Follow along with the transcript below for episode: How Social Media Influences Your Happiness With Jessie Kanzer
[00:00:02] PF: Welcome to Episode 355 of Live Happy Now. Throughout the month of March, we’re celebrating the International Day of Happiness, and a whole month of happy acts. As part of this year’s celebration, we’re looking at the theme of unity. I’m your host, Paula Felps. This week, I’m joined by Jessie Kanzer, author of Don’t Just Sit There, DO NOTHING. Much of Jessie’s work looks at social media and how we can become more mindful about it to minimize its negative impact. Sit back, and let’s hear what Jessie has to say.
[00:00:36] PF: Jessie, welcome to Live Happy Now.
[00:00:38] JK: Thank you so much, Paula.
[00:00:41] PF: This is the perfect time to talk to you, not just because your new book is out, but because we are doing this whole month celebrating the International Day of Happiness on March 20th, and really doing a whole month of happy acts. Our theme this year is unity. Anytime we have a discussion about unity and conflict, it seems that social media comes up. This is something that you talk about. I wanted to talk today about how it affects the way we feel about ourselves and the world around us. To kick it off, you talk about why this one thing called social media is so powerful.
[00:01:15] JK: Yes, and I do talk a lot about it. Because, like you said, it’s so prevalent. Before we talk about what’s wrong with it, let’s just acknowledge what a big part of our life has become. In fact, in my book, Don’t Just Sit There, DO NOTHING, I have a chapter called Stop the Thumb, which you can interpret it as you will, but it’s about stopping that scrolling thumb that never stops itself. I do think that it’s easier said than done. You could easily just tell people, just get off social media. I’ve heard that so many times. Just get off of it.
Realistically speaking, for a lot of us, for creatives, like myself, for podcasts, there’s a lot of need for social media, for the businesses and for the positive information we’re trying to spread. We can’t just get off social media, because that’s where we now reach people, because that’s where people are. It’s not as easy anymore to just say get off of it, or cancel your accounts. Because for a lot of people, that’s not something you can do. Our livelihood has begun to depend on social media as well.
What’s happened is, the lines have blurred between – There used to be clear cut marketing, clear cut advertising. That would be the commercial on TV, or the radio spot that played. Now, it’s not quite so. We are on Instagram, on Facebook, on TikTok, seemingly just entertaining ourselves, or scrolling through what our friends are doing, etc. We are also being advertised to all the time. What I don’t love, to start with social media, there’s no longer a line between what’s just content for you to consume and what’s actually content that is trying to influence your behavior.
[00:03:10] PF: Yeah. It can quickly change the way that you think and the way that you perceive things. If you’ve liked certain things, the algorithms are going to send material to you, and it can take you down a rabbit hole. It can start changing the way you view society, the way you view yourself, the way you view your neighbors.
[00:03:29] JK: Yes. I don’t know if you have watched the film Social Dilemma. I remember watching it last year. It’s scary, right? I think that I actually wish everyone in the world would have watched it. Because what I now understand and what helps me a lot is knowing that this construct exists to learn me, to stay there as long as possible. That it is addictive to me, not because there’s something wrong with me, but because it was formulated to be addictive. Once you realize that, you can at least start to forgive yourself a little for the time you’re spending that you lose on social media without realizing, because we’ve all found ourselves in those holes that you mentioned. You’re like, “Why have I just been on here for 20 minutes, half an hour?”
[00:04:15] PF: I know it lift your head up and you’re like, “What just happened to me?”
[00:04:18] JK: Yeah. It was formulated to do that. That’s what it’s formulated to do. Like you said, it does – Unfortunately, the way the algorithm works is it picks up on what you’re there looking at and what you’re doing. It’ll send you more and more and more of that. If we look at politics, we know what happens. What happens is we end up in echo chambers, where we just hear what we already believe, and then we become more and more convinced. It doesn’t matter if it’s truth or not truth, because it becomes our truth.
[00:04:48] PF: Yeah, and one thing that’s happened in this time of isolation and more people are working remotely and we’re not interacting, so we don’t have that time where we call it the water cooler, but where you’re grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room and you’re talking to someone who has a different opinion, you had more balance, I feel. There was more of a balance of input of ideologies and just thoughts, and whether or not you agreed with them, you’re hearing different opinions.
[00:05:15] JK: I think that when you’re speaking with a person, an actual person face-to-face, they don’t become this demon that sometimes people become on social media. We’re just people. For some reason, the screen of anonymity that Twitter, for example, can provide where just somebody’s name, and it’s not their real name; some name that they chose for their account. They can say pretty nasty things. They could say whatever they want. They wouldn’t say that to you in real life, face-to-face.
[00:05:46] PF: Oh, yeah. Getting on Twitter feels like going into a street fight. I’m like, “I need a helmet and a shield.” It’s tough.
[00:05:55] JK: Yeah. Then on the other hand, you have Instagram, which has been shown to be very detrimental to young people. I, myself as someone who struggled with an eating disorder as a teenager, and then in my early 20s, I really, really caution parents to pay a lot of attention to what their kids are consuming. It’s hard. I’m not saying it’s easy to always be on them. I know. I mean, my kids are only five and seven. Already, sometimes I look over, what is she watching? It’s not easy, but I think it’s super important. Because as we understood, Instagram will keep providing for you the content that you’re looking at.
If you’re a young girl, and you’re becoming obsessed with your body image, you will keep seeing things that will keep making you feel more insecure, and maybe take you down a rabbit hole of years of less than a healthy existence. That’s what happened to me just from teen mags. I can imagine that being the age of social media is more challenging.
[00:06:55] PF: Absolutely. As we’ve acknowledged, civility is a big issue. It is a big issue, even in the real world now. On social media, it is amplified. One thing I really want to talk with you is how can we start using our social media to become unified, rather than divided? By unified, I don’t mean that we just find all these people who think the same way we do and it’s, we’re right, and they’re wrong. How do we bridge that?
[00:07:25] JK: I have a couple of suggestions.
[00:07:27] PF: I was hoping you would.
[00:07:30] JK: Yeah. With how we can create healthier relationships. Because, again, like I said, for a lot of us, just quitting social media altogether is not an option. I believe that learning how to live with something is the most, the strongest act that we can do for ourselves as someone. I struggled at an early age with bulimia. Now, I see similarities here because, well, in order to get over bulimia, you have to get over the behavior of binging on food. but you can’t get rid of eating food as a whole, because we need food to live.
What you need to do is actually change your entire relationship with food into a healthy relationship, and it takes time. Doing the same thing with social media, it’s not going to happen overnight. One thing, for me, my social media is very healing. I made the algorithm work for me. When I go on my Instagram feed, I’m really posting and looking for spiritual insight, upliftment, information on well-being. The more I was paying attention to that and not allowing myself to go down the rabbit hole of what’s Kim Kardashian doing, or what’s whoever else, I just decided, this was my focus time to make it work for me.
I would go on for short periods of time, I would post something, whether it be a quote from Don’t Just Sit There, DO NOTHING, or maybe a little discussion about what’s going on right now and some positive take on that. Then I would look for people, again, who weren’t necessarily exactly my opinion, but people who were putting something positive out into the world. I follow, for example, podcasts that are positive podcasts, that are uplifting podcasts. The more I did that, I would also concurrently unfollow stuff that would trigger me. Anything I saw, which I realized was just putting more drama out into my feed, I would just unfollow. Simply, I would follow what lifted me up, unfollow what brought me down. Just paying attention and creating an awareness of how any post makes you feel is very important. If we can bring in mindfulness, which is a practice that can be brought into anything, like mindfulness can be brought into, even into social media.
[00:10:02] PF: Yeah, that’s good. I’m glad you brought that up, because I was going to ask you, what role mindfulness plays when you’re managing your social media.
[00:10:09] JK: I practice mindfulness. I try to practice mindfulness all day, every day. I mean, obviously, I’m not perfect. I’m human, but I try to be mindful when I’m folding my kids’ laundry, and when I’m trying to get them out and rush them out in the morning to their bus. I try to bring in a little mindfulness there, so that what mindfulness is, is being in the present and being connected to exactly what you’re doing right now. We know that. I know that your audience knows that. You know what? It can be brought to, once you bring mindfulness into what you’re doing on social media, you take yourself out of that dynamic that was set up, which was just to have you be a user. Let’s remember that we’re called users in the social media world. Not consumers, users.
Okay, you pay attention, you go a little slower. First of all, you slow down that thumb. You go a little slower. You pause, every time you see something and you ask yourself, “Is this something I want to see more of?” If not, simply unfollow. Not that hard. Just unfollow. Something I want to see more of, press a like. What happens is slowly, your feed starts to look like yourself. My feed, if you looked at it, would be like, “Oh, I get who Jessie is. She’s into the whole woo-woo world, she’s a wellness fanatic.”
I think, that if everyone can do that, it will not be this alienating place anymore. I mean, for me, so I have a whole community on social media. My mentor, Laura Day, she’s an intuitive. She holds morning meetings, where we just gather and we work on something positive for ourselves, and it’s a short thing. You were talking about unity. I thought it’s really interesting, because I found this community. She calls us the circle. These folks are just there. They’re there. If I post something, they’re there with some support. Like for my book launch, they’re there with their positive affirmations, or helping to spread the word. In my experience, I now feel that I have unity in social media.
[00:12:17] PF: That’s amazing. Because so few people feel that way right now.
[00:12:22] JK: Absolutely. That’s why this is something. I discuss this in detail in the book, in the Stop the Thumb chapter. It’s about, first of all, becoming mindful about what we consume. Also, this is an important one, be the change you want to see. You become mindful about what you post.
[00:12:43] PF: I’m going to be right back with more of my conversation with Jessie. I wanted to take a moment to talk about one great alternative to social media. If you’re looking to stop the mindless scrolling, how about putting your hands to use doing puzzles? Puzzles are a great gadget-free way to give your brain a break. We recently discovered Unidragon Puzzles, which you really need to see to believe.
These gorgeous wooden puzzles are works of art that feature nature scenes, animals, Mandalas, and so much more. If you’re looking to kick your social media habit, or at least rein it in, I can’t think of a better way to do it than by spending time with these puzzles. Right now, you can get 10% off your order when you visit unidragon.com enter the code Live Happy Now. That’s unidragon.com, and the code is Live Happy Now. Now, let’s get back to my conversation with Jessie Kanzer and learn more about how to handle our social media habits.
[00:13:40] PF: I’m glad we’re talking about this. Because there’s something that you said that completely changed the way I was posting. That was, paying attention to your ego, and why I’m posting this. The fact that hey, I’m showing somebody I was having this great time, but how does this affect how somebody else feels? Can you pick that up? Because that is just beautiful insight that I needed to know.
[00:14:05] JK: Of course. Paula, we’re not, again, we’re not perfect. Sometimes, I just have this freaking cute picture of the kids. I got to put it up and I just can’t – You know what? The intention behind what you post is everything. Because if I just think this is the cutest, funniest thing in the world and I post it, often I get back, that made my day. I think, the intention behind what we post is very important. We all have an ego. It’s okay that we have an ego. It’s okay that sometimes we want to show how well we’re doing. It’s all fine.
We need to go back and remember that every time we post about what we have, somebody else is reminded, what they don’t have. I remember this a lot during the days of everyone getting engaged in my own circle of friends. I remember this constant barrage. I had a lot of relationship difficulties at that time. I just remembered this barrage of engagement rings. It used to annoy me so much. If I look at it and why it annoyed me, of course, it’s about what was missing in my own life, but also, was just – it felt so show-offy. I don’t think that’s what people are trying to do completely, but it’s also the lack of bringing mindfulness into our post. It became what we’re supposed to do. The second you get engaged, you post directly.
[00:15:31] PF: I actually have a friend, who, when her son and daughter-in-law got married, the first thing the girl turned around, they kiss the bride, they turn around, they were announced as husband and wife and she yelled out, “Somebody change my Facebook status.”
[00:15:43] JK: That’s really funny. That’s really funny. I get it. I get it. It’s an exciting time. Boy, it felt like such a win for me, because I had such a long, barrage of heartbreaks. When I got married, I get it. Everything is okay when you put mindfulness into it, because at least you’re aware, even if you’re breaking that rule once or twice, you’re aware, but you’re not going to be sleepwalking anymore. That’s really helpful.
The other thing I say is, okay, fine. Once in a while, we want to post something that we did that was really fun, that was really beautiful, that we want to share. Remember to also, at least once in a while, share the vulnerabilities of your life, the stuff that maybe didn’t go right. That’s where actually, I found my sweet spot on social media, and maybe in my writing as a whole. I write a lot about my humiliations in life. I’m very, very open about all of the mistakes I made, because my goal is to help people feel less alone, if they are themselves finding that they’re in this “loser spot” in their life, where they feel like a loser. I know what that feels like.
I say, I try to hold on to the humility of a loser no matter where I am in life, because I really believe that if we open ourselves and show everyone the bad stuff, as well as the good stuff, we’re doing a service to everyone else who may be struggling right now.
[00:17:21] PF: Absolutely. I just love the way that because of you, I just do a little bit of a gut check before I post something now. It’s like that. Okay, why am I doing this? Am I doing this for my own, because I want to show off, the fact that I got to drive this car? Or, am I doing it because I really want to share this experience? You know what? I’m leaving a lot of stuff off now. Because it’s like, no, this was really not about uplifting someone else. It’s about, “Hey, I got to do this really cool thing.” That’s how it feels.
[00:17:51] JK: You know what, Paula? I love that you tell me that. That is so amazing to hear. Because, and again, if you do that gut check, and maybe you just saw a gorgeous sunset, and you want to post that, because you want to share the feeling of seeing this gorgeous sunset. Well, go ahead. That is a beautiful intention to have. It’s not about, “Hey, look at me. What I get to see.” It’s about, I want to share this with you. It’s just about that small shift in intention that I think can connect us together. I try to balance.
Obviously, I also promote stuff. I have to promote my book, because I want people to know about it. Again, I go back to the intention. I want to spread awareness about something I created out of love, because I want people to feel less alone, and I want people to have tools for healing. Then I say to myself, “That’s okay to promote that, because I have an intention that’s a loving intention in there.”
[00:18:46] PF: Yeah. Once we get our own feeds under control, and we start curating what we’re consuming, what do we do then about those posts? We cannot control what other people post. Sometimes it might be on our own page. How do we deal with those posts that immediately incite us?
[00:19:03] JK: We take a deep breath. We pause and we delete. Seriously, or untag, or unfollow whatever you can do, but we don’t engage. If it’s something that is inciting you, I suggest you walk away from it. If it’s something that you feel an hour later, or two hours later that you want to engage in, then go ahead, but from a commerce standpoint. Again, the intention of what you’re bringing to this interaction is not that anger that you initially feel. It’s not that triggered feeling. Maybe you’re coming in to, because you feel that it’s important to provide some truthful information.
[00:19:41] PF: Well, a lot of times if we feel compelled to do that, and I’ve not done this, because I’ve seen what happens to people and it’s a lot like a bunny rabbit walking in a herd of coyotes. It’s like, someone feels compelled to explain like, “Look, this is why I feel differently.” They are pounced on and not – it doesn’t stop and till they’re a carcass pretty much.
[00:20:03] JK: Yeah. I’ve seen that.
[00:20:05] PF: Yeah. How do you do that? If it’s someone, say, what’s happening with a lot of people is someone they truly care about, whether it’s a family, close friend, whatever, will say something that is so opposed to how they feel. That other person feels the need to – Like say, I might feel the need to say, “Look, that’s really not where I’m coming from. This is why I think that way.” What’s a better way to approach that?
[00:20:26] JK: I would, in my personal experience, I probably would not. I would not engage in that in social media, on social media. If you feel strongly enough and if this person is in your life, there are other ways to connect with people. There’s the telephone. I do find –
[00:20:43] PF: Oh, is that still around? What? That thing?
[00:20:45] JK: It’s interesting. I find that the further removed we are from each other, right, so we’re talking about the watercooler conversations. Then, you take that to a phone conversation, where you still hear each other’s voice, and you can talk. Then you take that one step further removed, and maybe you’re texting, and then a little further, and you’re just posting something on social media for all to see. The further removed we get from each other as humans, the dirtier it can become. I don’t see a need.
Here’s the thing. Yes, people post misinformation on social media. I say, and this is what the Daodejing has taught me; this is what I write about also in my book is, you cannot change the entire world. But in preserving your balance your sanity, in being the best you you can be, the changes that you provide for this world are going to be much bigger than you can imagine. Anything that is going to interfere with your well-being, don’t do it.
[00:21:50] PF: That’s great advice. We know that, but we’re not taking it. It’s a weird time. One thing that you say – I know we’re running out of time, but we’ve got to talk about this, because this is a great barometer. You say that people really need to pay attention to how they feel when they’re on social media. We do not do that. Why is that so important? Then, what is it that we should be looking for?
[00:22:14] JK: Yes. I think, we should pay attention to how we feel at all times. My joke of a title, Don’t Just Sit There, DO NOTHING, the book is really, it’s not about doing nothing, but it’s about being able to disconnect from all of the messages, which because of social media, or just never-ending, to connect with our own inner voice. When we take the time to do that, when we connect with our own inner compass, we feel off. When we feel off, we know that we’re off. In other words, I call it awareness. I say, your awareness is your superpower. The more you connect with your inner compass, the more you’re able to feel when you’re off.
For me, honestly, when I get on social media, and I just started scrolling blindly, I’m often about 0.2 seconds. I realized that sometimes I do it anyway. I’m not saying that I’m perfect. The awareness is the superpower, because do I really want to be off 20 times a day? It helps us get that behavior under control, is by being aware and really being mindful of how we feel. What we should be looking for is a feeling of upliftment, connection, even neutrality, where you’re just like, maybe you’ve learned something.
The second you feel jealous, because jealousy is something that comes up a lot in social media, because people are posting from their egos. When the second you feel jealous, or you feel triggered, get off. Get off as soon as you can and do anything else. I even suggest to people, well, go turn on the TV. Even that is better than the way you get sucked in by the algorithms of social media.
My other quick advice is to be mindful of the amount of time you spend. I say, if you’ve really gotten out of control, and you know when you have. We all know, do a timer, right before you enter your Instagram, enter your Facebook feed, press the timer, say five minutes. That’s what I’m letting myself go on for. Then my one final piece of advice, which is really hard, but it’s important. Don’t sleep with your phone right next to your bed.
[00:24:23] PF: Right. Yeah, that’s super important. Because I know people that do that. I put mine on airplane mode at night.
[00:24:30] JK: That’s really helpful.
[00:24:30] PF: People are like, “What if something happens?” It’s like, I will find out. I will find out later.” I will be rested and able to deal with it.
[00:24:39] JK: Exactly. You’ll be in your best shape. I tell people, so we cannot ignore the fact that we’re all addicts when it comes to technology; social media, Google, etc. Google News, Apple news, whatever. We’re all addict, because this is our first time in history where we’re dealing with this kind of barrage of technology and information. Yeah, we’re all addicted. We don’t have to constantly put this source of addiction right in front of us.
Somebody recovering from alcoholism would not sleep with a bottle of vodka right next to their bed. That’s how we need to treat ourselves gently, but admit to ourselves that we’re addicts, because we’re human and we’re dealing with machines created to lure us.
[00:25:26] PF: That is so great, Jessie. Man, we could talk for hours, but they won’t let us. This is terrific. You’ve given us so much to think about. Your book, we’re going to tell people how they can find you, find your book, learn more about this. Thank you for the work that you’re doing, and for spending time with me today to talk about this. This is such an important topic.
[00:25:46] JK: It is such a pleasure for me, Paula, because my intention is to spread just a little bit of light. If we all do that, I think the world can change.
[00:25:55] PF: I love it.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:26:01] PF: That was Jessie Kanzer, talking about how to create a healthier relationship with your social media. If you’d like to learn more about Jessie, follow her on her very healthy social media channels, or pick up a book. Just visit our website at livehappy.com and click on the podcast tab. Remember to check out those amazing puzzles at unidragon.com and get a 10% discount by entering the code Live Happy Now.
That is all we have time for today. We’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode. Until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make every day a happy one.