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January 6, 2015

Facebook Causes Elation.

facebook elation

Three Elevated Ways to Connect. 

We have all heard “Facebook causes depression.”  Publications as diverse as The New Yorker, Huffington Post, Time, Psychology Today, The Economist and more have all found the topic interesting enough to report on a multitude of studies from researchers around the world.

Type in “Facebook causes” or “Facebook and” and Google autofills “depression.”

A range of reasons have been considered significant in the research. These include: envy, various issues being created in romantic relationships (like when that one girl would not stop liking every single one of our boyfriend’s pictures!!) a nagging sense of negativity caused by Facebook’s addictive quality and frustration that we’ve  squandered time in an unproductive way.

Most commonly discussed is the issue of social comparison. We know this is made worse because we get a skewed slice of everyone’s photoshopped, carefully curated high points. We never see the outtakes. We all do this. I have untagged myself from many a bad angle or not so cool scene. I’m sure you have too.

Especially when measuring  ourselves against these contrived standards, we experienced this:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt 

Further, there is a piece of human nature that simply revels in the negative pleasure of thinking mean thoughts about others and sadly, ourselves.

This is rather ironic considering Facebook’s mission statement intends “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”

To be fair, there is a whole other body of research that indicates Facebook has the ability to do just this and that the difference in findings come from how people use Facebook.

Sharing can have a psychological and physiological rush that registers in the reward center of our brain. People who actively engage with others on Facebook, such as writing on walls, hitting the like button, rallying around political causes or making social plans have a more positive experience.

Those who are passive and don’t reach out to connect, tend to feel more isolated and bored.

In essence,  our experience is in our own hands. As with everything, the quality of the energy we put in directly correlates with the energy we get back. We have a choice to be with each other either in fearful disconnection or in compassionate contact. The former depresses us, the latter fills us.

This is a special meditation, and I realize we probably won’t do this every time we pop on for a quick look. But, when I have really truly taken time to sit with these three things and hold presence for my Facebook friends, I am usually brought to tears.

We all essentially want the same things. To be seen and still loved. To give that is so powerful. In giving it, it is my experience that it comes back many times over.

Three Facebook practices to deepen our joy and sense of belonging. 

1.   As we scroll down our newsfeed, look directly at each person who has shared. Look at their eyes and say out loud, “I love you and I wish good things for you.” 

This part of the practice is about the person more so than the content of what they are sharing. As much as possible, let our heart be open with our mind simply sitting still on their picture.

Try to experience love rather than comparison either good or bad. Much will wash through us though. Some of those faces will be easier to love and some will trigger us.

Keep in mind, this has more to do with us than them—open our heart to ourselves

Human emotions ranging from intimidation to pity are bound to show up. Let them in and feel them fully.  See if we can then let it go and shift a gear up into unconditional love. It is breathtaking when we make it there and find such a sweet moment of being soul to soul in such an unlikely place.

2. If we have a strong judgment about a person or post, say out loud, “You are different from me and that’s okay.

Sometimes we will be triggered by someone. Our lower-self loves to show up and think nasty thoughts about people. It’s a human quality to define ourselves by what we are not. On Facebook it might show up as judging another’s parenting, political views, lifestyle choices, body or unusual sense of style.

There is a smugness that comes with judging that we are doing it all better. There is a false safety that comes with each time we can feel a little notch of superiority. On the other side there is the pain of comparison when we feel we aren’t  measuring up. Either path is isolating.

But there is utter liberation that comes with letting all that sh*t (admit it you just judged that I said sh*t) go and just releasing the other person to their own path. Judgment drains our energy. It is shocking how light I feel when I just stop doing it. 

3. “Like” freely.

I like as much stuff as possible. I like it with sincerity and with a full body feeling of simply wanting to affirm the person who has shared.

People withhold likes for a whole bunch of reasons. Competition, shyness, wanting to remain anonymous, wanting to judge in secret, some strange hierarchy about what or who it’s cool to like.

It’s like there is a magical social algorithm around how much and who and how often it’s okay to like and still keep our one up on everyone else. No wonder Facebook can feel lonely.

Liking things will serve the more important purpose of rewarding someone for having the courage to share. Our like implies their sharing has value.  Our like completes a loop of energy where something has been given and we have received it.

It’s a gift to let someone realize they aren’t yelling into a lonely void, but rather there is warmth, acceptance and inclusion reaching back to them.

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Author: Jen Painter

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of author

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