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How did we get here? To a place where our value is so dependent on what we share with the world via photos, comments, likes, and shares.
As a 22-year-old beyond my years, I have still fallen into the trap of media myself, but it expands beyond that. According to Statista, 77 percent of the U.S. population is using some form of social media in 2018. This is our reality. It's our life—the way we share our successes, art, businesses, or simply what we ate for lunch. It's constant, it's demanding, it's excessive.
Great, we know that it's the reality, but what's the big deal? Why is this a problem? Well, we not only are 'following' our family and friends- but celebrities who are richer, prettier & quite frankly, living completely different lifestyles than us average folk. We're also constantly comparing that entire network of people subconsciously, to ourselves.
The desire to live up to the standards of the explosive entertainment industry has slowly crept into modern life. We no longer care about our interactions, rather we count them and have developed our own reality TV shows where we are the star and the world is our audience. Except, our audience is comprised mostly of people you never see and never talk to. The effort that goes into liking a post (status, photo), or even looking at it, is minimal to none next to developing a true, real relationship with a person. The ease of this interaction creates a process by which millions of people can all be simultaneously connected at once, while at the same time, not being connected at all.
Now, you might be thinking it doesn't apply to you because you only are connected to people you know. Sure, but if you truly had those connections with people, you wouldn't need to post all those things you do in a day because you could text the content to them instead or even call them. OK, "But I have too many friends on my social media and don't need to individually contact them to show them what I'm doing." There's my point. We've become so systematic in our actions that we don't care to talk about what we do with others, we merely want to show we are doing them. Again, an audience for our show.
It isn't all bad. We are all capable of self-love and the ability to share that love through social media whether it be our talents, experiences, or photos. The key to our world of followers is to simply remember this: life is happening around you whether you post it or not and your existence directly affects the world, so be yourself.
In other words, stop comparing yourself. To everyone. You come from a unique place in the universe and to truly stay motivated in this life is to stay true to who you are and what you want in life. Unfortunately, social media has conditioned us to want what everybody else has and ultimately be and do as others do. Our presence on media is expected, relied upon to encompass all the parts of who we are for the world to see. But we absolutely cannot learn everything about a person through social media. In other words—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Here are some tips to stay true to you:
- Don't look to others for approval. You will be tempted to take peoples' opinions at face value, maybe even sharing those without realizing it. Don't. Do your own research on topics, create your own opinions, share what matters to you. You'll notice that not everything people put out there is liked, especially if it's looked down upon in the media already. If you don't want to deal with people disagreeing, simply don't post it, but don't change how you feel or think just because it isn't a popular opinion.
- Limit media browsing activity. This one can be difficult, but simply deleting the apps for a few days helps. Don't waste hours looking at other peoples' lives when you could be out there living your own!
- Don't live in someone else's 'perfect' world. So many people complain so much about their lives. For many reasons, nothing seems enough. Well, I'm sure if you were left with no money, no family, no place to live—all those problems you had before would seem incredibly small and irrelevant. Yeah, life is tough. You won't be on the same path as someone else and you may even envy others for living a life you want but do not have. Don't think that way! You are likely much luckier than you think and people probably wish they had your life—all because social media forces us to compare ourselves constantly.
- Be grateful. This directly ties to the last point. Life can be so much worse. You don't see content that talks about the negative as much because it doesn't sell and it isn't fun or sexy or fashionable or popular or colorful or whatever. Remember that you are significant no matter what, and you are deserving of a beautiful life. Don't let the misconceptions of social media or anything else really, convince you otherwise.
Personally, it makes me sad to step back and realize that we are all living through screens. However, I remain strong and happy by holding true to my personal values and morals. I have a strong sense of who I am and what I want (sometimes) and hope to share that with my network both on and off social media. I use media and the internet in general for SO MUCH, because who doesn't?
At one point or another, you will understand how you are personally affected or affect others through these platforms and hopefully be able to change your behavior or help others do the same. As obvious as it may seem, real life is more important. Don't get so caught up in a digital one.