Navigating social media as an intuitive
I took an indefinite break from social media 25 months ago, according to Instagram. My leaving was prompted by one of my spirit guides. Those are the benevolent deities, nature spirits, ancestors, and other than human kin who I collaborate with in my own spiritual practice and in my healing practice helping others. One guide had the audacity to ask me to give up social media, which felt like a pretty integrated part of human life for a self-employed 30 something. I did it eventually, and ever since I have been wondering:
What the fuck is social media really and how can a sensitive human like me relate to it?
Initially I was not on board with an indefinite break. As I walked with my baby strapped to my chest, visiting the ocean several times each day, I cycled through a familiar checklist of fears: where would new clients come from? How would I see what is going on with far away friends? Would life with a baby in a pandemic feel more isolating?
I relayed all of this to the guide.
“Just put it down. This is about following the truth,” she responded.
My response was basically a Hmmm. I wasn’t ready to jump on her cryptic advice. In the early days of studying shamanism and working with spirit guides, I did whatever they said. Over years of learning that included some awkward lessons, I came to know them as a team of collaborators whose opinions I consider while making my own choices. So I kept checking in with her as days and weeks went by to ask, “Really?! Isn’t there some other way?”
She stood firm in her request and quiet about the reason for it.
After a month of exploring my hesitation, I decided to take the leap, deactivating Facebook and deleting Instagram (the only socials I was on). I felt the thrill of the mystery. Where was this experiment going?! I was also afraid – would my healing practice collapse? What would happen without these constant threads woven by tech bros trailing through my daily life here and there?
Well, a few things happened. My creativity increased. I felt clearer. I felt more connected to the land I live on and my local friends and neighbors. I felt the social pseudo-reality dissolve and the heartfelt embrace of my actual land based reality grow and warm me. My intuition flowed and strengthened and my guide started to let me in on what this was all about.
She showed me how too much information clogs our intuitive pathways in the body. These light lines that move and receive subtle information become gritty, then numb when inundated with the rapid fire information and energy overload of socials.
This made sense in my body. When my intuition and witchiness got stronger in my 20s, I became sensitive to getting information at the right time: even a book about a relevant spiritual topic could feel like clutter with an intuitively dampening effect if it wasn’t something that I felt truly drawn to read. These days, my intuition thrives best in spacious environments with drops of helpful information here and there along the way. My guide told me that some people are more negatively affected than others by the socials: empaths (no surprise there), people on the verge of starting something new or a creative project, and young people.
I remembered the god Odin’s words in the Old Norse poem Havamal:
“Wise in measure let each man be;
but let him not wax too wise;
for never the happiest of men is he
who knows much of many things.”
I stayed off social media for a year and a half. I made art, mothered my little one, studied my favourite topics, grew a better food garden than ever before, and somehow had slightly more clients, not less. I relaxed into it and loved it.
I decided to come back when I expanded my work. I started to mentor people in strengthening their own spirit guide connections and I needed a fast way to tell people what I was offering. My guides were on board with this return, making suggestions about how to use social media carefully, and I kept saying and praying to them: TELL ME HOW TO USE THIS THING WITHOUT IT MAKING MY LIFE SUCK!
Because no matter how clear my intent, or how curated my Instagram feed was with textile art and gardening, scrolling through it was always eventually draining or mind messing. The endless opinions, intentions, suggested posts (there is no way to turn those off, because it’s not like Instagram respects you), clickbait based on loads of your psychographic data, spells (oh yes, spells), and the strongest spell – the biggest energy drain of all, the algorithm itself, all make a cocktail that gave me the worst hangover around 1 in 3 times I used the app
I often wondered how I could go into the space of this platform to just do a simple business task, and leave depleted, with an overwhelming sense that there’s no point in doing anything creative or being of service. Losing joy, losing clarity, losing purpose, feeling trapped. Even though it doesn’t happen every time, it sure has a soul sucking quality when it does.
Attention is much more powerful than we know.
Kasia Urbaniak, author of Unbound: A Woman’s Guide to Power says,
“Attention, which is really the flow of our life-force, is the most precious currency we have, and yet we live in a world that profits every time it is scattered… learn to skillfully shepard that currency and it will begin to feel like you are working with magic.”
Urbaniak goes on to say that it isn’t magic, it’s attention. I believe attention is actually the root of magic and change making. It becomes magic when woven with intention and various powers.
I have long been conflicted about the world that we are creating by investing so much time and energy into products that relentlessly try to steal our attention (and by extension our power). The longer I examine these conflicts in me, the more I notice that it’s not as simple as using social media or not, good or bad. Social media holds strong energetic structures that affect the world, whether I personally engage it or not.
Lately I have been exploring my WTF is social media anyways? question with my second sight (shamanic and intuitive ways of looking) and I perceive some similarities to a cult-like energy structure. I sometimes support people with the energetic side of post-cult healing in my private practice, and every case I see has these facets in common with social media:
1. There is a leader who derives a lot of thrill and an expanded sense of self from control of energy or other people.
2. There is an element of fuel – people putting in their deepest hopes, fears, love, devotion, spiritual and career goals and so on, and this fuel becomes lifeblood for the group and the leader. They always need more and they need to be fed.
3. There is always a disregard for people’s well being, because the flow of energy is structured to ultimately feed the leader.
4. There is strong magnetism and intent to hook people, to keep their attention there, and to prevent them from being free.
5. It is hard for people who are in it to imagine healthier alternatives for themselves because they feel so depleted from the constant pull on their attention by group/leader/relationship. Have you ever heard a friend say, “I just don’t have any energy for a new platform”, even if they have ethical concerns about Facebook, Insta, or Tik Tok which they continue to use?
When someone comes to me from a cult-like group or relationship, my work as a healer isn’t to try to dismantle the original group. It is always my work to disentangle my client from the structure that is harming them, sucking their attention, hopes, dreams, or separating them from their soul. My role is to help them to find the organic movement of their own life and follow where it truly wants to go.
Even after seeing the mess of social media from an intuitive perspective, my closest guide asked me to stay on Instagram for awhile, and I agreed to be my own experiment. I decided to try taking myself out of the hooking, sucking, energy structure of socials and see if it is possible for someone with my sensitivity to still engage it without feeling horrible.
I started with tightening physical and psychological boundaries like this:
No social apps on phone – desktop use only
Preschedule most posts with a content calendar that auto posts
Only post 2x/week
Follow way less people
Have clear intentions about why I am posting and where I want the posts to land
I don’t allow Instagram to become an observer in my personal ritual life. I don’t photograph or post most ceremonies, and I decide in advance because the question to post or not to post this moment? is already a distraction that pulls energy out of the ritual or the most precious moments
Within 6 weeks I learned that physical and psychological boundaries weren’t enough. I still felt intermittent energetic hangovers from the app.
I started tending my experience of Instagram ritually, including:
Energetic de-cording work (removing cords from the app itself to my body)
A protection spell with the goddess Brigid about preserving my life-force and limiting the energy I put into the structures of social media
General clearings to notice and release stuff that is not mine picked up through social
Clearing of phone and computer spaces
Prayers to keep my account focused on what it is intended for – helping the people who I can actually help
I felt a tangible difference from the combination of physical and energetic protections. The sense of pull on my energy went down to almost 0. Instagram hangovers became just a dull sense of unease. And I was still longing for a space that I actually truly felt good about in my heart.
FOLLOW THE LOVE is a message I have received over and over from different spirit guides. It also takes the shape of:
DO MORE OF WHAT YOU TRULY LOVE.
PUT ENERGY INTO WHAT YOU LOVE.
These may sound simple, as though this compass of knowing what we truly love and moving toward it should be as natural as eating. Yet, in my life this message often creates a quiet revolution.
It makes me really attune to what I am planning, doing, where I am posting, what my eyes are resting on, and sense into is this enlivening the flow of love in me?
I am brand new to Substack (where I originally posted this), and I haven’t figured out my publishing schedule or even how all the corners of it work, but I do know that one of my guides whispered, “Substack!” to me and it felt like love before I even knew what it was. I know that when I read the platform’s approach (not an attention economy, no algorithm that boosts clickbait, writers get paid for their work if they choose, etc) my soul sparkled, and something in me felt very relieved.
I remember a time when the Shamanic teacher Sandra Ingerman said, “Shamans are gardeners of energy.” I think all humans can be gardeners of energy by choosing to plant and tend our own seeds in the places that feel right to us. I decided to stay on Instagram for now (posting only twice a week) and use Facebook rarely to announce events, but to invest much more in the places that feel genuinely alive, aligned, and like love in me. Substack (and possibly their new short form content option, Notes), the improv quilting community BravePatch, local sweat lodges, and my own garden.
When I rooted my feet in the earth and chose clearly to offer more time, energy, and love to the spaces that I feel aligned with, I felt one more of Instagram’s sticky tendrils slide off of my shoulders and out of my space.
May the garden of what you love grow.