talked- can you believe that?! We talked, shared, laughed, danced, swam, hiked and connected deeply- deeper than I have ever experienced before. Friends became family overnight and the connections I made a decade ago are still the strongest in my lifetime. There was a sense of being totally present to each and every moment. Synchronicity and intuition guided every action and decision. Life never felt so magical, full of possibility and above all, real.

Fast forward to 2015 and hello to mobile phones, laptops, and reception towers. The nature of this bay still means that the people who find themselves here do still connect and relate on a physical and deep level. Yet random meetings have been replaced by text messages, shared meals are disrupted by ringtones and the magical candlelit evenings have been replaced by the glow of screens instead. I have to ask myself- are we really here>now? Or are we only half here- the other half in a different hemisphere thanks to the reach of the world wide web? To what extent are we fully in the moment? Or are we distracted by the life that sits in our pockets?

Observing it all and thinking about the implications of technology here, I feel split. Part of me wants to disconnect altogether- to be fully immersed in my world here and be grateful for the simplicity of life and the opportunity to do what I truly love. The other part of me still wants to share this world with others- with family, with friends and with the people who have come into my online world through social media. This side of me still wants to share my sunrise images, share blog posts about health and wellbeing, share new recipes I am creating here, offer newsletters and articles that inspire people and share the insights I am gaining through my nutritional medicine course and my experiences here with raw vegan cuisine.

presence

I think the conclusion that I have come to is that there needs to be balance and there needs to be 100% authenticity. By balance, I mean 90% living in this physical realm I am blessed to be in, and 10% devoted to sharing my passion, knowledge and ideas online with people who are truly interested in what it is I am sharing. By authenticity I mean sharing from my heart, always. No sponsored posts, no tagging to grow an audience and saying no to the set out rules and regulations you buy into when you decide you want to grow your following. I have decided not to say goodbye to social media altogether, but I am dedicated to spending no more than 30 minutes there every day- focused, with positive intentions and with openness and integrity. The rest of my 23 hours and 30 minutes, I am committed to being fully present in the here and now- taking advantage of all of the remarkable opportunities I have right in front of me.

I see the local people here, immersed more than ever in their smart phones. Hours and hours pass by as quiet season and monsoon weather mean more than ever people are ‘glued in.’ I used to see kids playing in the ocean, teenagers riding motorbikes, adults sharing food and laughing- but now I see the Western world sneaking in ever so quickly and gadgets and gizmos dominate.

It is indeed a very clear sign of the times. Yet I hope, once again, that we can stay connected to what is truly important. I hope that we can utilize the positive aspects of such instant access to the world and at the same time, love the place where our soles are connected to the earth. I hope that we continue to read books and not just kindles, that we take photos and not just selfies, that we remember that above all- it is our physical presence that touches and impacts the world- not our online persona.

breathe_deeply