Social media is not real life – but that’s not the problem

The concept of faking a “perfect” life on social media has been around nearly as long as social media itself. Yet no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we lament on the inauthenticity of our online selves, the curated and edited content just keeps on coming.

The truth is we all wish our online selves were our authentic selves to some extent, and we’re good at pretending they are. 

Parody Instagram account @SocalityBarbie does a good (and hilarious) job of satirizing the way we all hope to live “authentic” lives in the most beautiful, well-photographed way possible.

If Socality Barbie were a real person, she’d understand that truly authentic, non-staged moments are priceless and special and important, but they don’t get you Instagram likes. (Side note, Socality Barbie has evidently quit Instagram.)

Most of the Instagram accounts I follow are curated, minus the ones that belong to friends and family. I follow photographers, models, travel bloggers, and beauty influencers who all post gorgeous, interesting content that inspires my creative side (or simply entertains me when I should be doing homework).

No, social media is not real life, but the fact that it’s fake isn’t the problem.

The problem lies not in WHAT we post, but in WHY.

We now live in a world of instant sharing, and that world has created a culture in which our self-love comes from the affirmations of others instead of from somewhere within ourselves. Connected as we are, we never have to be alone.

There won’t ever need to be a moment where we look at ourselves long and hard in the mirror and say “this is it. This is who I really am,” and decide for ourselves whether or not we like the person we see.

There’s no need for that anymore; a handy device in our pocket can quantify just how loved and wanted and valued we are, one like at a time.

If we acknowledge that social media is not real, we can begin to disconnect what we see online with real-life expectations. We can separate social media from our sense of self-worth.

It’s OK that social media is not real life. It’s OK that it’s a fictional world made of Gucci belts and avocado toast.

Just remember that self-love doesn’t come from that world. It comes from the real one.

The real you. 

So what can we do about it?

In a previous blog, I wrote about my experience in taking a social media detox. I would challenge anyone reading this blog right now to do the same.

Yes, that means deleting your social media apps and using your phone to call/text only.

It’s not about giving up social media forever; it’s about giving yourself the time to figure out what makes you truly happy on your own.

If you’re not ready to give up social media just yet, consider the following suggestions:

  • Start paying attention to the moments you mindlessly open Instagram or Facebook. Is it when you’re by yourself for a minute or two? When you should be working or studying? Be more mindful of the time you spend habitually browsing.
  • Turn off your social media notifications. This will keep you from wasting those 3-5 minutes of social media scanning every time your phone buzzes. You can go in and check your feeds periodically, but it will be a much more mindful action and you’ll have more control over your time.
  • Put your phone away when you’re sharing a meal with friends or family (or if you’re spending time with another person in general). Channel your energy into building real, face-to-face relationships.
  • Remind yourself often that what you see online is not a standard by which you should grade your life.

Do you feel like social media has affected your self esteem? What have you done to combat those feelings? Do you think giving up social media is the answer?

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How to use social media to boost your self esteem

Photo from Pixabay

Instagram has been a mainstream social media app for several years now. I created an account when I was about 19 and it has been my favourite form of social media ever since. My use of the app wasn’t always healthy though. I was following a ton of celebrities, models, and influencers; I constantly found myself comparing my body to theirs, feeling down about myself, or wondering why I couldn’t look like that as well.

This is no doubt a similar story for many people. The easy access of seeing celebrities all over your feed with people commenting how beautiful and skinny they are can have a negative effect on self-esteem. Eventually I realized how unhealthy some of my social media habits had gotten and decided to make some changes. I purged my Instagram, unfollowing people who I was only following because I wanted to be “inspired” to lose weight or remind myself that I didn’t look like them.

I still follow a few models and influencers on Instagram, but I follow them because I respect their stories and I admire them as people. Some have struggled with eating disorders and mental health disorders, some haven’t had good childhood experiences, and all of them are inspirational to me as people. They use their platforms to encourage healthy eating and fitness, which in turn inspires me to live my life in a healthier way. They promote the idea that who you are as a person is more important than how you look. While that is easier said than done some days, hearing it repeatedly does have a positive effect.

Social media is not just about seeing other people’s posts, the other side is what people say of yours. For a long time, I only posted things on Instagram that I knew would evoke likes and comments, even if I didn’t personally care for the photo. I used to delete my selfies if they didn’t get a certain number of ‘likes’ because in my mind that meant it wasn’t a good photo. It’s taken me a long time to reach a happy middle ground where I post things that make me happy without really caring who likes or comments on it anymore. I’ll be the first to admit there’s a nice confidence boost that comes when someone comments that you look good in a picture or when you get a large number of likes, but I know my sense of self-worth isn’t based on how many people ‘liked’ my most recent selfie.

Social media and self-esteem have a complicated relationship. It can be fun to share great moments with the world until looking at someone else’s Instagram feed makes us second guess those great moments. Most people don’t give up watching movies after seeing one too many picture-perfect lives depicted on screen, but social media is different from traditional media for obvious reasons. With social media, we personally know many of the people we follow, intertwining our personal and public lives, and we’re able to construct a very public image like no other generation before ours.

Along with this pseudo-celebrity status comes celebrity-like problems. As our private life fades and our public life expands, we may feel pressure to keep up appearances. If our self-esteem isn’t grounded in something deeper, we can be consumed with how our life appears to others, rather than how it feels. There is nothing wrong with wanting to share the best parts of our lives if we understand that this level of publicity has drawbacks.

With social media placing us all at risk of being overly consumed with what our lives look like, an awareness of these drawbacks can help us figure out how to use social media purposefully, in ways that enhance rather than tear down our self-esteem. Here are a few tips I’ve learned to use social media to boost my self esteem:

Take a social media break

Every now and then, we need breaks to re-group and achieve balance. We may take breaks from eating certain foods, listening to certain music, or even talking to certain people. It doesn’t mean we will never do these things again – it just means we need to step back and gain a healthier perspective. The same can be said of social media. It’s important to take a break and focus on other interests so you can see how social media really impacts your life, especially if you use it compulsively.

If your self-esteem relies heavily on likes and comments, it probably needs strengthening – much like weaker muscles need a good work out. Taking a break will allow you the opportunity to figure out other ways to feel validated and worthy.

The fear of missing out can provoke some anxiety, particularly if you feel pressured to post things that cater to your audience. It’s up to you to decide what’s more important: your self-esteem and overall mental health, or your followers’ desire for more content?

Be intentional with how you use it

It’s important to evaluate how you’ve been using social media; is it a way to share special moments with close friends and family, a tool to brand yourself and business, or a way to share inspiration? Even with the best intentions for using social media, we may find ourselves scrolling through our feed, caught up in other people’s lives. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing until we start to base our real self-esteem on someone’s Photoshopped image. The goal is to enhance our self-esteem – and we certainly won’t do it fixated on someone else’s online image.

Know that you have control of what you do and don’t follow. For example, too much news can get you down, but you can limit the amount of news that you’re exposed to. You can also use social media for educational purposes; learning about mental health, personal development, or something else that you’re interested in is possible. You can follow topics that you like or use it for inspiration. I highly recommend @millenial.therapist and @the.holistic.psychologist

Keep some things private

Taking a cue from some of the great celebrities of our time, we can also learn how to separate our public and private selves in way that protects our self-esteem with a little strategy; focus on what areas of your life you want to keep private and what areas you want to expose to the public. If you decide to post pictures of your significant other to show a more personal side of you, you may want to hold off posting the ups and downs of your relationship online as well. These types of decisions reduce the chance that you will overexpose yourself in a way that makes you feel vulnerable and perhaps more sensitive to others’ opinions. It also reinforces the idea that your self-esteem or self-worth is not dependent upon social media.

Set better boundaries

In other words, put a perspective on it. How does social media compare in importance to other areas of your life? Is it just a tool to enhance your life, or is it more like the center of your world? I have certainly been guilty of reaching for my phone before my toothbrush in the mornings, and this is no way to approach the day. Setting boundaries can make all the difference between using social media and it using you. Spending too long on social media can be a problem and it’s important to address that. Overdoing it can interfere with your quality of life and it can prevent you from getting into the real world. Addiction or obsession is not healthy and social media is not a replacement for face-to-face interaction.

If you focus on living life rather than posting it, your days will be much more enjoyable. You can post anytime, but you can’t get your days back. Changing your perspective can make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself when using social media.

Do you see social media as being positive for self-esteem? What are some ways you might use social media to enhance your own self-esteem?

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5 things I learned from my social media detox

Photo from Pixabay

I will be the first to admit that I had an unhealthy obsession with social media.

For many years, I was completely unaware of the toxic pattern I had fallen into. My phone was the first thing I reached for in the morning; I’d start scrolling through my social media accounts for hours, not having even gotten out of bed. I started getting migraines from staring at my phone and computer screens for so long. I was always tired, but still found myself up late at night scrolling. I’d be spending time with friends or family and still have my phone in my hand. Every moment of my life needed to be documented or turned into an anecdote for an Instagram post. It technically was part of my job to monitor my social media accounts and interact with people online, but I really struggled with balancing that in my personal life.

It was only once I took a step back from the Instagram influencing industry full-time that I realized how much my online habits had truly impacted my life in a negative way. I decided I needed to spend some time offline; I deactivated all my social media accounts and deleted every app off my phone so I wouldn’t be tempted to log back in.

The first few days were hard. In idle moments, I would reach on autopilot to open apps that were no longer there. After a week, my fingers would still twitch but the desire to log on had eased significantly. Then, I started noticing how many others around me were social media obsessed themselves. Now I was the one getting ignored while trying to talk to someone who wouldn’t put down their phone.

It got me to thinking; we could probably all use a social media break every now and then. If you’re still not convinced you need a break, consider the following list of benefits taking a social media detox offers.

Photo from Pixabay

Your mental health will improve

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of comparing your own life to the lives of others when you spend most of your free time online. A really interesting study a few years ago illustrated that the link between social media and depression was largely mediated by this “social comparison” factor. At one point in my life, I felt like I was somehow failing in life because of what I was seeing on my social media feeds. People younger than me seemed to be thriving in their careers, traveling the world, getting engaged, and I felt like I should have been achieving more. It’s taken me a long time to learn that there is no outline for how one’s life should unfold. We shouldn’t base our life expectations on those we see on social media. You may not be in the same place in life as someone else, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or that you’re under-achieving. Comparison is the thief of joy, especially when you’re comparing your behind the scenes life to someone else’s highlight reel online. Taking a break from social media can help you stop the comparison cycle. It allows you a chance to reconnect with all the awesome things in your own life and appreciate what you have.

You’ll be more present

How many times has something happened in your life and your first instinct is to document it on social media? I used to consider life events as a chance to post content to my social pages, but it started to become really stressful. Everything from spontaneous outings to planned holidays suddenly became a burden to try and photograph or post about. I used to be so focused on capturing that moment perfectly on social media that I wasn’t fully experiencing it with the people around me. When you take a photo of something, the quality is never quite the same as the experience in real life. Your real-life experiences start to become lower in quality and less memorable when you’re worrying about putting them online. Once I started incorporating the practice of mindfulness (fully focusing your mind on the present moment and experience), I also noticed a big shift in the quality of my relationships. I was much more able to enjoy the company of the people I was with and live in the moment. Mindfulness has been linked to a whole bunch of health benefits, including improved concentration, reduced anxiety, and lower stress levels. You’ll learn to live in the moment far more and really appreciate the life you’re living when you stop trying to capture it for other people to experience.

You will cultivate more meaningful relationships

At the height of my social media addiction, I convinced myself that I had a lot of friends because I would always be swapping memes or responding to messages. I’ve realized now that the number of friends or followers you have online isn’t a reflection of your relationships or popularity in the real world. When I experienced struggles with my mental health, it wasn’t my online “friends” who noticed or were there for me. Instead, people who truly cared about me noticed that I was struggling. My family, co-workers, friends, and my partner were my safe place to share my thoughts and emotions with. When you let go of social media, it allows you to make space for people in real life, which is a far healthier way to maintain meaningful friendships and relationships.

You’ll have more free time

Do you ever feel like there’s not enough hours in the day to get things done, yet somehow still find time to scroll through Facebook? Or do you spend large amounts of time on social media instead of doing something more productive? You’re not alone – with the average person spending over 2 hours on social media every day, staying up to date on several forms of social media can be time consuming. By taking a break, you’ll regain power over your time that was otherwise wasted. All too often when we’re living online, we neglect our lives offline. Things like housework, fun hobbies, and schoolwork are usually the first to get put on the back burner. Taking the time to work on a project, revisiting a hobby you enjoy, or tackling some overdue chores around the house will leave you feeling more accomplished and less stressed.

You’ll fall asleep faster and sleep deeper

Taking your phone to bed can have a negative impact on your sleep. The blue light that smartphones emit can interfere with the hormone responsible for helping us fall asleep. If you’re someone that scrolls before bed, you may find yourself tossing and turning seemingly for hours before falling asleep. When you have a broken sleep pattern, many of us reach for our phones to help us go back to sleep – but this has the opposite effect . By taking a social media break, you will likely feel less of a desire to use your phone right before bed, which will allow you to fall asleep faster and sleep deeper – meaning you won’t feel as exhausted in the morning. Consider things like reading a book to help relax your mind or charging your phone in another room if you’re still feeling tempted to start scrolling at night.

When it comes to social media, less is more

While I don’t think I’ll swear off social media forever, I’m certainly much more aware of my habits now after taking a break. I’ve realized how important it is to take a few unplugged hours everyday. I’ll put my phone on “do not disturb” or leave it in another room if I have work to get done. I do my best to keep my phone out of sight when I’m spending time with others; it’s one thing to quickly Instagram a picture of your latte art, but it’s quite another to post pictures of every bite of your brunch with friends. I’ve realized that when spending time with people in real life, social media can wait until later. It is far more important to be fully in the moment than to be tethered to my phone. Life is too short to spend it staring at a screen.

Would you ever consider deleting all your social media accounts – permanently or temporarily? Do you think you could last longer than a week without them? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

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The 3 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making With Your Online Dating Profile (And How To Fix Them)

In the past few years, online dating has become more popular and significantly less stigmatized than it has been in the past. There are 40 million registered Bumble users. On one hand, that makes your chances of finding your soul mate (or just a new friend) pretty high. However, it also means that there’s some major competition.

Spending some time on dating apps made me realize how similar they are to applying for a job. First dates always felt like job interviews to me. You’re trying to be yourself while selling yourself. You don’t want to lie, but you want to stand out from the hundreds of other “applicants.” This delicate balance can be exhausting! After lots of online interactions and seeing people making these same mistakes over and over again, I’m sharing everything I’ve learned to help you score your next date.

Mistake 1: You have too many group photos

While it’s important to show you have other people in your life, having too many group photos can make someone wonder who is who. I typically find that when someone’s first photo is a group photo, my eye immediately goes to the most attractive person in the group. If you’re not 100% confident that you’re the best looking one in the photo, I strongly suggest against using it. However, too many group photos can be annoying to zoom in on and try to figure out which one you are. If someone has to do extra work looking at your profile, it’s likely they’ll swipe left.

Your first picture should always be a solo shot – never underestimate the power of a good selfie. Vacation and travel photos are always a good conversation starter as well (“I saw you went to Paris, eating a croissant under the Eiffel Tower has always been on my bucket list”). For men, if you have a nice photo of you dressed up in a suit, that’s about the equivalent of lingerie for women. You should also have at least one full body photo.

Sprinkle a few group photos here and there for good measure. Mix up the people in the photos, even better if you have one of you with your adorable pet kitten/puppy/armadillo. Be careful putting too many photos with people of the sex you’re trying to attract as it’s easy to think that gorgeous supermodel looking man in the photo with you could be an ex instead of your brother. On that note, there should never be pictures with your ex, no matter how good you look in the photo – that’s just weird.

Mistake 2: Your bio is trying too hard

I always find that people try way too hard to be funny on their profiles. You want something that’s going to stand out, but in pursuit of standing out you could be ostracizing an entire group of people who might not get your humor. Instead of going for “funny,” pursue “witty.” It’ll show off how smart you are while opening up doors for conversation.

I personally dislike things such as “wine enthusiast” in a bio as I don’t feel like preferring merlot to chardonnay quantifies as a personality trait.
One of my favourite podcasts suggested putting their hashtag in your bio as a conversation starter. This actually worked pretty well because most people would either ask me what it meant, or we immediately had something to bond over if they also listened to the podcast. Linking your bio to your Spotify playlist can also open up conversation if you have similar taste in music.
I also prefer a bio to be on the shorter side; if I can read your whole life story before we’ve even had a conversation, it really limits the fun in asking questions and getting to know someone. And quite honestly, I’m usually too lazy to read a lengthy bio.

Mistake 3: Your opening line (or lack of) is lame

I really want to emphasize that the best thing you can have at your disposal is confidence. Life is too short to wait for the other person to message you first – if you’re interested, don’t be afraid to reach out first. With that being said, you will have a much better success rate if you steer clear of the “hey, how’s it going”, “wow you’re so gorgeous” trap that everyone seems to fall into. I am way more inclined to respond to something unconventional, interesting, or funny than I am to something boring like “how’s your day going”. Also let’s face it, you don’t really want to hear about my day all that much do you? Try some of these instead:
-“Two truths and a lie, ready set go!”
-“I need a new show to binge on Netflix. Any recommendations?”
-“This might sound crazy but I gotta ask – were you a contestant on The Bachelor/ette?” (my personal favourite, with a high success rate).

Take some liberty and create your own go-to line. Think of things that would make YOU respond. Hey, if it would work on you, it’ll probably work on your soulmate too. Above all, don’t take yourself (or your matches) so seriously in the beginning and you’ll find yourself with some fun dates, some great stories to tell, and maybe even a real connection. Set yourself up for success by creating a profile that shows off who YOU really are.

What’s been the best (or worst) opening line you’ve seen on a dating app? Share it with me below

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