For a solid month when Instagram first came out, I thought it was just a photo editing app. In fact, it wasn’t until I was getting “like” notifications on my pictures that I realized the public could see them. (It was super embarrassing too because there were an obnoxious amount of selfies on my page that the world should never been subjected to.) I digress.
Now, Instagram isn’t just an app. its THE app. Long gone are the days of posting home videos and low quality photos of high quality memories. No no, if you’re going to post it… it better be good. In fact, chances are you have actually erased a picture that YOU liked based solely on the “likes” it received (or did not receive) in the first few minutes of sharing. We have giving whole new meaning to the phrase “If she jumped off a cliff, would you?” Because in all honesty…we might consider it. Especially if it went viral. You think I’m kidding?
The term “influencer” has taken on such a life, that if you don’t have at least 10k followers (gotta have the ‘k’)… then your voice doesn’t count. That’s how it can feel, anyways. And all this time we are taking very little notice of the serious ramifications involving self esteem and worth that are resulting from such a culture. Seriously y’all, social media has become an addiction. Come on Caroline, you’re just being dramatic. Am I? Have you tried to turn on the “App Limits” on your phone, or monitored your screen time? How many times have you clicked “remind me in 15 minutes” or worse, “ignore for today”? I know because I am GUILTY. I am so wired to consistently check my Instagram, that I reach for my phone a minimum of 18 times an hour when I DON’T EVEN HAVE IT WITH ME. Yikes.
So, how do we survive this epidemic with our self esteem still intact? I want to take some time to really dive into this topic, because I am not a “big time” blogger. I know that those with hundreds of thousands of followers will briefly use their platform to remind you that you are more than a number, but how true could that really be when these people make their income off of those very numbers? So, I am just your average Joe. Coming to you live from my couch, screaming toddler in hand, donned in sweatpants, and watching the same episode of Spongebob for the sixth time. I am not big time, but I still struggle big time. Here are ways I combat the feelings of social media burnout and inferiority.
“But Caroline, I have to engage and have an Instagram presence. My business depends on it!” Not true. Do you have to post in order to draw attention to your brand? Maybe. But scrolling serves you absolutely no purpose… unless you are intentionally trying to torture yourself. In all honesty, constantly exposing yourself to someone else’s creativity can even hurt your own. Whether you recognize it or not, your style is impressionable. And when you are constantly bombarded by the style of others, it is so easy to lose your own unique voice. It is okay (actually MORE than okay) to just be you. It is okay, and even admirable, to bring your creativity to this space regardless of if it agrees with the popular opinion. Isn’t that why we came to love social media in the first place? It’s a space to share feelings, creativity, and opinions that are uniquely ours! Your only competition is you. Jenna Kutcher is not your competition. Tezza is not your competition. They are killing it in their own space, this much is true, but that does NOT mean you have less potential. When it comes to scrolling, less is more. Ignorance really is bliss!
You’ve heard it said before: do not follow people who make you feel like less of a person. But let me take it a step further: it also does not benefit you to follow those that live more extravagantly than you. Following a fashion blogger that only posts $500 outfits when you are on a tight budget does not serve you. Following an interior designer who works for the fabulously wealthy, when you are barely able to afford your current mortgage, is setting you up for failure. Am I telling you to unfollow Kim Kardashian? No, she is in a class all her own. But I am saying follow accounts that tailor their feeds to your lifestyle, rather than trying to tailor your life to theirs. It is nearly impossible not to harbor comparison when you are exposed to luxury… its practically in our DNA. Am I saying not to cheer for these people because they are wealthy? Absolutely not. Give credit where credit is due. But if you are unable to cheer for them without harboring envy, then unfollowing is a necessity for your own well being. AND THAT IS OKAY. We have way too much access to way too much information these days. So, to consciously filter what you allow in is more than okay: It is wise.
A little space is good for the soul. Confession? I love my husband. But sometimes I need to watch trashy tv and drink wine by myself. Same with my child. Gatlin is the cutest thing I have ever laid eyes on, but after a long day of tantrums and mess? Mama needs a break. Taking some time to just be, without anyone needing or expecting anything from you, is necessary for sanity! Same with social media.Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing. You may not think you have a problem, but try it anyways. Spend a day or two without the screen. Invest in your relationships offline. Go on a walk, take a bath, lay on the floor with your kids and play without time constraints. Whether you realize it or not, your phone takes away from your ability to be fully present. I know this is true for me. So, take away the temptation for a while. Press reset. It’s worth it to get back in touch with what sets your soul on fire.
Check your heart
So you logged off, deactivated accounts, and swore off the online world completely. And maybe you felt refreshed, even renewed, during that time. But when you do log back on, you find yourself sucked back in a matter of minutes. What gives? There is a story in the Bible about a man who cleans out his heart. The demon wanders for a while, then decides to return to the room (the man’s heart) that he left. When he comes back, he finds it to be vacant and in order. So, the demon gets seven more demons and brings them back to dwell in the vacant place with him (Matthew 12:43-45). This man was worse off than when he started, right? He had one demon, now he has seven. Why? Because he removed the evil, but he did not replace it with something else. It is not good enough to just remove the temptation for a while, to simply purge the evil. You must then replace it with a new way of thinking. A new way of living. The point I’m trying to make is that, while detoxing is good, it’s not enough by itself. Continue checking in on your heart and your intentions. Pour truth and joy into your heart, to fill the empty spaces. That way, there is no more room for comparison. No vacancy.
Don’t lose the fun
I would be lying if I said presets aren’t fun. They are so fun, in fact, that Connor threatened to take away my credit card if I purchased any more. But curating your feed can steal your joy just as easily, if you let it. I remember the days when I slapped “Nashville” or “Lofi” on every picture and called it a day. Now? There are apps to plan, edit, and curate your Instagram feed before you ever open the Instagram app. I have been guilty of spending so much time on one photo that my eyes cross and I get a headache from squinting at the screen. Folks, I hate to break it to ya (me)… but it ain’t that serious. Instagram began as an online photo album, and the farther we steer away from that the less fun it becomes. So here’s my challenge: post a picture just because you love it every once in a while. Change up your preset, or maybe even go unedited, just because you can. And if you’re feeling especially wild, make it a point to avoid checking your numbers after you post a picture. Reverse the thinking. Change the habits. Take back the joy!
Enough is enough, friends. It’s time to emerge from behind our screens, and take back the gift of life! Fully alive, fully present, and fully committed to embracing our beautiful reality. I realize that none of these suggestions are huge life upheavals, but they’re a start. You have a decision to make every time you login. Every time you use these platforms, you are “influencing.” Your words, your images, and your creativity are so powerful… either to positively or negatively impact. What you bring to this place, what you believe in and stand for, matters. Let’s leave others better than the way we found them. Something as important as your happiness, and the happiness of those that you come into contact with, demands more than mindless posting and scrolling. I am taking these steps to protect my joy and guard my heart… you in?