Right now is the best time to have a heartbeat. Opportunities are directly in front of us if we ask and act for them. Our generation is booming with believers in creating the extraordinary - in every capacity from relationships to careers. Social media has become a tool to foster this connection, creativity, and growth, yet it’s also a means of comparison, shame, and unhealthy addiction.
Stuck somewhere in between these polarities, I had to ask myself: how can I create a sweet spot of using social media for all of its benefits, while staying clear of unhealthy, unproductive patterns? To find the answer, I gave up Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for three months. I learned truths that have already sprung me forward into the next season. I became focused and clear. In the tension from start to finish, I learned three main principles about my relationship to social media:
1. Comparison is a choice.
It is a habit, state of mind, and something I am in control of changing. I was the queen of comparison. Initially I used social media as a means for inspiration toward a better self. But in the process, it became an excuse to doubt my own ability to achieve a goal simply because someone had already reached it. For example, my summer goals revolved around physical fitness and finances. This is how comparison manifested in them with social media in their presence:
Fitness: Create workout routine. Look at Alexia Clark’s Instagram page for inspiration. Attempt to do 10 pull ups. Accomplish zero pull ups because I have trained for them zero times. Drink coffee and read about getting fit, but not actually work out.
Finances: Create budget. See Tony Robbins in his private jet on Instagram. Become bummed that I don’t have three houses and one billion dollars. Buy a $5 latte and read about becoming wealthy.
No one is surprised that I got very little accomplished with these habits. I was the poster child for knowledge without action, and comparison of those who took action. It was a recipe for disaster. But even without social media, I found ways to compare myself to others who I thought lived a better lifestyle than me, simply because I was looking at their pretty, cropped lives from the outside.
The reality is that life isn’t filtered. But it’s the daily, unfiltered choices that move us toward huge change. Your journey is your journey, and that is a strength! Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s finished product. Choose a new thought pattern.
2. Social media is a crutch for procrastination.
Bored? Check Instagram. Not sure where to take this project? Scroll through updates. I wanted more in my life, but “more” was an elusive destination I was unsure how to accomplish. It was easy to bury myself in my phone when I was stuck on how to start writing a piece, afraid to email editors with ideas, or even confused how to start planning a great workout routine.
Taking the option of checking social media off the table allowed me the space to figure out what daily choices would move me forward in my long-term goals. “More” is now a concrete destination that I actively work toward daily. It’s pretty crazy what happens when we allow ourselves permission to get clear on what we want. For me, the comfortable convenience of social media was the roadblock that stood in my way. To eliminate this pillar of safety meant I now had to put pressure on new muscles: productivity!
3. False standards get us nowhere.
I broke up with the idea that life should look and feel a certain way all the time. From the feeds of entrepreneurs, to bloggers, to stylists, it’s easy to create standards for ourselves based on what we see and look up to. Here’s the problem with that process: life is like a movie. We are the director, and our followers are the critics. They see the finished product, but we see the raw footage. Just like the cinemas, there’s a reason that every scene doesn’t make the cut – they’re not all pretty!
I once got fired from a retail job because I switched my schedule around and wasn’t there to open the store. Instagram never saw a post from me that read, “got fired today lol”. At the time, it was definitely not an “lol” moment. It sucked. I ugly cried and felt shame all over my body. But it’s to my benefit today because I learned that real life experiences would shape me far better than the filtered ones I see online.
Comparison, procrastination, and the false belief that life should be playing out differently are all universal experiences. Without the vice of social media, I was able to see their prevalent influence in my own life, stay present on my own journey, and choose daily, healthy habits to move myself toward my goals. I created a budget that allows for great coffee and giving to organizations I’m passionate about. I developed a workout routine and meal plan that give me energy and require discipline. Overall, I’m confident that I won’t be wasting valuable time by mindlessly spending hours on social media.
Everyone has vices. They are teachers that create healthy pressures and show us where we can grow. I encourage you to get clear on what yours are, try fasting them for a period of time, and let the tension of their absence create wonders in your story!
Photos by: Valerie Denise Photos