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Social Media Dilemma & the Wisdom of Lotus Flower

Social media has pros and cons and while there are a great deal of positive aspects in our lives, I am going to focus on the negative side of it. For example, as a number of studies show, social media’s addictive nature can lead to decreased productivity and lack of sleep, social isolation, and feelings of shame. It can be a source of misinformation, propaganda, and has been linked to cyberbullying, harassment, and online hate speech. The list goes on.

I think one of the most consequential negative impacts of social media is its role in creating and worsening the culture of comparison where we feel pressure to present an idealized version of ourselves and compete for attention and validation.

Just think about when you post on social media. People naturally pick whatever photo shows the most perfect smile and pose. You would make sure that it represents the best of you and the brightest side of your life. I am speaking from my own experience.

Consequently, social media is loaded with images, selfies, and snapshots of traveling and social events of people that are often carefully selected and filtered. It is quite natural that we feel inadequate when comparing our lives with those who seemingly have a better life than ours. This culture of comparison created and reinforced by social media is a major contributor to mental health issues leading us to feel anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. This culture is fed by the positive feedback loop of likes and comments that feed addiction to social media.

In 2020, the documentary film Social Dilemma, Tristan Harris, an Executive Director and Co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, said “Social media isn’t a tool that’s just waiting to be used. It has its own goals and its own means of pursuing them by using your psychology against you.”

Social media companies have a business model to keep us engaged on our screens for as long as possible, primarily by creating a psychological and emotional dependence on its use. They use a reward system with likes, comments, and nudges that create a sense of anticipation and excitement. They also use algorithms to personalize content and notifications based on our behavior, which can make the experience more engaging and addictive.

In the same film, Anna Lembke, the professor of psychiatry at of Stanford University's School of Medicine said,

“Social media is a drug. We have a basic biological imperative to connect with other people. That directly affects the release of dopamine and the reward pathway. Millions of years of evolution are behind that system to get us to come together and live in communities, to find mates, to propagate our species. So there’s no doubt that a vehicle like social media, which optimizes this connection between people, is going to have the potential for addictions.”

In a way, social media uses forms of psychological manipulation that keep us coming back for more and encourages addictive behavior. Even if you are not actively participating in the game, because social media is so deeply intertwined in our lives emotionally as well as economically, by simply using it, we are already a part of the system that is contributing to the culture of comparison and mental health problems.

Although it might not be obvious on the surface, the very people who are posting such glorious images of themselves might be feeling inadequacies and anxieties that might be causing them to desperately seek validation by keeping posting those unrealistic images further reinforcing their behavior. We are in a very complicated social media dilemma.


So what can we do to mitigate the problems, and how can we cope with the dilemma? Obviously there is no single tactic that can effectively solve the problem. But there are things we can do individually that may help us stay more in control of our situation and keep in good balance amidst a big social media dilemma.

First, it is very important to understand that social media platforms are designed for us to showcase a curated version of ourselves that may not reflect the reality of our daily lives. It's important to not compare our lives to the highlight reels we see on these platforms.

Secondly, we now know the fact that corporations use psychological manipulation techniques to hook us into the game. Then the logical way of thinking would be to develop counter measurements so that we can prevent ourselves from being manipulated so easily and defend ourselves.

To do that, you need to look into your mind and psyche. You need to know what’s in your mind, your strength and weakness by paying attention to your thoughts, and emotions. You want to know what makes you become addicted and more dependent on social media, and then learn healthy ways to manage your emotions without relying excessively on addictive substances or others for emotional support. This can include practicing mindfulness, engaging in activities that bring you joy, seeking therapy or counseling. Preventing addiction and emotional dependence is an ongoing process that requires self-reflection, self-care, and a commitment to personal growth.

Another thing that you can do is to establish healthy boundaries between yourself and social media and maintaining a sense of autonomy is very important. We can make our own decisions on how to use it and when to use it. You don't want to lose control while playing a social media game.

Those are practical tactics that you can use to mitigate negative effects of media use.


But I would like to share my own way of dealing with things whenever I feel that life gets hard and the situation is so out of my hands. I often turn to centuries’ old wisdom to seek guidance or inspiration, which is often relevant and quite powerful medicine for present day problems.

And the wisdom that I want to share with you today is the symbolic meaning of the lotus flower and why I chose it for lovetheways’ logo.

Lotuses are aquatic plants that often grow in murky water. The plants sink their roots in the water-covered soil, and the stem grows in the water with the flower bud atop. When the bud shoots up above the water surface, the delicate petals begin to unfurl in the shades of white, pink, yellow, or blue revealing an ethereal beauty.

Because it rises above muddy water which represents the act of rising above all obstacles, madness, and attachments – the lotus flower is considered a symbol of purity and has been considered a sacred flower in Buddhism, the key to spiritual awakening and enlightenment. That’s why the Buddha is sitting on a lotus flower.

The lotus flower resembles the perfect image that we try to project on social media where no one sees what’s underneath. While nothing is wrong about projecting the best image of the self, what matters is the motive and own psyche behind it. Maybe we should ask ourselves “who am I that is projecting the image? “Is it a true self or not?”, and “why doing it in the first place?”

Those are actually hard questions to answer. Although repackaged in the social media age, they are fundamental questions about who you are and how you want to live life that humans have always asked since the evolution of humanity. You can’t answer without looking deep into yourself and examining who you really are.

What can we do to mitigate the problem, and how can we cope with the social media dilemma?

The lotus flower inspires me with its beauty and purity that doesn’t seek approval and validation. They are just fully expressing themselves and reaching their full potential. Maybe that is the mind set and psyche that we want to have and live like.

Also just as the lotus’s roots are deeply connected to the soil, we cannot disconnect ourselves from where we are from: family, culture, history, and all kinds of messiness of life. We are all grown in murky water.

You need to forgive yourself for your messiness and imperfections and instead practice compassion for yourself so that you can be honest with yourself. When you honor who you are and your roots, you can stay grounded and shoot up above the water to let your authentic selves shine. You really don't need validation from others.

Also, let’s practice compassion for others. It’s important not to judge. What we don't see, underneath everyone’s smile and perfect shots, are many struggles, hardships, tears, and histories in which we have no clue what people might have been going through.

We want to cultivate the culture of kindness, respect, and acceptance rather than comparison.

Turning to centuries-old wisdom may not give us easy answers or a quick fix to our social media dilemma. But I hope it helps you recognize that we are all part of a human story, one that has been unfolding for centuries, and find comfort and inspiration, in the face of these unique and maybe even the most daunting obstacles.

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