Social Media- When does it become “too much”?
All people post on social media because we want to be heard. Heard by loved ones, friends, enemies, co-workers, government officials, and even strangers. The desire to feel heard and “matter” is a fundamental human want… but why do we want it? Acceptance? Understanding? To impact a life positively? A way to vent and express ourselves? To help us through weakness? Initiate self-esteem? All of the above? The reason is different for everyone… but the desire is universal.
When people are going through difficult times, as we all do in life, we have a few options when it comes to our social media presence: you can either disappear, lash out for attention, or pretend everything’s fine by putting a “filter” on your life.
Recently I went through a pretty traumatic (hate that word- so dramatic, but it’s true) last 10 months, and I mostly chose to do the third option when it came to my Social Media… post honestly, but only about the happy stuff. I.E: my new healthy relationship, adorable pictures of my puppy, #TBT’s of when I was happy in my career, etc. All of which was my choice, because my business is my business. Right? But, let me back up and get deep for a second…
Unfortunately, there is a lack of bravery on our part when it comes to publicly expressing our inner-most thoughts, experiences, and struggles, especially on social media. We don’t want peers to deem us “weak”, “inept for work”, “attention-seeking” or “emotionally unstable”. We convince ourselves that “it’s our business, and they don’t need to know what I don’t want to tell them.” That is very true. People are constantly judged by their profiles- people lose job opportunities due to lack of care on their social media, so it’s understandable we are sensitive about what we share. However, no matter what we say (or show) out loud… what you’re seeing is not all of what we’re experiencing.
Same goes for positive reasons to be heard on social media- what holds us back from sharing joy, love, success, or growth? How about the old, “I don’t want them to think I’m bragging… I don’t want to rub my happiness in my struggling friend’s face… “ The list of reasons can go on forever. It’s not AS common, but definitely judged upon when we see it, even if subconsciously.
Isn’t it ironic that the very thing we all deeply crave, being heard, is immediately smothered by accidental self-sabotage? Why do we create pressures on ourselves to show society only what we think is “acceptable” on social media platforms? Is it fear driven? Are we scared to show ALL of who we are, when it’s the one thing we secretly want most- to be FULLY, unapologetically us? Why are our lives shared with others through a “filtered” lens? No one can live up to that expectation all of the time… which leads me back to my point.
All of the reasons mentioned above impact what we choose to post, but it also equally impacts what OTHER people see… and feel. It affects them (ahem… us) when they/we mindlessly scroll, wasting minutes and sometimes HOURS a day, subconsciously comparing our lives to those posting, or getting an ego boost when you’re the center of attention for a bit. Don’t think you do that? I can 100% guarantee you are kidding yourself. That’s one of the sole purposes of social media. To feel validated that our life is going well.
Of course, this isn’t ALL the time, guys. Sometimes we just want to keep our friends and family in the loop. There are so many positives, of course: we keep connected to people- I’ve reconnected with people I lost contact with over the years and rekindled friendships solely from social media. It is a major focus around my career, and I’ve even received business opportunities because of it! We get to check out and support our friend’s projects, learn about new products, new recipes and hot spots for foodies to visit, pop culture updates, hair tutorials, fan pages, silly memes, etc. It’s a platform to laugh with friends, check up on adorable pictures of your niece or nephew, and celebrate life and love with those you care about. There are times when I feel Facebook is the greatest invention of all time! I’m really grateful for and love its benefits.
If only we learned to keep it as light and refreshing of a page as that ALL the time, there wouldn’t be reason for this article, right?
Here’s a question… were people not connected to one another before Myspace and Facebook? Or, were they even moreso? I find it fascinating how we all know SO MUCH about pieces of each other’s lives, but if I asked you to give me the middle or maiden name of a Facebook friend that doesn’t have it posted, could you? Probably not. What about hobbies? Not unless they’ve posted about it. Did you know your employer lost their mother to cancer recently unless they shared it with you? Nope. What about someone who just “disappeared” from social media and you didn’t realize it until seeing them 2 years later and ask, “where did you go?” Nope, but you know what your neighbor’s son won at his 6th grade assembly, and what your co-worker had for lunch, and we find it seriously interesting. Happens every day, all the time.
Recently I had forgotten that my BEST FRIEND was moving across the country- I hadn’t forgotten it was happening, but I didn’t remember the actual day until I saw it on Facebook. Had this been 15 years ago, I may have inputted it into my calendar to wish him a safe trip, called him up and chatting about how he was feeling about the whole thing, instead of reading about it and then commenting “AH SHOOT YAY IT’S TODAY! Have a good flight love you!”That’s reeeeeally getting deep with people we consider friends, guys.
On TOP of the fact that we’ve alienated ourselves from legitimately connecting with others, we spend our time comparing ourselves to false realities. I’m not saying everyone is constantly posting lies, but we ALL know that we don’t share the whole truth. And why should we? “Lives are personal, and not always meant for sharing.” True, again, but what kind of a message does that send to us as a society- who all universally feel the same way?
The strive for perfection is an impossible feat: personally, emotionally, academically, and physically. Subconsciously, we have all gotten so much harder on ourselves when we aren’t feeling our best, due to what is being shown by everyone on our computer screens. Don’t even get me started on the physical filters- how in the world can someone keep that up all the time? The entire thing becomes exhausting, and it’s amplified when someone goes through a less-than-ideal time in life.
I recently took a hiatus from Facebook, due to feeling pretty inadequate about my medical healing process I’m going through. I could wake up in a perfectly normal and healthy mindset, and then I signed on. I was so tired of seeing everyone on my social media singing, celebrating, filtering, omitting, sharing, when I am struggling to find small victories and have a normal day. My happiness for my friends was no longer overshadowing my personal unhappiness, and was turning into comparison and jealousy. Sure, this is an extreme case, but it took one for me to realize the impact it can have on even a simple, average day.
I signed off Facebook for 8 days, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but for someone who had the app at the top of my IPhone, uses it for communicating with business partners, and even got a raise due to followers once, that’s a long time. It was the best decision I’ve made for myself in the last year.
I focused on MY life. My family, my boyfriend, my friends, my heart and happiness and health. I was selfish, and then was able to authentically share positive and negative experiences with people I specifically thought about… just to connect with them. Which, in turn, wasn’t about me anymore, but about connecting with others. Not to prove something, or promote myself, or ANYTHING. I just lived, and shared, and connected. I accomplished more. I laughed more, and I even stopped thinking entirely about every single thing I had been stressing about. I felt free to be me, unapologetically. And so- my happiness level shot up. If I had a frustrating hour, I didn’t run away, or get my mind off of it by scrolling. I communicated with my partner, my family, and my friends. I meditated, and wrote in my journal.
Learning this lesson is a major key to using social media as a benefit and tool in our lives. Without this realization, you can find yourself on a very dark path… without even knowing it!!!! One of the most simple of examples: filters and photo editing apps for literally every photo. I always wonder if other people genuinely believe that’s what they look like after they go back and view all their likes and compliments. Do they not remember blurring their nose, discoloring their under eyes, taming flyaway’s, and sometimes narrowing their waists? Do they not think we see a film and a sparkle over their eyes? Or does everyone just have a really really amazing camera?
Don’t even get me started on school-age children with social media and online bullying. That’s a topic for another day, but founded on this same principal. If successful and fully thinking adults have to stop and remind themselves of this lesson, think how much longer and how much more of a downward spiral it takes for a child to learn it.
When I finally signed back on to Facebook, it was to post a friend’s funeral arrangements, and for a non-profit event I am throwing that I wanted to share with my online friends. Had I not had business to do, it would have lasted longer. But, life goes on, even when you decide to remove yourself, which is where I realized the importance of social media balance. So, I made a promise to myself to take the APP off my phone, and only sign on through my laptop, when I was at home and had accomplished goals for the day previously. That way, if I did sign on, I was not in a place of inadequacy, or a need to get validation, but I was satisfied with myself without anyone giving me permission to be.
We cannot control what other’s post, but we can control a few more important things. Remember that we view ourselves in the way in which we choose to- without the validation of a “like” or a week-by-week comparison of our friends. If you’re struggling with this (ehem… almost all of us are guilty at some point…) take some time to reset yourself! It will be there when you return from living your life. J