We are so accustomed to hearing that we are a group of people who are always projecting an image. That social media forces us to act with a degree or level of inauthenticity. That we tell others that are lives are greater than they really are. Sometimes I think those things become irritating or redundant because we hear those observations so often from generations much older than us.
But I do think that those observations point out undeniable truths that we face when constructing our 'identity.' There are so many positives to being able to have control over how others see you or to have the ability to change or tweak your identity just by changing your pictures, bio, who you follow, what you retweet, which snap best friends you have. But it can also force us to deny us the right and joy to accept ourselves as we are naturally, without any intentional or deliberate manipulation of our image.
I have often found myself whirling into a crisis after closing instagram. A crisis I was not in before I opened it. "Oh my god what if I change this about me, went there, chose this, didn't do that, did do that, oh my god oh my god oh my god!!!!!" For example, I was listening to this podcast, and looked up the creator of it on instagram. All I saw was this super glamorous person who had a successful business and podcast that I totally admired. Then I started asking why I'm not like her or why I probably can't be as cool or successful as her in the future. Which are totally toxic reflections which only materialized because I opened an app.
Because a big part of her podcast is living in New York City, and I began thinking "What if I went to the school I got accepted to in NYC? Would I be cooler? Would my future be better if I chose that route instead?" Of course things would be different! But would they be better necessarily? I would probably always be wondering if I had made another choice too. For example, I would probably always have on my mind the looming financial burden of what would have been almost 75,000 dollars a year for a career that has a median salary of half that price tag.
Most people have probably experienced something similar to that at one time or another, no matter how confident you are. Humans are both self-aware and self-critical, seeking out ways that we are imperfect and how we can change that. Social media becomes the supplier, enabler, and feeder of that natural urge to critique and improve. Social media even takes that enabling a step further and translates it into selling. We are then told you need this dress, moisturizer, necklace, pair of shoes, or whatever a company behind an influencer is trying to fix you with, guy or girl. We open ourselves up to false narratives that tell us each time that we are not good enough. This also makes me question if looking and conforming to the images of other people with more followers actually hinders the natural development of our own personality. At what point does it threaten our individuality and creativity?
Plus, even if you reach that look, amount of followers, or up your account aesthetic, there is always going to be another person who is 'more' than you--which will turn into an unending chase to improve in a way that tears down your identity, sense of self, and confidence.
That is why I have decided to take a little social media 'cleanse' or break. But--I'm also being realistic and not fully deleting it. I'm not going to deprive myself of something that is such a big part of our lives today. That just means that when I re-download it, I will return to looking at the same posts and feeling the same way. Plus, I will need to know how to work with social media in journalism funnily enough, so there's no escaping it and I've got to know it! But it is also realistic and true that I can cut back my social media use and change who I follow. There are certain accounts I follow that just aren't adding to who I am and make me doubt myself--a unique person who developed over 18 careful years who is now doubting herself because of a post that took a few minutes to make, how ridiculous!
So, as a new year approaches, I encourage you, the one reading this, to consider making a similar adjustment. Think about who you are following, why you are following them, and how their posts are adding to your day. If it's positive, keep it. If it's negative, cut it out. No one needs extra stress, negativity, or drama in their lives--we have too many important things to do instead. Make sure you are feeding the positive voice in your head, not the negative one.