Online mindfully (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

One resolution I’ve seen a lot of lately is “reduce use of social media” or “don’t spend so much time online.” I suspect this will now join “eat less sugar” and “get more exercise” as a popular perennial resolution in society in general. (The irony is, if you do forsake online for in-person interactions, you often find yourself staring at the tops of heads, as your companions check their gadgets.)

A while ago, I changed my use of social media, dropping sites that were rarely being updated or whose focus had shifted away from the reason I initially followed them, moving other sites to “check weekly” rather than “check daily” status, and dropping out of one group. But I like reading some blogs for long-form thoughts. I like Twitter for short jokes, and for encouraging my civic involvement and pointing me toward news stories I might not have seen otherwise.

A few things have helped to keep me mindful about interaction with the world both offline and online:
  • I don’t have social media on my phone. My cell phone is a fairly primitive model that I mainly just use for emergencies or traveling. If I want to go online, I do it from my desktop computer, so my online life has a specific time and place that I can walk away from.
  • When I’m tempted to post something angry online, I pause and ask myself: What is my purpose? Who am I helping? Am I furthering the discussion, or just venting? Am I addressing issues or just insults? Am I adding and highlighting new information, educating in a way that encourages people to find their voices too? I actually think anger has an important place in public discourse. There is a lot of injustice in the world; we should be angry about that. But I want to channel my energy in constructive directions. I’m not saying I do this perfectly, just that this is my goal.
  • I take walks every day, and when I do, I leave my phone at home. I bring no gadgets along.
  • One thing I started doing in 2017 was ending every Twitter session by tweeting (usually retweeting) a beautiful photo of a scene from nature. This helps me put something positive into the world, remind myself of the beauty around us, and disengage from each Twitter session with what feels like a calming breath.
I share these ideas not because I think they are The Right Way to be online—these specific things might not work at all for many—but just to support people in finding their own right-for-them ways to be online. It’s easy to get swept up in technology, but we can make conscious choices about where and how we want to be present.


  1. I'm with you on this one. I have one of those "dumb phones"--a disposo-phone for safety that can't get online. When I push myself away from the desk, I'm completely done with online everything.

  2. I've started using Facebook a lot less, and I don't miss it that much. Sometimes it seems like certain people on Facebook are bragging, and it doesn't really make me feel good to read their posts when I've been having a rough day. Twitter is fun, though, because there's less pressure to make your life look perfect or to post pictures and you can just write whatever you want.


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