If you are not wearing your apple watch or carrying your phone and you go for a nice long walk, do your steps even count? If you go with friends to hear live music and don’t take any pictures or videos or post anything about the experience on social media, did it really happen?
I did not grow up with social media. Nor did it exist when any of my four children were born. I constantly feel like I don’t get it. Living our lives out loud for others to see, “like”, comment on, and share is an issue that I struggle with on a deep level, and one with which I cannot quite seem to find a place of comfort.
My husband is not on any type of social media. And while sometimes I wish I could opt out, avoidance of social media is not a great option for me. As a writer, connector, and business owner, social media is a means to an end. Social media presence is now used as a measure for a writer’s “platform strength” and the stronger your platform, the more likely you are to land a book deal (sometimes regardless of whether you can write or not). And in this age of reality TV, oversharing sells. It allows readers to dive in and escape their own [insert adjective: boring, painful, uninspiring, lonely] lives and experience, moment by moment, someone else’s seemingly more exciting, adventurous, dramatic, luxurious life.
But wait, I get it. Sometimes I do get lost in other people’s social media feeds. And sometimes I do want to share more about my life on social media as a way to feel connected to people. According to Brene’ Brown, “Connection is why we are here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” And I do believe this yearning for connection is why so many of us (myself included) can spend hours scrolling through social media, sometimes at the expense of connecting with those who are physically in our presence. And there is no denying that there are those who prey off of people’s desire for connection and use social media to boost their ego, fame, and fortune, and carelessly spread unhealthy messages.
Disclaimer—I may now come across as judgmental, naïve, or just plain old but I am about to go off on a somewhat unapologetic rant (that you are feel free to challenge me on in the comments below). The way I see it is if adults are struggling to figure out how to navigate this social media monster, how in the world are our kids supposed to know how to maneuver through this complicated alter-universe? Maybe being born into the age of social media makes it all the more “normal” for our kids BUT I have serious concerns for our next generation. Far too many of our kids, our teens, and namely our girls, are addicted to the high that comes from posting a picture of their barely clothed self with a forced, often seductive smile on their face that says, “My life is SOOOO awesome (even if it is soooo not).” And many of our girls get the validation they crave when they exceed the 1,000 likes mark that allows them to say to themselves, “Yes, I am good, skinny, beautiful, wanted, liked, loved. Yes, I am worthy. And yes, I will need more and more of this kind of validation from other people, many of whom I don’t even know, to keep feeling good about myself. Keep it coming! I will keep posing, posting, and hustling for worthiness and you, my social media audience, will keep “liking” me. At least I hope you will!”
But what about when the likes don’t come? Or when they see a post of all their friends having fun together and wonder why they weren’t included? Or how about when a person gets tired of the hustle? Tired of the posing and posting? And they want to take a social media break but when they try, they feel completely empty and lonely? Or how about when the likes begin to reinforce unhealthy behaviors? Or when their social media audience turns on them and the likes turn into devastating comments? Does our next generation of kids know how to validate themselves without the attention from the unregulated world of social media? How are they able to differentiate between what is real and what is edited/filtered/exaggerated/manipulated? Who is doing the fact checking? Who is overseeing this ever-so-powerful unchecked space?
Ok, I will stop here. Again, free to share your feelings about this issue below.
Personal flip side--I love many of the connections I have made through social media. I love that I have been able to rekindle relationships with friends from grade school because we found each other on Facebook or Instagram. I love seeing pictures of my friends’ kids and learning about when someone graduates, has a baby, or gets engaged. And social media has helped my business grow. The ModernWell members and community at large learn about our events and membership offerings through social media, which has been a huge benefit for us. I have friends who make a sweet living as social media influencers and they promote wonderful brands in a way that feels authentic. I sell many books to readers who find out about my work through social media. Heck, you are probably reading this blog because of social media. So, there’s that…
The bottom line is that my relationship with social media is complicated, and I would bet that many people are in a similar conundrum for which there is no clear answer. I do experience real angst as I wrestle with how I stay true to myself and how I can use social media in a way that is effective and authentic. For me, I am limited in how much I can share as my children have made it very clear that they have zero tolerance for me living my family life out loud on social media. So I can share my story and my story only. And that is okay.
What if, as a self-care practice, we make an effort to regularly take a step back from social media and examine our WHY? Why and how do we use social media? How much time and energy do we spend on it and what do we get out of it? Does it take us away from our present lives and from the people who are right in front of us? And most importantly, what would we be without it?
And finally, when we find ourselves obsessing over our own or someone else’s feed, remind yourself of the following:
No one but you can understand or have access to your own true reality that exists behind your social media posts so make sure you understand the difference between the two worlds. And similarly, you can’t have access to anyone else’s true reality through their social media presence.
Whether or not you are promoting yourself on social media, the ”un-postworthy” intricacies of your life are uniquely and beautifully yours.
Your life is the most important one you will ever live, and you are worthy of love and acceptance with or without “likes”!