[First posted on 09.05.2021, Updated 14.05.2021]
Let’s face it, social media is a terrible time thief, but I won’t let go of it 100%. So while I rarely check Facebook and gave up on Twitter, I still regularly waste my life by scrolling through Instagram.
At least I managed to give my social media habits some happiness twist as I am at least actively widening my “what I am used to” angle.
Let me explain:
When I see a gay couple, a Transwoman, someone in a wheelchair, a black person, a goth, in the street, I still stare for the tiniest of moments because that’s how my brain reacts to seeing something slightly different from the everyday usual. (I am not using the word “normal” here!)
I guess it has to do with some scanning-the-surrounding-for danger-thing we inherited. So the very first impulse is hard to control, but I can control what comes after it… It’s ok that my brain reacts like that; I can’t do anything about it, but I can teach my brain that normal includes all these people.
And this is my social media happiness practice:
I am following people I want to include in my brain’s normal.
(Representation matters and diversity is fun: Check out my diverse reading list)
Teaching my brain an inclusive “normal”
Here’s the main catch. When I get irritated or stare, my lizard brain sends “check for thread” impulses, and therefore I easily end up convinced that there’s something wrong with the other person!
Here we are left with an important decision: Go the lazy way, accept the quick judgment, or put in some work. And that’s where our humanity or prefrontal cortex comes to the rescue if we allow it to. With all that brain we have, we can look at “the other” and consciously include them in our tribe.
These people are my people.
There’s nothing wrong with them, and there’s nothing wrong with me.
I can tell you that’s a wonderful experience because I get to live in a world with fewer imagined threats and more potential friends.
I said imagined threads because there are plenty of real threats, but that’s another story and another post.
Closely look and see that the imagined threat is triggered by the ancient “this is unusual – double-check” response and can, in most cases, be dismissed as a false alarm as it’s just another human who caught my attention.
This imagined threat comes with baggage. It might be bringing up internal struggles and questionable beliefs in myself that I need to look at privately. Those beliefs and learned “usuals” aside, it really just is another human minding their own business.
These people are my people
Here are some people that made me look twice and whom I love, admire, enjoy and most importantly, learn from. Make your own list. This is personal!
When I first came across a post by Jeffrey Marsh, my brain was irritated. So I allowed it to stare – as we can do so safely on social media – and look closer and ease in with the unfamiliar look they had to me at first. Now that my lizard brain doesn’t short-fuse my attention, I get to listen to their joy and wisdom daily and enjoy their looks. While you are on it, check out ALOK, too and let Bay Davis take you for a ride.
I get a daily dose of happiness by watching Dexter Mayfield’s joyous moves. Danny, the trans dad, was an irritating sight a first, and I grew to love them and Wilder. On the topic of seahorse dads, check out Kayden X Coleman. I am now used to my feed showing me black joy and wisdom. And I listen! That’s the best bit.
The odd visual filter of the usual is off, and I get to sit down and let the wisdom of Sonya Renee Taylor really sink in. Did I mention Brandon Kyle Goodman? Yeah, I learned a huge amount from them too.
(On a side note: I looked at the pronouns they listed on their profiles and used them. Look, I am still alive. It didn’t even hurt a little)
[Addition 14.05.2021] You might have realized that that’s mostly trans or queer people and 6 of the 8 in that list are BIPOC. They are an extra source of wisdom and inspiration because they sit at the intersections of different forms of oppression. Kayden knows the pain of sexism as he has been a woman. He knows racism as a black person AND the discrimination against trans folx AND – as he says himself – he’s fat, so add fatphobia to the list as well.
I can say some smart stuff about the sexism I encountered and self-doubt and need for feminism and whatnot, but I am also really privileged, and there are many things that I do not see from where I stand. That’s why listening to the people who see and experience is so crucial. We won’t be able to fix problems some of us have the luxury of ignoring.
Waking up means seeing reality for what it is. Not some woke blabla only the privileged can indulge in but seeing/ feeling the pain and suffering in the world, connecting with the care and connection we have with all humans and ultimately with the world. Driven by that working towards improving the situation.
I might come up with really cool stuff that helps me fight sexism, but it might do so on the back of BIPOC, queer or disabled people. It’s not about making only my life better it’s about making everybody lives better on this planet that we are part of and standing together in solidarity. The day a black queer disabled fat poor woman with a hijab (sounds constructed, but they exist) can live her best life, I can for sure too.
Choosing my influence(r)s, checking my biases as part of my social media happiness practice
On social media, I have the power to be shown the world I want to live in and choose my influence(r)s.
It can be the seemingly “perfect” people who remind me of the very many “flaws” and shortcomings I was taught I had, and I should spend my time and money on overcoming.
Or as part of my social media happiness practice, I am surrounding myself with a supportive group of people happily being themselves and showing me how to be an accepting, loving, uplifting ally to them and thereby also myself.
On social media, I can now take my time and address my biases without making someone feel uncomfortable, threatened even. After that moment of irritation, what uncomfortable feelings are coming up other than “that’s not what I am used to”? Why does looking at this person make me feel this or that? What’s happening inside me, and where is it coming from? The person I am looking at that moment is simply a few pixels on my phone, so what is it inside myself that creates all the upheaval when looking at these pixels?
I can sit with what I’ve learned in my life and unlearn, open, free myself. That’s big. That’s self-love and self-care too. Because rejecting others is based on beliefs we learned throughout our lives, and when we can free ourselves and accept others for who they are, we also make that room for ourselves.
Pro tip: By uplifting others, we free ourselves
Whatever you find out through staring at someone whose image is/ was a struggle to you and whether you learned something through that or not. Keep it to yourself unless it’s love, appreciation and gratitude. It’s your journey, not theirs and part of our journey is to avoid causing pain wherever we can and instead uplift others, allow others to uplift us and allow ourselves to be uplifted.
Spoiler: It works. I get huge smiles seeing a wild bunch of people in my Instagram feed happy. And by celebrating their joy, I learn to allow myself to be joyful. Celebratory of who I am without fitting into the usual.
My feed can teach me that I am not enough this or enough that and that I’ll never be enough. It can also teach me that I am already enough. My choice, not someone else’s!
Another side note to my social media happiness practice
I consciously smuggled “goth” into the list at the beginning, and I want to address that because there is a huge difference if you are a white kid in black clothing or a black kid. I want to emphasize and acknowledge that. Most people on the list above do not get to choose how they look, so this is extra important. One could argue that a trans woman has a choice too – well, a choice of shoes, that is or handbag.
But even if you could fairly easily fit into “the usual”, if you twist your true self just a little, why bother?
In this world, we could be playful until we take it from ourselves and, by doing that, also roll out those limitations to others.
This post has a second part: Social media happiness practice: How to be an explorer in the 21st century
What’s your social media happiness practice? Send me a message!
CoverArt by me