Finding a Balance Between Individualism and Connectedness in a Social Media World

My college-aged granddaughter mentioned that she’s majoring in journalism with a focus on public relations.  She’s grown up with social media, which is what public relations has turned into. I started thinking about how people feel social media connects them to others without any thought of what being connected really means. They want to be individualistic, and at the same time to connect to (many) others. It’s hard for a normal person to find a balance between what you experience trying to be an individual, and how you are connected to the universe at the same time. Recognizing your own feelings and experiences while also understanding how everything in nature is related is the goal; it’s the balance point. But balancing these two things can be tricky when you think about how social media has taken over so much of our lives. You think you’re a part of the larger whole but essentially you are throwing yourself out as an individual, with no guarantees of any connection.

Becoming an Individual

Thinking for yourself and figuring out right from wrong based on your own mind and feelings, not what others tell you, is important in life. It encourages you to keep learning more about the world through your senses, emotions, and logic. You should take responsibility for your own beliefs and choices without letting religious or political groups pressure you. This gives you the freedom to be your own boss. Your decisions directly affect how mentally healthy you are, your friendships, and your place in life. Being independent, creative, and willing to question what everyone else thinks are seen as good traits.

But only focusing on yourself can lead to being self-absorbed, rather than caring about others. If thinking about “me” gets out of hand, you might ignore your connections to family and friends or your responsibilities to the community. And that’s where social media comes into play.  When you throw yourself and your feelings into the world, it may lead to connecting with like-minded people, or it may add to becoming self-absorbed. Algorithms purposely find others just like you so that you all agree on things. Balance is needed so that you recognize how your life and other different lives intersect.

Finding Connectedness

As Spiritual Naturalists, we recognize that humans are deeply tied to all life. We share the planet, and the entire known universe, with countless other living and nonliving things. Over evolutionary timescales, all past and present organisms have both relied on and influenced each other in complex webs of cause and effect. This web of relationships gives deep meaning to the natural world.  Purpose and value come from fulfilling our roles in dynamic systems much larger than any one being. Recognizing our shared substance and ancestry with all things fosters caring about fellow travelers on this journey. Interdependence also means that what impacts one impacts all in a perfectly balanced whole.  This becomes very important when large groups seem to be serving their own self-interests. On social media trolls seem to multiply to serve their own purposes.

If taken too far, interconnectedness could diminish personal freedom though. While our environment and society shape us, we also value independent thought. A balanced view honors how each person adds their unique expression to the group, and how we develop independence by making thoughtful choices. Social media is a good way to express our individualism, but if we want to find connectedness, we need to ensure that we are looking to connect with others that are different, as well as those that are like-minded.

Tools to Find the Balance

Finding a balance between being an individual and being interconnected makes us stronger. Practices like meditation show how to value alone time but also become aware of being just one small part of the vast universe. Spending quiet time alone lets you recharge, but realizing that your thoughts extend beyond your body into relationships prevents self-absorption and creates interconnectedness.

Service, volunteering, and activism can demonstrate integrating personal goals with concern for people and the planet. Working for justice and compassion fulfills your soul while connecting people for a shared purpose. Ensuring that your efforts come from inner beliefs and not ego, respects each person’s independence within the group effort. Getting the balance right nourishes both personal growth and engaged participation in the greater whole that is nature.

Social media can be used effectively to spread the word about individual volunteering and activism efforts.  This helps to promote both your individuality and connectedness among people.

Finding the Balance

Striving to balance individualism and interconnectedness allows us to stay true to thinking clearly about our own goals and beliefs, without becoming separate from others or focusing too much on the group. With time and effort, thinking about life from many different angles provides depth to experiences and proves understanding. Social media can become a tool that helps with that balance if used in such a way.  I look forward to watching my granddaughter grow in this new world and to see how she uses it to shape her views and beliefs.


Learn about Membership in the Spiritual Naturalist Society

The Spiritual Naturalist Society works to spread awareness of spiritual naturalism as a way of life, develop its thought and practice, and help bring together like-minded practitioners in fellowship.

SNS strives to include diverse voices within the spectrum of naturalistic spirituality. Authors will vary in their opinions, terms, and outlook. The views of no single author therefore necessarily reflect those of all Spiritual Naturalists or of SNS.

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