How many social media sites/apps are you on? Do you specifically make space on your phone just so that you can add the latest social app? After spending time on your social media account, such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat, do you find yourself feeling angry and jealous rather than happy and positive? Does your follower count stress you out? Do you ration who you follow just so that you don’t have an uneven or “socially unacceptable” ratio of followers-to-following? How much time do you spend per day/week/month on your social media? Have you ever gone out with friends/family and been more involved with checking how many people have liked your latest picture or with making sure your Snapchat is updated so that your friends know you “have a life” rather than paying attention to the people right in front of you? When was the last time you visited your local nature center, or took a walk at the beach or park, or struck up a conversation with the person next to you at the grocery store? When was the last time you took a run without listening to music? The underlying question is: When and why did we let ourselves get so caught up in social media that we allow ourselves to sacrifice time with our family, friends, even ourselves-whether that be eating a meal together at dinner, calling up some friends to explore a different beach, or taking care of ourselves (whether that be writing in our journals and organizing our thoughts, dreams, and goals; exercising; eating healthy, engaging in supportive and uplifting relationships)?
I have a white desk in my bedroom that I’ve had in my possession for the last 7 years. A few months ago, I decided the white paint was quite boring and should be changed. So I bought some fun, colorful paints at the store and after quickly brainstorming some images I wanted, I began painting. Granted, I am no artist, so putting the images in my mind onto “canvas” was and still is challenging. After several months I only have about a fourth of the desk painted. The main delay in my painting though, most likely stems to the amount of time I spend on social media, Often I tell myself I will take a five minute refreshing break scrolling through Instagram (which is my favorite of the social media apps because I love photography), but that simple five minute break spans out into 10 minutes, than 20, and sometimes even 30. By the time I’m off the app, the sun has set and I can’t complete the outside run I had been planning. Therefore, I end up missing what to me is a relaxing and stress-relieving workout.
When we meet people who say that they don’t have a Facebook account or an Instagram account we often become shocked or surprised. “Who wouldn’t want a social media account? They must be so lonely! How do they keep up with what all of their friends/family are doing?” In this case, I think we should reminisce on “the good ole days” when people didn’t have cell phones, or internet, or even technology. When working out didn’t have to be a social media picture opportunity. When detailing every day or even minute of our lives wasn’t an obsession. When work days ended when you left the office and didn’t continue throughout the night because your boss or coworkers keep emailing you for help, etc.
Of course, we can’t change the time in which we live. But we can change how much time we spend on social media and how much we let social media control our lives.
Don’t think of restricting your social media usage as a painful separation, but rather a healthy balance. Try it out. Tomorrow, instead of looking at your Facebook or whatever social media you use, take a walk outside before the sun rises or sets. Be completely in the moment. Notice the scents, sounds, and emotions you feel. Process the day. Can you feel the warmth of the setting sun? What do you hear? Is it the crunch of snow under your boots or the sand under your feet? Do you see any flowers in bloom? Purchase a fun journal and write down everything that you are thinking and experiencing. You may find this hard at first, but remembering to notice what you have been blessed with will enable you to really evaluate and appreciate your time.
And remembering what we are blessed with goes alongside of controlling the jealousy that may creep up on us while using social media. Seeing someone with “perfect” hair, or a “perfect” body, or even a “perfect life” can immediately make us downgrade ourselves. I CANNOT STRESS HOW DETRIMENTAL THIS IS: NOT ONLY TO OUR HEALTH BUT TO OUR ATTITUDES AND HOW WE RELATE TO OTHERS. What is perfect even? Often we see perfection, especially through social media, as material possessions or beauty. “This girl has all the perfect clothes so of course she looks perfect as well.” “Her body is the reason that she has that many followers.” “If only I had that dress and took a picture with it on, I know I would look beautiful which would result in tons of likes/followers, so then people would appreciate me.” “She’s always traveling. I wish that was me.” And I must add that I have been guilty of saying many of these sayings and more. Running a social media account, if we are not careful, can be like a game. Even between friends. One frequent scenario of today: One friend may have more followers than the other. You both go out to the same party and take the same picture. She posts her picture and within one hour she’s got over 70 likes. You post the same picture yet you’re barely hitting 15 likes. As a result, your self-esteem dramatically plummets and you even feel embarrassed. You may even feel like you don’t have friends or no one appreciates you. Which in turn can strain your relationships. Don’t be discouraged if you get few likes compared to other people. The amount of likes you get is not a measurement of how many people truly care about you or how much you are worth.
Another vital fact to remember is that not all, but most, social media accounts are not completely valid. We post what we want other people to see or hear about us. In essence, we can create the perfect persona. People don’t have to see the other areas of our lives that we don’t show them, such as the pimple that appeared this morning, how after working out your hair is a wild and far-from-photogenic mess, how you yelled at your parent/sibling/friend over a minuscule argument, how you didn’t speak to that person sitting by themselves at lunch when you know you should have.
Some of my favorite social media accounts or blogs are about people that realize this. The people that are real with you. Who let you know that they cry tears- that their life isn’t all “palm trees, pina coladas, and sunsets.” That they get angry and suffer from wanting to look like other people as well. Yet they acknowledge their flaws and then choose to use their accounts to positively inspire others by being honest and on a level with their followers.
I read this article earlier about taking a break from social media and I think it’s beneficial for everyone to read. Sensi Graves, creator of Sensi Graves bikinis, talks about this important step we should all take in our lives and why you will feel refreshed after taking it. She also mentions using the website toggle.com which is “a timer that helps you log time spent on activities and helps with awareness.” There are also apps for devices such as your phone and iPad to help you log your time. You may be surprised just how much time you spend on social media.
And why not take a pledge while you are at it? Take a pledge to not let social media consume your life- life is too short to be wasted being jealous of others or stressing over getting followers/likes. I will use social media but not let it define me.
My blog or blog Instagram and Twitter accounts may not get thousands of likes or views, but that’s okay. If I can positively affect someone’s life, than I have accomplished just what I set out to do when I started this blog. I truly and deeply appreciate every one of you who read and provide suggestions, comments, and feedback. 🙂