I am not going to lie: I am so happy that I did not have a smartphone or a Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Gmail account in high school. Or even middle school. Or even elementary school! Former 4th grade students of mine had Instagram! How!? Why!? It would have destroyed me. I can’t imagine being a kid today with all the technological connectivity there is available. Kids used to call me “Acne Acres” in middle school and I could only imagine that becoming a trendy hashtag. Schools are constantly dealing with bullying issues and social media humiliation. I know myself and I am no angel. I would have thoroughly enjoyed posting passive aggressive posts about who I like and who I despised or who I found hot and who was not. “Brett is a total babe and I saw him in the locker room today and God is real.” #BrettandRob4ever” (Brett couldn’t stand me in 6th grade, just saying)
At 30 years young, I’ll be the first to admit that I can get sucked into the social media vortex. Friends are getting married, babies are being popped out, homes are being bought, and the South Pacific islands have never looked more beautiful. Kay Wills Wyma, author of “I’m Happy for You (Sort of…Not Really)” puts a twists on the acronym OCD and addresses that we live in an age of “Obsessive Comparison Disorder”. You cannot tell me that you haven’t scrolled through Instagram and at some point thought to yourself, “Gee, everyone else is doing great and looks so happy as I sit here on my ass, broke as hell, and single AF. Might as well sit here by myself and rewatch every episode of “Stranger Things” because then I can shift my focus from the hashtags, pics of the South Pacific, or my friends new born baby. REGARDLESS! Is EVERYONE happy? No. Definitely not Barb. Some definitely are. There are happy people out there. But is everyone doing BETTER than you? No. Social media is riddled with lies and you (and me) have definitely attempted to portray that we are doing just great but deep down inside know that begging for likes is as empty as my unsweetened vanilla almond milk carton currently in the fridge. What the hell are we doing!?
I’d like to share with you a few observations and experiences I’ve had with this new phenomena. I cannot stress this point enough though: You are seeing the best of the best on social media. You are seeing pictures. You are seeing small little moments and have absolutely no idea what is true or what is not. Social media is here to stay. There is no turning back now. And that’s okay – but, please, take care of yourself by hopefully starting to understand the grand illusions. Breathe. Focus on YOUR business. You’re doing better than you think 🙂
- Seeking Validation = Disappointment – I want you to read this slowly – you are worth far more than ANYONE’s approval or validation. I urge you to please NOT use social media as a tool to seek validation. Listen, I post. I too fall into that trap to make sure people know that my life is great and that everything is just gravy and butter biscuits. But if you’re SOLELY posting to make yourself feel better about yourself BECAUSE you need people to give you that feedback, you’re setting yourself up time and time again to feel worse about yourself. You don’t NEED someone’s LIKE to remind you that you are gem to this world. You know how to make yourself feel GREAT? Start a fundraiser via social media. Inspire others to travel, run marathons, work in a soup kitchen, whatever! Could you imagine if we stopped trolling each other on the internet and instead, inspired, motivated, and cheerlead those we love?
- 5000 Facebook Friends? You’re Fake – For the past four New Years, I’ve done this Facebook purge, where I defriend individuals who I have lost touch with, who I once friended thinking a love story would unfold (and didn’t), or just simply someone I don’t want seeing my social media life (I.E.: Former boss). People have called me out on this thinking it’s cold but, the truth is, I don’t have the mental capacity to keep up with everyone: especially someone I don’t particularly and honesty care about. Anthropologist and Evolutionary psychologist, Robin Dunbar, came up a number, that we, as individuals, can maintain stable relationships with. The number is 150. That’s it. We aren’t capable of maintaining stable relationships that exceed that number. Haven’t you stumbled across someone’s Facebook, and you feel HONORED that they have accepted your request? I have. Then I looked at their friends. If it’s a very high number, chances are, you’ll get lost in the cyber pool of others. Or, if you’re like me, a hopeful romantic, you’ll STAND OUT with your cool and attractive profile picture, brilliant statuses, and cover photo portraying that you have keen insight on how the world works. Ugh. This hardly ever works. Remember: Quality. Not quantity. Now we have science with Dunbar’s number to back that statement up. I have actually begun to feel as though those with the SMALLER friendship list…or the ones you can trust.
- You’re Seeing the Best of the Best – In April of 2016, I managed to get myself to Yosemite National Park. I went on a personal California pilgrimage because I was so upset with my job, my love life, and financial status. I was a disaster. So! What better than to clear my head in one of the greatest National Parks our country has to offer. I had to document the whole adventure and posted pictures religiously. I was solo. I was a courageous adventurer. I was a nut. I had posted a picture of Yosemite Falls (with no filter might I add) and it was definitely National Geographic quality. I was proud. The “likes” and “comments” were pouring in and everyone was super jealous. Here’s what the audience didn’t see. I cried majority of the time I was in Yosemite. Not JUST because I was overwhelmed by its natural beauty but because majority of the trip, I was alone with my thoughts, and realized my life was a complete mess. I was in bad shape. But Instagram-Rob was having the best time. You not only don’t know what’s REALLY going in people’s lives through social media, you also have no idea how people actually feel in that captured moment, or what their emotional status is.
- A “Like” and a “Follow” does NOT constitute for a friendship – I’ve heard friends of mine speak of others insisting that they are still friends with so-and-so because they “follow” each other. This is a friendship!? Nay! Factors that make up a friendship: Contact does (Skype, email, phone call, letter, smoke signal, fax (do people still do this?!)). Seeing each other does. Genuinely enjoying each other’s presence does. Supporting one another’s dreams does. Friendship is something that needs to be cherished and this digital era has kind of tweeked what a friendship is. Yes, it’s incredible that today we are able to keep in touch with someone on the other side of the world. Distance is obliterated because of technology, I speak to my friend currently teaching in South Korea every now and then via Skype. But we both make the effort for our ‘chat-dates’ and we both have an idea what we are both up to. Don’t half ass it and think “liking” a pic or having someone ‘like’ your pic means you guys are buds. That is the most minimal effort you could possibly put in! Step it up! A “like” is not the same as getting some coffee with your homedog or gettin’ crunk with ya boy.
- You’re Missing Out – James Altucher summed up spiritually perfectly in his book, “Choose Yourself: Be Happy, Make Millions, Live the Dream”. Being spiritual is being present. That’s IT. Next time you’re waiting for the bus. Next time you have a few minutes at work. Next time you are sitting in a restaurant or cafe. Take note of how many people are looking at their phones. It’s horrifying. When we are scrolling excessively, we aren’t present. At all. We are absorbed in a virtual world. We are looking at pictures of that party weren’t invited to, experiencing ‘FOMO’, but the only missing out we are experiencing is the very moment we are in. True story: After gorging myself at a diner, I stumbled back to my car. I noticed a red-tail hawk devouring a squirrel up in a true. It was unbelievable. This majestic winged warrior was about 12 ft. away from me. There was a man, in the same parking lot as me, directly below the perched avian beast. However, he was looking at his phone. A squirrel was being ripped apart, guts and fur flying everywhere, and this man didn’t even notice. Not to mention! Some squirrel fur was falling from the tree…slowly on to him and he was oblivious. What?! Put the phone down every once and awhile. You just might miss something so incredibly bad-ass.
Finding balance in just about anything is hard. To go cold turkey is asking anyone a lot….I am not suggesting you deactivate your Facebook, delete your Instagram, and stop the snaps. It’s fun. I’ll be the first to admit it. But. I want to challenge you. Can you sit down…while eating with a friend….phone in the pocket…and start and finish the meal and conversation WITHOUT looking at the phone? Can you go for a twenty minute walk with your phone on AIRPLANE mode (that way you can still listen to your tunes!)? Try it. Believe me. We ALL love distractions and in this day and age with everything at our fingertips, it’s so easy to NOT be present. It’s DIFFICULT to be alone with your thoughts. For some, it is terrifying. I would love to hear some stories on their own experiences with social media. I would love to hear whether you managed to sit down during that meal without taking the phone out. Did you enjoy yourself more? Where you tense fearing that you might MISS OUT?
Think of it this way: you can have a good time too. Allow yourself. Give yourself some credit. You’re not THAT boring.