Many of us could benefit from a social media detox, or at least from making sure we’re using Facebook the way it was intended (for connection and information sharing). But Elaine Parke says the larger remedy is to re-evaluate the “Mental Nutrition” you consume daily…both online and off.
Recent news has cast Facebook in a less than flattering light. But is the social media platform really dangerous? Elaine Parke says, like anything, the answer depends on how you use it. In a time of political division and social strife, it wouldn’t hurt most of us to take a break—or at least pay more attention to our scrolling habits.
“Some Facebook posts are dangerous because they ‘ping’ us in a way that leads to negative stress,” says Parke, author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time . “They focus our attention on people or ideas that stoke feelings of helplessness or outrage. What we really need to be doing is just looking at posts with enjoyable thoughts, words, and habits. And yes, there is a mental health connection to the content we choose to consume.”
Parke, a staunch advocate of personal accountability, says we shouldn’t wait on Congress to regulate Facebook. We should know when it’s time to log off and do so. But if we don’t want to log off, we should at least be making sure we’re using Facebook for its original purpose.
“Remember, Facebook was designed to share information and connect us to other people,” she adds. “It still does those things and does them well. It’s just that we allow ourselves to be drawn to, and often obsess over content that upsets us.”
If you feel that you’re not using Facebook, or any social media platform, in a “mentally nutritious” (healthy) way, Parke suggests you take a week or so off to mentally detox. But don’t stop there. Use that time to evaluate your own mental health, and how you treat others.
Parke created the 12 Habits showcased in her book because she wants us to reconnect with our humanity and reunify America around the ideals of cooperation, connection, and civility. It’s a system meant to help us push the reset button on our own attitudes and behaviors. She thinks of the 12 Habits as a form of “Mental Nutrition.” And here’s the thing: some Facebook posts are mentally nutritious too, and some are not—so don’t consume them, just scroll on by.
“We’ve all heard the saying that we are what we eat, but I say we are the messages we consistently consume,” Parke says. “It’s time we moved to a mental diet that nourishes, encourages, and brings us together, both online and off.”
Parke’s big goal is to get everyone focused on the same branded behavior each month. The idea is that the sheer force of all that concentrated positive energy sparks a unity revolution that rises from the ground up and sweeps the nation. Yet, until that happens, we can leverage the power of The Habits of Unity on a personal level by absorbing the book’s 365 “one-magic-minute-a-day” motivationals to form one good habit per month:
January: Help Others
February: You Count
March: Resolve Conflicts
April: Take Care of Our Environment
May: Be Grateful
June: Reach Higher
July: Become Involved
August: Know Who You Are
September: Do Your Best
October: Be Patient and Listen
November: Show a Positive Attitude
December: Celebrate Community, Family, and Friends
Those who’ve tried it say the plan is easy to put into practice. It feels good, so you’ll want to keep doing it. You may even find that you’d rather spend your time seeking out positive, affirming experiences instead of diving down depressing Internet rabbit holes.
“No, Facebook isn’t inherently evil,” says Parke, who has her own account that she uses to post positive, inspiring stories. “It has great potential for good, and is often used to help people connect, educate, share good news, and more.
“But we do need to hold ourselves accountable for our own thoughts and behaviors, and if Facebook is influencing them for the worse it’s time to take a step back and reassess,” she adds. “Social media is just another form of mental nutrition. We all need to get more intentional about what we’re consuming.”
About the Author:
Elaine Parke, MBA, CS, CM, NSA, is the author of The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time . For 30 years, her scalable and evidence-driven 12 habits of social unity model has transformed several million community citizens and youth across the USA’s Midwest and in Rwanda, helping them feel more caring and connected to one another. In 1993, her monthly branded and colorful habit-forming model was deemed a “Social Invention” by the London Institute for Social Inventions.