As I read Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness by Epictetus and Sharon Lebell, I kept coming back to my use of Instagram and Facebook, plus the time and energy it consumes.
A writer named Alexander took a year-long break from social media to see how it's like. Before the experiment, his 'default action was to open another tab and scroll'. You can read more about his story here.
This book and Alexander's story prompted me to reexamine my social media use with these seven lessons from Epictetus, interpreted by Sharon Lebell.
1. Professional achievement, wealth, and power are incidental and irrelevant to true happiness.
What matters most is what sort of person you are becoming, what sort of life you are living.
Whatever looks good in the eyes of friends, family, readers and followers mean nothing if inner peace is absent.
We all have desires and proof of what we have attained so far. If our ambitions and accomplishments turn us into horrible human beings with no purpose, these ambitions are pointless.
2. Stick with your own business.
We see fragments of other people's lives when we're scrolling through the apps. It's inevitable to immediately make judgements out of them and form opinions.
Sometimes, we make crucial decisions off of them. When we see a friend take a trip, it makes us want to travel like he did. Some even risk their lives to follow trends, just like this exotic dancer who uses Tiktok. These fragments are merely appearances and not real.
3. If it concerns anything outside your control, train yourself not to worry about it.
Stocks, weather, politics outside our country are beyond our control. While it may affect us directly, we have no absolute and direct influence over these. We can't ask for a rainy day during summer.
News outlets now publish their reports online just like Philippine Daily Inquirer, a national newspaper that has its own Youtube account.
When we see the latest, we can't help but be affected by what we read and watch.
Another lesson I learned from Cal Newport was using the power of not knowing. I don't always need to know what's going on. Instead, I look for things only when necessary and there's a strong desire to find out.
4. Never depend on the admiration of others. There is no strength in it.
This article, published in 2020 entitled 'Getting Fewer ‘Likes’ on Social Media Can Make Teens Anxious and Depressed', talks about a research conducted by a team from University of Texas at Austin. Here's an excerpt:
"Social media has the potential to exacerbate feelings of rejection and inadequacy in adolescents, because those who rank lowest on the popularity hierarchy may come to social media hoping to receive the validation denied to them in their daily lives—only to experience the same disappointment of not measuring up to their peers."
Though we are aware of petty things on social media, our lives revolve, sometimes depend, on it. We can go back to lesson no. 2: These fragments are merely appearances and not real.
What people think about us, whether it's good or bad, is not absolute truth.
5. Don't be concerned with other people's impressions of you. Stick with your purpose. This alone will strengthen your will and give your life coherence.
Trying to manage our online image and reputation is a bottomless pit. Knowing our purpose and being clear about the actions we need to take to get to our destination (whatever it is: family life, career, intimate relationships) make these actions meaningful, not the number of likes and views we receive.
The first question we need to ask ourselves before we even get concerned about what people think about us is this: What do I think of me? What are my thoughts about myself?
There could be a big disparity between what's real and what's public. Our image and reputation online are not as important as the quality of life we are living at the moment.
I recommend this book! It was not written for social media use, but a life manual for those who could use one.
Sharon Lebell made Stoicism easily digestible and pertinent. I just added this book to the Books I Recommend page.
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