I love social media and I am not ashamed to admit it. I love scrolling through my Instagram feed and read what people are up to, I love watching innovative and insightful videos on YouTube, I love the funny cat videos that go viral on Facebook, and I love the fact that my grandparents can watch, read and look at my life on the other side of the world, just by logging on Facebook,
I love it, but I would be fake and a liar if I didn’t admit that sometimes social media gets me down. Sometimes I find myself scrolling endlessly through hundreds of the same Instagram famous people. I feel my mood getting hit real hard by looking at the same type of pictures and videos: a seemingly happy and attractive girl with a great body, great smile and a great product to tag and millions of people to stare and idolize her.
I find anger and jealousy forming inside my chest when I spend too much time on social media. I am more self-aware, frustrated and angry when I look at my phone for too long, or I try to take the right picture 200 times so that I fit to box criteria that somehow we have all agreed to fit under.
The other day, Essena O’Neil, a young and smart girl with a successful social media profile, released an amazing video on what really goes on behind the glossy and the promotional shots that we desperately compare ourselves to on Instagram. She unvealed the twisted, yet expected truth of what really takes to be successful on social media. It’s showbiz even if you are watching it on your smartphone, peeps.
The message behind Essena’s video is an echo of many other videos and movements that people have been tried to bring out to the public: stop looking at your phone and start listening.
The video has gone viral in the last couple of day and people have suddenly divided into two big groups: those who praised her for her “courage” and said to be inspired to quit social media, and then those who were skeptical about her intentions, as she quit her big accounts, but set up a new website that is clearly getting a lot of hits and press.
Let’s not miss the point of the message becuase we don’t agree with their intentions. Whether she is doing this to rebuild her image or career, we can’t really miss the crucial message that social media doesn’t really make us that happy.
And it’s not just some YouTuber opinion; the facts speak for themselves. Multiple studies have proven the link between depression and hyper sexuality with use of social media among teenagers and young people especially.
Our lives are conditioned to be lived under the shadow of social media. We ARE our food posts, our outfit posts and our “I look so good” posts. And it’s because social media is just another portal through which we express ourselves. It’s a personal canvas, just like a music sheet, or a photograph.
The fact that millions of people are watching our personal canvas is what makes things a little bit complicated.
When you add an audience to anything you do, it’s inevitable that we slowly turn into entertaining muppets. We stop following our own voice and expressing our creativity, because we know that there is a social media heaven somehwere ahead of us, where millions of people like our stupid pictures, or companies pay us to feature their useless products. It’s where people like Essena, Sjana, Jen Selter and all of those Instagram famous hang out.
We have transformed the way we share our informations and content, because we know that the average person could be living in that heaven. And especially if you’re young and sort of lost in terms of what you want to do with your life, it’s pretty tempting to swim and risk of drowning into that island.
But what is the solution? We know that spending too much time on social media makes us grumpy and disheartened, but how do we get rid of something that also can empower us and easily connect us with people from all over the world?
We get to the core of the problem. That’s what we gotta do.
The real problem here is that companies – small and big – are literally exploiting the good bits of having a social media profile. Even if you use Instagram for your drunken adventures and Snapchat for your sexy selfies, you still represent a huge number that goes to become a target market for a company’s marketing plan.
Companies have realized that it’s not only cheaper to use big social media accounts for advertising and marketing, but because the people behind a big Instagram account are just people like you and I, not like a celebrity or an athlete; because it’s THAT easy to win that lottery, companies know that you’re going to trust them. You know that you are going to be loyal and you will give them the like, you will follow the products they are featuring and agree with the things they are saying, because at the end of the day we are all striving for one huge dream.
The dream of living our true selves and being appreciated for it.
So what’s next?
Do we go all cold turkey like Essena did? Do we go back to disfunctioning layouts like MySpace, or buy a cheap Nokia on eBay? What do we have to do, since we can’t obviously win in this way?
Before you delete all of your social media accounts, read this.
Alright, we all know that social media is definitely not about your inner voice now; however, it CAN BE. It can have the potential to spread a good message and support other people, but that doesn’t happen for one good reason. Because we are too busy judging and comparing ourselves to understand that very important potential of our own social media accounts.
Asking questions to yourself is the starting point to change your behaviour. Why do we need the attention? Why do we desperately seek the approval? Why is checking our likes and follows so urgent, when life is racing past us?
Most likely you will realize that there is a lot of tension and sadness that goes to trigger this social media binge. Beware, but don’t lose your hope, because awareness is the first step to beat the enemy.
Look up. I know, this is hard even for me. We are glued to our phones because they are just too damn comfortable and they represent a whole world for us. A world made of our favorite people, our favorite games and our favorite pictures of ourselves. We live in constant fear that we’d miss out on many things, if we didn’t carry our phones with us at all times. But think about it really: what are you missing out on when you don’t look at your phone? Yep, that’s exactly right. You’re missing out on life.
It’s like being a heavy smoker: because you are constantly living on the web and comparing yourself against some artificial world, you lose completely the sense of being yourself and the beauty that surrounds you. When you stop looking for the perfect shots and the perfect Snapchat story, everything will feel a lot more real to you.
Unfollow everyone. Okay, maybe not everyone. But if you follow many people on Instagram, you’re probably more likely to be following people that are not doing great on your self-esteem. Even the people who share positive messages on being healthy and motivated, their message will not be delivered, if you envy them. Envy is a nasty monster, so when you feel it rising inside you, I strongly suggest to unfollow the person and start working on yourself.
It’s pretty clear that we can’t just point the finger to those who share the type of content that make us feel inadequate, yet attract us like a box of Lindt chocolate balls. Understand that every single person, even Jen Selter, started out a personal project for their own sake and to accomplish something in life. Everybody seeks happiness and fulfillment in some kind of way.
HOWEVER, (because there is always a however), WE – as a group of young and powerful people who are capable of smashing their own destiny – have got to stop to use an amazing platform like social media only to glorify ourselves and promote products we absolutely don’t believe in.
So if your parents were burning bras and hugging tree in the 70s, it’s our turn to rebel against this type of social media: unfollow them. Because when you unfollow, you pull out a like, a view and a number that determines how successful and pretty you are in our sick mind.
The amazing thing about social media is that we can consume content just one tap away on our smartphones and it’s accessible to all sorts of people. Videos go viral in cities that don’t even have a high level of activity on Facebook, or Twitter. This is how information travels nowadays. Old media used to be complicated, unaccessible and, let’s be honest, boring.
But because things are made to be viral and liked and shared, it’s pretty common that a lot of the content that is shared on social media is simply dull and sometimes 2D.
Social media is a powerful tool to share messages of all sorts, but because things are easy and fast to understand, we often forget our own abilities to dig deeper. Is it all about having fun? Can we not have fun and raise awareness on certain things at the same time? Does it always have to be a party that never ends, but that we are never invited to? Absolutely not.
So when you look at post on Instagram, think about what’s going on in the photo. Is she smiling because she is happy, or because she took a sip on a detox tea? Is this person really promoting this message because they believe in it, or because they are getting paid to do it?
The moment that you question the world you live in is fundamental, because it shows that you care about something other than yourself, and it manifests your desire to know more about something that sparked your interest.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying a cute, funny video, or feeling inspired to work out by a girl’s body, but don’t forget that too much of anything is bad for you, and overdosing from Instagram is definitely more common than you think.
Because we consume so much of other people’s creativity, we often find ourselves depleted of our own.
When I was addicted to fashion blogs and Instagram, I stopped writing, painting and reading; the passions I grew up with.
I lost the voice I needed to communicate my own vision and above all, I lost the confidence I had in my own thoughts and creation. Comparing yourself against other people’s work is so toxic, yet so common. Because there is literally material to compare yourself against to everywhere, it’s inevitable that we fall for that.
When I check a person’s work for too long, I find myself demotivated and more critical than usual when I start to create my own. And I hate it, because I wish I could just appreciate one’s work without having to feel like crap about my own stuff!
But here’s this. We are constantly changing and evolving, and sometimes we have got to cut down on the things that we appreciate, because they don’t let us grow or move anywhere.
So if you desperately need your creativity back, or you wish you could express yourself in some way, stop wasting time on social media, especially on the people that you love the most. I know you want to support them and you want to listen to them, but this whole thing doesn’t matter if by the end of the video, you feel completely inadequate when you think about your own work.
Your art first.
This is where it all comes down to. It’s always about believing in yourself and putting your work first. And I am not talking about work as in your office job, I mean about the things that you create and you believe in. Get rid of the fact that you want to make money off your passion, or you want to be with this many followers, or be this skinny. Because they only help you being miserable.
Realize that even though money come and go and they are fundamental to live, they don’t correspond to happiness. Creativity is like the lover that always gets away and runs wild and free from you, when it comes to money.
It’s hard to make a lot of money off your creativity; don’t let the whole showbuiz fool you into thinking that all you need is a successful YouTube channel and you’re set for life.
And that’s because when you create, you do it out of nature and desire to share something that has lived inside of you and that now is ready to be freed and touch other people. Money, however, has been created by some people and it’s nothing but maths and opportunities.
When you start doing things for money and ego, your creativity takes a bit of a hit and only produces mediocre ideas. It’s because you’re not feeding her right.
Feed your creativity questions, art, music, other forms of creativity. Feed her curiosity and feelings. This is what drives her. Money only cages your creativity and doesn’t allow you to fully express the vision that is right in front of you.
I know that people are going to reply to this by saying that you can’t live without money and you should make art that is accessible. The whole point of making art is to express yourself and let people be part of it. Money being the final destination clearly isn’t going to make it work.
Social media is only a web canvas that should be used to share your thoughts, your ideas and your art. It’s your “I am here and this is what I am about”. It shouldn’t dictate how much you like yourself, or how much you like others. It shouldn’t stop you from wanting to share your own vision, or wish to read and watch different aspects of a problem.
It’s not your 15 minutes of fame. It’s your lifetime chance of sharing who you really are. Raw, unedited and live.