A F I L T E R E D L I F E
Personally, I love social media. I think it makes our big and divided world a little smaller, closer and more connected. It serves so many purposes and reaps so many benefits. It’s provided us with a medium for creative expression, a channel for connection and even serves us as an agent of awareness and social consciousness. It’s given us a platform for storytelling, moment-sharing and articulating messages to the world around us.
I wouldn’t be telling the truth, however, if I said I haven’t been guilty of allowing it, at times, to be a pressing force of my discontentment. Often, social media can feel anything but real and often, it can do everything but inspire us. I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but a scroll through Instagram can leave me feeling a little deflated, like I need to do and be something more than I am. I forget that it’s actually a world of its own – a net of fleeting fantasy. Living in a digital age, it can be too easy to lose perspective – lose sight of what is actually real, true and good. Unintentionally, we make assumptions about who people are based off an illusion of what we see from the outside looking in. We present a filtered life to the world around us; putting our ‘best self’ forward, painting and creating ideals, when truly, things are far from faultless as we, ourselves, are wholly imperfect, full of blemishes and flaws.
Life is messy, real and beautifully chaotic.
The pride of life is seeking to appear important in the eyes of those around us. The BEAUTY of life, however, is that it’s full of highs and lows, we know this so well. It’s so much more than just the highlight reel – it’s wonderfully and beautifully chaotic. It can be muddy shoes, split ends, chipped nails, coffee-stained t-shirts and spots on our cheeks that just won’t go away. It can be tearful nights, long days, valleys, battles and struggles (hand in hand with a generous portion of joyful days, victories and triumphs). Life is full of wildly and hilariously imperfect moments and truthfully, that’s what makes us, us and that’s what makes life, life (in all it’s fullness and authenticity). It is so much more than what we could ever exhibit, manifest or publicly display.
Speaking culturally, the consumption and influence of social media can give birth to a multitude of far reaching chain reactions, namely comparison, competition, intimidation and dissatisfaction. As you can imagine, young people use social media more than any other demographic, meaning that we are more vulnerable to the weight of its pressure than any other age group. If we let it, it can easily wage a quiet war against our identity, silently robbing us of our heart’s contentment.
How can we cultivate contentment in a selfie-centered world?
When dissatisfaction seeps in, there’s a number of things we can implement to help keep us grounded.
Here’s what you need to remember:
- You do not need to self-promote or self-advertise: No matter how determined our efforts, social media will never fully represent or express us. This is okay because it was never supposed to. Remember that you do not need to justify who you are, the friends you have nor the life you lead. Most importantly, in a world that aches for affirmation and validation (and in many ways profits from our self-doubt), know that self-advertisement will never fulfill you. Empty affirmation and attention will not feed us nor sustain us. Really, we know that we cannot rely on it to nourish us. It’s essential you know that you are so much more than you could ever try to present. Remember, also, that self-confidence isn’t always loud – instead, it can be quiet and sure. I believe that it’s a bold and strong inner disposition (check the verse at the end of this post).
- “Today you are you, and that is truer than true”: Secondly, it’s pivotal to remember that you do not need to compete. Your story is your own, your life is your own and your beauty is also your own. There is no comparison between you and the person next to you. You are you, and that’s truer than true (I guess if Dr Suess said so then it has to be true, right?). Celebrate with others, appreciate them and value their achievement, but know that this does not (and never will) diminish or dismantle your own beauty, identity or personhood. Don’t ever welcome or receive any inner (or audible) voice that tells you ‘you’re not enough’.
- Don’t like it? Don’t conform to it: Our culture is saturated with unhealthy messages and is washed in harmful ideals. These societal standards are persuasive and prevalent. Their roots run deep and span across history. Through the vessels of social and mass media, these ideals are arguably all-consuming our current day and culture. What I’ve noticed, however, is that as women, we can be found to complain about the [gender] expectations and ideals placed upon us but do not stop to consider whether we are supporting or conforming to them ourselves. For example (hear me out), we groan that Instagram breeds the expectation of an unrealistic lifestyle, or expects us to look and be a certain way, however, do we not endorse these ideals by striving to live up to the standards ourselves? Hypothetically, is it right for me to complain about false beauty ideals if I conform by buying masses of beauty products myself? If this is the case for you, I encourage you to be the change that you want to see. If you don’t address it, you endorse it. If you follow it, you advocate it. If you don’t like it, change it. Be different because small changes are nonetheless good and powerful. You have the capability to create change. Releasing and discharging ourselves from stereotypes and cultural norms brings a great amount of freedom.
- We’re all human: Social media usually presents us with the highlight reel (the hills and not the valleys). This isn’t wholly a bad thing as, naturally, we don’t want to present the world with our personal pains and aches, so instead we display ‘the best bits’. Social media, particularly Instagram, can be a lush way to keep a memory bank of moments but remember that you do not have to pretend to have it all together. The truth is – absolutely nobody does. Be sure, also, to remember that everybody has their own story and we are never in a position to make presumptions based on what we see from the outside looking in. Show grace the way you’d like to receive it.
- Don’t be a servant to social media, let it serve you: Don’t let the endless scrolling fry your mind or disconnect your attention (I speak to myself as I write this). Stay attentive. Stay observant and stay engaged with what’s really going in your world. When social media becomes our addiction, our distraction or takes control over our contentment or ability to be ‘in the moment‘, we become a slave to it. Technology is a gift – we have the opportunity to let it serve us and benefit us rather than burn us out.
- Cultivate gratitude everyday: Adopting an attitude of gratitude will change the course of your everyday. Thankfulness holds power – choose to enjoy and be grateful for what you have and who you have in your life. This enables us to shut down all forms of comparison and live a life of wholesome contentment.
- Look up: Plainly and simply, you are not defined by the number of followers you have, the number of likes that you get, nor by the life that you portray. In a generation of ‘soul-searchers’, know that you do not need to look within nor look around to discover who you are. Sooner or later you’ll come to realise that more or less, we all cry out for the same thing. We yearn to be seen, noticed and appreciated but we’ve been searching, for too long, for the answers that have already been given to us. It’s time for us to look up. The truth is, you are deeply and irrevocably known, understood, noticed, loved and thought of. Take a step back and look up.
Social media struggles are relevant and real, but we can still love and embrace its benefits. Stay posted for part two of this blog post which will list a handful of individuals/organisations who are using social media as a powerful platform for social change, consciousness and awareness.