Social Media: Creating Feelings of Connection or Disconnection?

Social Media: Creating Feelings of Connection or Disconnection?



Social media has made its way into our lives over the past decade and is now an undeniable part of the lives of most people I know and the clients I see in my private practice. With the expressed intention of social media purveyors being to create connection, is never fails to amaze me how much disconnection these sites are actually perpetuating.


Facebook’s Mission Statement:Facebook-Icon

Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.


Twitter’s Mission Statement:twitter_logo

 To instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most important to them.


While linking up with old school classmates, long lost friends and family members can initially feel exhilarating, what happens once we’ve reestablished those bonds? And how much weight do we then give to those people on a daily or weekly basis to sustain our sense of connection? For some, their usage of social media fits perfectly within their lifestyle, and they feel that these sites provide them with a service that meets their needs; no more, no less. Meanwhile, others can finds themselves consumed by the maintenance of their online personas, or dealing with the compulsion to share or over-share in an effort to create or maintain positive feelings of engagement.

Many of us have found ourselves turning to our social media accounts multiple times throughout the day as a space filler/time killer, which seems harmless… until… that thing that once gave us warm, yummy feelings of friendship and support, stops delivering those sensations. Maybe posts don’t get same number of ‘likes’ or comments they once did, and those positive feelings are soon replaced by their opposites: self-doubt and disconnection.

For some, another of the most damning aspects of social media can also kick in: comparison. When the majority of the stories or images we see on social media perpetuate the idea that our peers are always traveling to exotic and interesting places, consistently enjoying quality time in seemingly apparent perfect relationships with loved ones or succeeding at ever-more of their ambitious and courageous life-goals, we begin to question: why not me?

Little do we realize that what we are seeing online are personas: well edited, photoshopped, finely tuned and filtered moments of time in the lives of others. Oftentimes, a rift occurs between what we are seeing online, and what what we are experiencing in our own lives. Disunion, anxiety and loneliness ensue. Shimi Cohen created the following video “The Innovation of Loneliness” which explores how, contrary to the purported aims of the social media giants, social media actually encourages loneliness.


Another problem I have found is that things on social media are not always as they seem. When a Facebook user with a personal profile or business page posts a status update, all of their friends or followers see that update, giving equal opportunity for all to engage with the posting user about their shared content, right? Wrong. Derek Muller explains the “shrinking numbers phenomenon” and what really happens when you share content on Facebook.


Are you using social media in a way that serves your Whole Self?

My Own Lessons in Non Attachment

My Own Lessons in Non Attachment

When I started up my private psychotherapy practice a few years ago, my first office seemed to fall into my lap. It was a low-risk investment in a convenient location, and the big, north facing windows let in sunlight that instantly felt like home to me. With a multidisciplinary group of established  holistic practitioners ranging from fellow psychotherapists to massage therapists, acupuncturists, herbalists, and Ayurvedic practitioners, it felt great to be sharing a space with like-minded professionals. So, naturally I was disappointed when, after just over a year of renting the space, I was informed that the building in which my office was housed had been sold, and that all tenants had 60 days to evacuate.

The news brought about an anxiety that was unfamiliar for me. Was I going to find another space for myself and my clients that we would all feel comfortable in? Was I going to have to resort to trying to convince another therapist to let me rent their office for a few days a week until something that I really wanted became available? How long would that have to last? Was I going to be without a space of my own for weeks or even months? Would I get stuck having to sign a lease for something that I didn’t really like? What if I had to start seeing clients in my home for lack of a better option!?

Luckily, within a few weeks, I found an office space in a desirable part of town, one which I had admired from afar for quite awhile. I felt so fortunate to have quickly located a new space, and once the move was over, the anxiety subsided and I got busy settling in to my new office and making it my own. So, you can imagine my surprise, when, less than 4 months after my move-in, I was informed that the building in which the new office was located, had just been put up for sale.

I quickly went through several emotional states: shock, disbelief and anger, to name a few… When I remembered one of the central tenets of Buddhism which I have always found comfort in: everything is constantly in a state of flux. This reminder allowed me to refocus my energies on letting go of my attachment to the office, to shift into a mental space of trust that the universe had something better in store for me, and enabled me to start planning for my next steps.

Again, I commenced the office-search, and within a few days found something that felt like an even-better fit than either of the other offices I’ve rented.

When the universe brings abrupt change into our lives that threatens our sense of stability and grounded-ness, I think it is easy to get stuck in emotions that may, ultimately, adversely affect our ability to move forward. I don’t mean to imply that I have never gotten hooked into hurts or negative emotions during times of big change, because I certainly have. Through my experiences, though, I have been working on arriving at acceptance in a slightly more expeditious manner than I would have, say, 15 years ago. We are all works in progress, after all, right?


Is there some area of your life that makes you feel stuck? What are the emotions you experience when you think about this life situation? Is there something you can do to shift into a new emotional space? 

What Is The Difference Between Empathy and Sympathy?

This is a question that I am often asked as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Asheville.  It was in my graduate studies at John F. Kennedy University when I first realized the importance of being able to differentiate between these two very different ways of being with others. I recall my teachers emphasizing that while ‘sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else, empathy is actually feeling what the other person is feeling,’ or ‘a willingness to feel with someone else.’

This morning, I came across this great animated video featuring Dr. Brene Brown that truly clarifies and explains the difference between empathy and sympathy, and as some have already asserted, it may very well make you a better person. Watch and judge for yourself:

Rachael Chatham – LPC Asheville

It has always been my understanding that order to invite new experiences, people, and things into our worlds, we must first be willing to let go in order to create a space for these new potentials to unfold.

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Creating Your Own Sacred World

Creating Your Own Sacred World

As a part of my own healing and spiritual journey, I have taken part in two Native American rite of passage rituals, Vision Quests.  The experience of Vision Questing is a life changing one for many, and, depending on your guides, it may also allow one to partake in several Native American customs in addition to the 3 day ‘solo’ in the Sacred World.

The sweat lodge is done in anticipation of a Vision Quest.  It is a deep cleansing ceremony which includes sharing your truth through speaking from your heart and chanting sacred songs.  Another part of the preparation for the Quest itself is the Day Walk – a day spent alone in nature, in which one sets out at sunrise on a pilgrimage seeking signs and symbols from the natural world that resonate with one’s own psyche.

The Vision Quest itself is a journey that is often undertaken during times of great transition in one’s life.  It includes fasting, drinking only water and not eating for three days, and spending that time in solitude in a natural landscape, such as a desert, the beach or the mountains.  Although each individual is alone for a significant amount of time, a buddy system is employed to ensure safety.  A Vision Quest can be a profound spiritual experience rich with insight and lessons about oneself and the universe.

The practicality of a Vision Quest is less than ideal for most, but luckily some of these Native American rituals can be undertaken (in varying forms) independently and close to home!  While there is an irreplaceable element of sharing with one’s community that occurs during a sweat lodge, the cleansing and detoxifying qualities and practice of surrender and letting go can be duplicated in a sauna or steam bath.  Creating a ritual around your experience which may include lighting candles or incense,  putting on soothing music or journaling before or after your sweat can increase your awareness and amplify your intentions.

Additionally, taking an unaccompanied Day Walk in a natural environment can be an opportunity for discovery, healing, or reconnection. Through setting an intention to listen to your intuition and be guided by it, keeping in mind the questions in your heart and mind, the conflict or problem that is being faced, the walk becomes a pilgrimage through the mirror of nature.  At some point during this journey, a symbol may be found, perhaps a natural object that represents your struggle, or the answer to your query.  I would invite you to take the one object with you and keep it as a source of inspiration or a reminder.

Lastly, dream-work, or dream-tending, is another Native American tradition that can be done independently.  Through keeping a dream journal, and writing down the images and experiences that occur in your ‘night-vision,’ you can look at the symbols and allegories that are being presented with to gain clarity, get a different perspective, or better understand your own experience.

If you feel that you are being called do a Native American Vision Quest, finding the right guide is key.  Here’s a link to the Wilderness Guides Council where you can explore some options.