There, I said it. I feel better already.
Maybe “love/hate-connection” is a more effective way to describe my relationship with the alternate universe of social media. Because, of course, so much of the content we see is not real life or the real world or real circumstances or real photos or people being real (although everyone likes to point out that they are 100% real). And I cannot get too far into this post without admitting that I play the game too. I am a willing participant in this alternate universe, and I like to post pretty pictures, and I like filters, and I like making my life look happy and I like to get likes. I have posted happy pictures of taking my kids to the library, yet failed to mention the moments I got frustrated and angry with them - all you saw is the picture of all the smiling faces with stacks of new books and you thought, “what a nice, happy family doing educational things together” and yes, that would be true, but there is always more to the story behind the picture.
I guess I just want to make sure we all remember that it is not all really real, or at least not the full picture. I have heard people say one thing and then actually post another completely different thing on social media. Am I the only one turned off by this? Maybe it is just totally ok to be one thing in real life and another completely different thing on The Insta?
Can we transparently explore this topic together? Maybe I just need to get it off my chest? What is this fake, me-centric world where all we see of someone’s life is the 1% highlight reel, made to look like their 100% life? Not that we want everyone to be posting every detail of their private life, right? We all have an inner, private world that would not be appropriate on the platform of social media. There should be boundaries and I would actually rather see your happy pictures and not all your dirty laundry. I know you’ve got your stuff that is not pretty, and I have my stuff too, and social media is not the place to plaster all that stuff.
And what about influencers who get paid to promote a product they do not even like or use? It is great to support something you genuinely like, yet so ingenuine to promote something you do not use. And what about paying for followers? And what about it hearing our private conversations, and then sending ads to our accounts based on the key words it hears us saying to sell us what we “need”, and it is incredibly accurate - what the heck?! And what about all the fake accounts that are impersonating someone else (this has happened to me several times)? Does it all seem kind of ridiculous to anyone else? And maybe what feels most weird is that I participate? Maybe I am feeling the tension because I love social media (parts of it), and I hate it (parts of it), all at the the same time?
Instagram has actually removed “likes” (how many likes a post receives is no longer visible) in some countries because of the negative impact that it has on people’s mental health, especially younger people. Many studies have shown a link between social media usage leading to increased anxiety and depression, especially in teens. We have an entire generation of young people consuming these platforms day and night, at the risk of their mental health, well-being and future success. Yikes.
I got my first cell phone at 23, after graduating college. I was the last in all of my friend groups to have a phone. It was a “dumb” phone that could basically only make calls and texts. I am an “old” millennial, called an Xennial, a micro-generation between GenX and millennial. Maybe that’s my problem. Ha ha. I had an analogue childhood and a digital adulthood. I did not grow up with technology or social media, but was quick to learn it and accept it. Xennials are known to possess both the cynicism of GenX and the optimism and drive of millennials. Seems about right.
I know there are many upsides. It is an amazing tool for creating groups to share education and create a sense of community. It is a wonderful resource to learn and stay connected. It is a fun way to share your life with people. It is therapeutic to have a platform to express yourself. It brings joy to see and celebrate other people’s happy moments and see their kids grow up. It is so nice to stay connected to friends and family you would not normally see. It makes shopping a lot easier. It is a great way to stay informed. I know there are many benefits that frankly, I would not want to live without.
Well, now that I vented, I will share a few boundaries I have placed around social media…
I go to give and not to receive. When I open an app on my phone I try to get in and out as fast as I can so I do not get sucked in, which is what the platform is perfectly designed to do.
I avoid mindless scrolling, especially during precious times of my day like when I want to be productive, when I want to be present to my family, early in the morning and right before bedtime.
I do not follow a lot of people to minimize the distraction and noise.
I know it is not all real and knowing this helps me to avoid the trap of comparison. I avoid following people who I would be more tempted to compare my worst to their best.
I prioritize guarding my heart because I know my life and well-being flows from it.
Ok, I think I got it all out. Thanks for listening. This felt like a good therapy session.
May you define your own set of boundaries to be the highest and best version of who you are meant to be.