How to Stay Mindful (and Sane) in the Age of Social Media
Alexis Novak/ Hope Leigh
Alexis Novak is a yoga instructor, NASM-CPT, and mobility enthusiast. As a contributor for THE/THIRTY, Alexis will be sharing her knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, and meditation to help you find your own personal balance between strength and serenity. Her approach to wellness is to simplify and keep a sense of humour. This month, she shares how she finds mindfulness in the brave new world of likes, regrams, and fickle followers.
First off, I am not an expert on this subject. It took some self-soothing and redirecting to close all the tabs and sit down to write this. This feels a little ironic to write, as many of you probably found me through social media, and paradoxically, I am speaking about staying authentic and present in the age of apps, likes, and endless notifications.
I use social media as a medium to connect with an audience using yoga photos, comedic captions, and long-form essays. I have found most traction comes from the almost-strictly aesthetic medium (Instagram), so there's certainly pressure to stay connected and on top of my physical form. Sometimes I am sitting on my couch and eating a doughnut while contemplating which is the best photo of me in a sports bra and leggings to post—and I think, is what I am doing helping? The reason I worked to build up a wellness audience in the first place was to have a voice to say, "you do not need to be 'fixed.' you do not need to spend that extra money to look different than you do right now. You are enough." And my conclusion of that being a necessity to say was born out of my own struggles with self-image and body positivity. It's still a minute-by-minute battle.
A while ago, I had "eczema" in my bio because I lead with "yoga instructor," which is very ethereal and esoteric, and then it's like, "oh yeah, and by the way, my skin flakes off." I originally wrote it to be funny, but then I started getting emails and DMs from people who also had it and were looking for guidance. Which speaks to the fact that if you admit to any vulnerability, people will flood you with support through their shared vulnerability. That's something I have found is astounding about the internet. Although it shows us ugly realities of the time and place we are living in, it also shows that if you express who you are and bare your heart to others, a heart that looks similar to yours will be shown to you in return.
Social media is so powerful these days. It gets people jobs, it introduces lovers, and it creates a fanbase for mediums you didn't think anyone else was a fan of. It's the prism through which we look at life now.
I have a built a captive audience that knows they can click to me, however shallow and simple that seems, and see a female who is, above all else, human. I would be lying if I said that I feel great all the time about my body or that I feel comfortable in all my clothes. I have studied the body thoroughly and find joy in sharing the biological, biomechanical, and physiological information with my followers, who may not learn these amazing things about their anatomical machines otherwise. But I also have superficial insecurities. I know I won't solve all female body issues by posting photos or change the world with my jokes, but I hope that by being open and honest, I can at least help one person feel less alone. It helps me feel less alone.
Still, it's not always easy to separate real life from your feed. Keep reading for some pointers on staying mindful and authentic. (Spoiler: It's ok to use filters.)
Share what makes you—yes, you—feel best.
We have filters, Facetune, and Photoshop to fix those imperfections that we think we have, and honestly, that's okay. The difference is knowing that above all else, the body and mind you lay down with at night is who you are, and you are enough.
Remember: In the end, you're sharing a curated version of your "life"—and so is everyone else.
Social media is designed to give us pangs of jealousy and feelings of nostalgia. We see photos of multiple people we know (or don't know) together, and we feel like we are missing out. But the truth is that if we were to look at those photos and move on with our day, it wouldn't be much different because we are okay as is.
On the flip side, share your world with those who follow you, but know that you have value outside of it.
Know when it's time to unplug.
There's power in detox. Whenever I am feeling particularly vulnerable or down, I delete social media apps from my phone. This is my way of putting up a "baby gate" to protect me from deep-diving into Instagram waters I have no business deep-diving into and from continually comparing myself to those I know on the internet. Small adjustments like this have kept me grounded when I have lost sight of what's important, which is connection, eye contact, and love.
Next up: Try one of these 27 tips to be more mindful right now.