Throughout the day, if I’m not careful, I’ll catch myself entangled in a never-ending dance. I’ll pick up my phone, open one of my social media apps, scroll absently through my newsfeed until something else awakens me from my reverie before I finally set my phone down, unsure of why I had even picked it up in the first place. I almost never feel satisfied after this familiar jig, and yet I can’t seem to stop. What am I searching for? I’ve been sitting with this question for a little while now, trying to get to the root of what was compelling me to behave this way. And now the answer is as clear as day: meaningful connection.
I couldn’t see it at first, but by now, I am all too aware of how lonely I’ve been. Staying at home full time with a toddler sure does keep me on my toes, but it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of stimulating conversation. Humans are wired for belonging. For connection. For wanting to go deep in the hopes of fostering a sense of belonging and connection. I recently flipped through a book called The Village Effect by Susan Pinker all about how “face-to-face contact matters: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives and make us happy.”
But there’s also no denying that social media has become an integral part of our society for the time being. Facebook to Facebook has already begun to displace face to face. IG stories are a fun way to upload snapshots of the more raw, unedited aspects of life. But I’m finding that while these modes of communication to be more shallow than I’d like. I want to be in conversation. I want mutual vulnerability and respect for a healthy discussion surrounding things that matter the most. And If I am intentional about it, I believe there’s a way to dig a little deeper.
Here are four ways to cultivate meaningful connection via social media:
1.Curate a likeable newsfeed
When’s the last time you stopped and asked yourself if you even like following the people that you’re following? I reflect on my answer to that question periodically because I only want my newsfeed to be filled with accounts that lift me up. When I start to notice that someone’s posts are pulling me down, I kindly unfollow and keep it scrolling. I’m always surprised by how much the social media posts I see on a daily basis can influence my mood! And personally, nothing shuts off my desire to connect quicker than negativity.
2. Commit to a connection deep dive with a few followers
I follow a few hundred different accounts, but thanks to the infamous “algorithm”, I may only see posts from about a dozen on a regular basis. Instead of scrolling through my feed like a mad woman, I’m taking the time to intentionally engage with the posts I do come across. I’ll slow down enough to really take in the image and read the caption. If the post inspires me, I’ll share my thoughts in a common instead of keeping them to myself. I may even share the post to my own feed/stories. Plus, going deeper with just a few of the accounts that I follow help me to keep overwhelm at bay.
3. Pay a visit to someone’s digital residence
Social media is often used like a digital bulletin board, a collage announcing all the cool happenings beyond the app you’re on. Many of the people I follow have established a digital residence via their own personal website, blog, podcast and/or email list etc. And while they often invite me in to take a look around, I’ve been too preoccupied with scrolling to take note. Now, I make an effort to check out their creative endeavors. These long-form offerings present ample opportunities to learn more about what’s important to the people I’m following plus the opportunity to take home a few insightful lessons as well!
4. Opt for offline connection, too
While I believe it’s possible to truly cultivate meaningful connection via social media, to me, the bond feels even more fully formed after spending time together in person. It’s important to me that I am as intentional with connecting with my community offline as I am when I’m online. When I see a post announcing a local event/workshop/or retreat hosted by the people I interact with online, I make it a point to register. Not only will I get to better connect with the host, I’ll also be introduced to a larger community of people who have similar interests. And if you just can’t find any local, in-person gatherings that tickle your fancy, create your own and start bringing other like-minded individuals together!