I was scrolling through my Instagram feed today and thinking about how somebody crafted every single post I was seeing. The picture, the filter, the caption, the location… every single detail was at some point a choice in someone’s mind. Some people spend more time on their posts than others, but the process of sharing a snapshot of your life with the world is so fascinating to me. This post that I’m writing right now is a snapshot of my life. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you found it through Instagram or Facebook. Isn’t that amazing? I’m sitting here, in my “calm corner” at Ohio State, writing this post. Where are you? Are you reading this on a laptop, cell phone, iPad? Whether it’s these words I’m writing or a picture of me and my family on Instagram, I’m crafting a certain energy and truth to put out into the world and you’re receiving it. The ability to spread a message into the world is incredibly powerful.
I so often hear about how social media is robbing my generation of confidence, productivity, and peace. Growing up with Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and countless other apps made this virtual exchange of energy seem very normal to me. As weird as it sounds, I genuinely can’t imagine not listening to podcasts on my walk to class or seeing what my friends are up to on Snapchat. I am a strong supporter of social media as a way to stay in touch with loved ones all around the world, to learn, to explore, to be creative. However, I recently discovered the new iPhone feature that tells you exactly how much “screen time” you have per day. It breaks it down into how many notifications you received, how many times you picked up your phone, what apps you spend the most time on, everything. My first report said that I average 3 hours of screen time per day. I’m trying to justify it by saying a good portion of that is playing YouTube videos in the background of cleaning, cooking, and other tasks… but regardless, it’s a little bit alarming to reflect on how much time I spend doing what I call “The Sweep”- my mindless scroll through Instagram, then Twitter, then Snapchat (aaaand sometimes back to Instagram one more time…oops). Once I realized how much time I was spending on my phone, I thought about just how much external energy I’m bringing into my heart. With every scroll, I’m opening myself up to be inundated with pictures, words, and energies. I’m voluntarily absorbing this mass of information.
I started asking myself some hard questions. Are these messages good? Are they meaningful? Are they real? Do they enrich my life? Is internalizing this content nurturing or hindering my peace, joy, and growth?
I think the intentional use of social media can be an incredibly positive part of our lives. The key word there is intentional. My first step towards intentionality happened this weekend when I went on an unfollowing spree on Instagram. I unfollowed every single person that had a negative influence on my self-talk. This doesn’t mean that these people were doing anything wrong at all, it just means that their posts repeatedly sparked an unhealthy thought cycle of comparison, self-doubt, and eventually a lingering feeling of “I’m not enough. I need to change.” I found myself mostly unfollowing accounts that subtly advertised restrictive eating and unrealistic beauty standards. Brands that retouch their models. Companies that push diet culture. Any account with false images that made me question my worth was gone. I cannot put into words the profound impact this had on my feed and in turn my mind. To only see authentic representations of beauty and joy. To only see images that made me feel inspired, excited, happy. Could I handle seeing the others posts? Was I capable of mindlessly scrolling through photoshopped models and negativity? Yes. Do I have to? Absolutely not.
Taking ownership of the content I consume has transformed my social media experience. I continued my unfollowing spree across all platforms- podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and more. But in addition to letting go of this content, I sought out more positivity. I followed more diverse people, more educational and inspiring people. I pursued stories of resilience, joy, authenticity, and strength to fill my screen. If I’m going to spend even one hour on my phone a day, I am not willing to negotiate on the type of content I’m going to consume. Engaging with social media in this way has turned my mindless scroll into an opportunity to learn and connect when I open an app. It’s still a relaxing way to take a break from work or wind down, but it’s intentional.
The point is this—You are worthy of intentional self-care. It has to be a choice. Don’t let your self-love be an accident. A coincidence. Something you practice when its convenient. Let self-love spread into every part of your life, every crack and crevice. Fill your screens with positivity. With stories of real people that inspire you to love yourself more, to help others more, to uplift and engage and connect.
We don’t realize just how impactful it is to choose what we consume. Not sure how to start? Here’s what I did to kickstart my social media transformation:
- Remind yourself of these cliché yet critical truths: Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. – Those are two of the quotes that I hear floating around all the time, but they are worth including. Chances are that every single picture you see has been edited and filtered and carefully chosen from 30 other options. I know I’m guilty of this with every single post. I put two pictures of my face side by side to show what I mean. The picture on the left is who I am without any alteration. No makeup, no perfectly straightened hair, no power suit, no self-tanner. But it’s even more than that. I didn’t use an editing app—no blemishes smoothed over, no teeth whitened, no lighting changed, contrast upped, exposure downed. It’s my behind the scenes. The picture on the right is still me. But it’s the me I tend to present to the world. It’s my highlight reel—hair done, makeup on, posing and edited and crafted. I’m not ashamed to admit this because chances are that you can relate. Chances are that people aren’t advertising their pain, insecurities, and struggles. You are enough. Your life is not less than because it doesn’t look like an Instagram feed 24/7. No one’s does.
- Go on an unfollowing spree – When you’re on social media, what annoys you? What makes you feel less than? What do you compare yourself to? My mom and I were talking about how certain posts used to make us want to complain, to say, “Look at this. That makes me so mad.” My mom started talking about the importance of just not even seeing those posts. She said, “It doesn’t matter how satisfying it is in the moment to think something cutting, if your response is anger or ugliness you are never going to feel good in the end.” Identify the content that is unhealthy for you and love yourself enough to remove it from your life. This doesn’t mean don’t follow successful people who motivate you to grow and achieve. This means say no to the messages that are detrimental to your self-talk and self-care.
- Discover new messages that enrich your life – Do some research. Find the people and the stories that inspire you to love boldly and live out loud. Consume that. Engage with it deeply. Turn your social media into a solace, a curated space that provides joy and motivation and nothing else. Use it as an opportunity to learn, to diversify your life. See how your mood changes when you open and close that app. See how your self-talk doesn’t falter, how your heart is warmed.
If nothing else, I hope you ask yourself this question, “How intentional am I with my self-care?”. Maybe you aren’t a big social media person. That’s okay. But what kind of messages are you internalizing? What kind of energy are you absorbing? Can you be more intentional about it? If so, take one step towards that intentionality today. Find one part of your life where you can choose yourself a little more clearly. You’ll be glad you did.
Choose radiance. Choose fearlessness. Choose you.
With light and love,