As a media studies major, a blogger, and your run-of-the-mill millennial, I spend my fair share of time on social media (maybe even several people’s fair shares). I am committed to spending my life working with media, I think that it has immense potential and power to make positive change. I love it… for the most part. There are a few things that I have been challenging myself to think and do, in terms of my personal social media consumption, that I think many of my peers may also benefit from pondering upon.
Realize how much time is being wasted on social media.
Why do I care what someone who I haven’t spoken to in years did last weekend? Why do I care who wore what to my high school’s prom this year? Why do I care which celebrity is friends with which? Why do I need to be caught up on everybody’s relationships, endeavors, and lives? Humans are nosy beings, I’ll be the first to admit that I love knowing people’s business. It is so easy to be this way in this generation of invasive technology and immediate gratification, but this nosiness is a deep-rooted flaw that I, and so many others, have to sort through.
It takes away from MY life to be so invested in that of so many others who are not even close to me. As I have grown up, I have learned that it is existentially crucial to have a small handful of people in your life that are true “ride or die” supporters of yours, and reciprocally you are of theirs. I have fully, intentionally, and lovingly continued on with two friendships with classmates from high school. It isn’t that there aren’t other people that I care about from high school, there are definitely a few people who I still love and care about, but we have just drifted apart as our lives have moved past the narrow halls of CHS. That is okay. If it weren’t for social media, we would have little to no contact. This is one plus of having such easy access to everybody’s lives and contact information, you never really lose touch. I believe that there is a little bit of room for those kinds of friendships, but also, these people don’t need to know every single detail of my life in the way that I share those details with my personal “village” that holds me up every day.
There are increasingly more people who love sharing the “entirety” of their lives on the internet with any and everyone. That is a lifestyle that is fitting for only some people, not everyone. However, the way that social media has evolved makes it so easy to fall victim to feeling like you need to put your whole life in a digital display-case. I have fallen into this trap endless times. The issue that is presented when you go forth to put the content of your life onto the various social platforms is that you are always given the encouragement to edit and modify your life. I’ll talk about this more in a minute, but “full lives” that are depicted on social media are 99% of the time NOT full lives. It is deceptive to think that what you see on social media is wholly what you get.
I’m not saying that the entirety of social media is a constructed fraud: it’s not. It’s a case by case situation. That being said, a lot of social media is a glamourized and selective version of reality. I, like many other social media influencers, try to keep my content as transparent and truly Indira as possible. This is somewhat easy for me since my content is quite personal, and my following is relatively small. I’ve been doing better at this in the past month, but this is a goal of mine to improve upon. I think it is awesome to have a few influencers that you look up to and get to know through loyally following their media content; I hope I can be one of those for you. It’s awesome to feel as though these influencers are friends whose thoughts we cherish. However, the key word there is a “few.”
I don’t need to spend so much precious time looking through the details of hundreds of constructed lives and then comparing them to my own, which I get the full picture of. This is dangerous and leads to no good at all. I’m always saying how I need more time, but maybe I have the time and I’m wasting it simply being nosy into the lives of hundreds, even thousands of people who I barely or don’t know. There are so many more productive and fulfilling ways that I could be spending this time. Social media is important and an excellent tool to enhance relationships with others, but it should be about building and maintaining relationships with others that you are about and sharing fun snippets of your life, not eavesdropping and judging other people that you barely know.
What I am going to do about it: I am going to look at my phone’s battery usage statistics (in settings app on iPhones) every evening and see how much time I spent on social media that day so that I am aware of the reality of my consumption. I aim to keep the total amount of time spent on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest under 1 hour. Ever since I came home from college for the summer, I have been forgetting about my phone for hours at a time. That’s good, and it has caused definite improvement in the amount of time I spend glued to it. However, after checking my stats from yesterday, I spent 136 minutes on social media on my cell phone, approximately two hours and 15 minutes. The fact that spending over two hours a day on social media just on my phone is an improvement is concerning.
Realize that there is so much more to people’s lives than what they put on social media.
Social media is simply a gag reel. It makes sense that it would be like that, logically you don’t want to advertise your flaws, your downfalls, and your arguments to everybody that you know. For some weird reason, we don’t remember that the aforementioned items are elements of everybody’s lives when we’re on their Instagram. Social media can make it seem as though things are perfect, flawless, calm, and comfortable – even when they are everything but that. Everybody fights unseen battles that you may know nothing about. It’s cliché, but true. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and camera lenses. It isn’t right to assume that you know a person because of what you see on their social media accounts.
It’s funny because I talked to a few people over the course of the past few months who said that I lead a perfect life. They saw on my Instagram that I’ve taken several trips in the past six months, I’ve gone to several concerts, and taken several cool pictures. They thought my life was so action-packed and fun and exciting; and that I was really happy. I’m not going to say that I was unhappy, because there were many days in which I was a ray of sunshine. But, I suffer from severe clinical depression, which isn’t something that you see in my little square feed. Winters are always really hard for me, it gets worse during the darker, colder season. I went through a health scare, several painful social situations, and a lot of loneliness within these past six months. I had an awesome freshman year of college, and so many great things have happened in my life during this time. But, depression doesn’t care how well your life is going. It comes and goes as it pleases, and that is tremendously difficult.
People saw on my social media that I had lots of friends, lots of fun experiences, and a big smile plastered on my face. Little did many of the people who saw those photos know about the truth behind my feelings. I was so lonely, searching for friends that made me feel good about myself. I was struggling with my mental health a lot. There was a weekend that I didn’t leave my dorm room for three days more than to go to the dining hall. I had an average of 4 appointments a week, every week, for things having to do with my mental health. I spent a lot of time in the same faded, oversized sweatshirts. I spent a lot of Saturday nights in my bed alone with a pizza box in my lap and the show Friends on my computer. Yeah, I had happy moments and awesome experiences. I would not trade those for the world. But I struggled a lot too, and that didn’t seem to make its way into my “perfect” Instagram feed. I deleted the majority of my Instagram photos one night, because I was tired of pretending that it’s all trips and concerts and hugs and pretty dresses. I still do not regret this decision.
What I am going to do about it: Remind myself often that social media is simply a gag reel. Over and over and over. And try to remind myself to stop making mine into a gag reel. Over and over and over.
Realize that a lot of things on social media are staged.
So, we know that we don’t see everything from a person’s life on their social media, but do we even know that what we are seeing is an accurate representation of reality? We don’t. So many things on social media are prepped, primed, primped, and set up for an aesthetically pleasing photo. While I love photography, this definitely creates a false illusion of “reality.” Especially on Snapchat, a platform created firstly for one-on-one interpersonal communication, then updated with the story feature that is to seemingly show people quick and candid snapshots of your life, the staging that can go on behind a photo creates a false illusion that everyday life is supposed to be put together, cute, and pretty enough to share. I can admit that I have spent so much time staging photos, editing photos, and planning out perfect captions to go along with the “perfect” photos on social media. But, the reality is that life is a mess in more than one way. Nobody has it all together and nobody is perfect. This is something that I seem to forget quite a lot.
What I am going to do about it: Much like the previous realization, I need to remind myself to keep on realizing these truths about social media often and repetitively. Also, I am going to be more mindful of the staging that goes on behind some of my photos and put it to an end. I’m done being “exciting life, always happy Indira’s Inner Beauty,” on social media. That isn’t me. I am just Indira, and I am going to make it my mission to be more transparent on my platforms. I am Indira’s Inner Beauty, not Indira’s “trying-to-look-natural-but-actually-staged-happy” Beauty. I’m simply exhausted, and I’ve only been on social media for about 3 years.
Realize that we often do things for our social media selves, not our actual selves.
I was reading an article that I found on Pinterest that talked about growing your numbers on Instagram as a blogger. One of the tips was to “live a life worth Instagramming.” This made me feel super insecure at first. It made me feel as though I had to show off every aspect of my life, and mold it into something that the viewers wanted to see and wanted to double tap. This is a dangerous thought for someones mental health. Your life will never seem perfect to you, no matter how many filters or witty captions you’ve got. Your life shouldn’t be perfect. The imperfections are the character builders. The oopses are the best fuel for the fire.
I felt as though my life was not good enough, and the comparison to other girls was never ending. I wanted hair like this girl, and a body like this girl, and a boyfriend like this girl’s, and a life like this girl’s. And then I realized. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS.
I have such an amazing life that I have been given by my superb parents and equally superb family. I go to the university of my dreams, and I have done so many awesome things in my (almost) 19 years of life. I love the person that I am becoming and the values that I hold close to my heart. I don’t need to justify that to anybody but myself. I may order a certain food at a restaurant to take a cutesy photo of it, or go to a certain place because it’s “cool” on social media, without even realizing, and that needs to stop. I need to live my life for Indira Kaur Midha. I need to do my thing and walk to the beat of my own drum; that’ll make me the happiest.
What I am going to do about it: I am going to stop posting instant updates like snapchat or Instagram stories so that I can allow myself to be present in the moment, rather than preoccupied by oversharing every aspect of my life instantaneously. I’m going to limit what I post on places like Instagram and Facebook, because I need to focus more on creating a lovely life for myself, not for the snap or the gram. I will take photos at my leisure, and later on I can choose to share a few. I am done constructing a “perfect life” online.
Realize that we don’t need to keep up with the lives of so many people.
Why do I need to be following 827 people on Instagram? Why do I need to know all of the constructed details of their social media selves? Nah. I don’t want to keep up with the Kardashians (wow, I’m smooth) or any other celebrities. Their lives are not my business and it adds no value to my life to be so informed on theirs. It adds to the waste of time when you see so many peoples photos on your feed, and you carefully skim through each one. This bit is short and sweet, I don’t need to know everything about everybody that I went to pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and high school with. I don’t need to keep tabs on everybody that I know in my graduating class at college. It can be fun to peek into the lives of people from the past, but the excessive extent to which we do it nowadays is out of control. It’s cool to look in on some of your friends’ lives as you’ve moved onto different places in your life, but it presents a problem when you feel a compulsive need to be checking your social media to snoop into the lives of other people.
What I am going to do about it: I am going to go on a big unfollowing spree on Instagram and Snapchat. I picked these two platforms because they are the ones that I have lately been having issues with. I am going to only keep on following or being Snapchat friends with people that are a part of my everyday life, friends that I like to keep in light contact with every so often via social media, and people from my past that I would like to stay connected with. This may sound harsh, but it isn’t in anything but an attempt to better my mental health, now and in the long run. I don’t need to be fixated on having a big number of people following me on my social platforms. I want to curate what I see, in terms of making sure that the people who I am following are people that I truly wish to maintain relationships with, and people who make me feel positively. There is nothing wrong with being simple acquaintances with people, but I decided that I don’t want to continually be exposed to content that doesn’t really mean much to me on my social media feeds.
Realize that everyone and anyone can see what I post on social media, and that takes away my true storytelling opportunities by having to curate it all into a certain amount of words or photos.
I love telling stories. It’s my thing. I am a blogger, a media studies major, and as many people from my childhood called me, a chatty chick. I love telling stories, we often no longer get the opportunity to share our full stories in as whole and detailed manners as we would like to. By putting all of my significant experiences on social media, I am giving people a full look into my life, I’m not saving any stories to tell or photos to show privately. This may seem childish, but I really value being able to sit down with someone and share all of my photos from a trip or an experience, and take my time to fully express the sentiment or memories behind each photo. It makes my heart a special kind of happy.
What I am going to do about it: I decided to put all of my travel posts, and vlogs on my YouTube channel on private. I am going to stop doing personal and “my life” posts and content on this blog. I don’t want this blog to be about showing off a life that’s molded into “perfection,” or whatever it is that’s as close to perfection as it can get. I want this blog to be about sharing important and valuable sentiments and thoughts, and using those sentiments and thoughts to make the world a better, happier, kinder, more empowered place.
I can’t be the change that I want to be by focusing on solely sharing things like where I went on spring break or what I ate when I hung out with my friends. I can share some of my favorite stories on here, in a manner in which others can benefit from or find entertainment or some other positive sentiment. I put a lot of who I am and how my heart is into all of my writing, I don’t need to spend time doing “personal posts,” because all of my posts are personal. I am done creating content that is meaningless to me, just to craft a life that I think people would want to binge on through social networks. Nobody benefits from that. That’s not my calling, and that is not how I want to change the world.
I think social media is so powerful. Heck, I’m trying to build a career off of it. I think that the power it holds can be used to make extremely innovative and necessary change. It can spread messages that can heal, love, unite, and so much more. However, I think that the way that we are taught to perceive and consume social media currently is not effective, and using social media’s potential to its fullest. It’s not that we need to stop consuming media, but we need to approach it differently and mindfully. I hope to change how people consume media and share my truths and thoughts in order to spark change, and empower other individuals to spark change too. The first change I am going to make is within myself and my habits.
I am the first step in my fight to change the world for the better.
With love always,