Social media has always been a source of enjoyment and despair for me.
I love looking into other people’s lives – getting to see how they spend their time, what they love to do, and how they do what they love. I’ve never been fishing but through a screen, I get to see what the experience is like. There are night owls and early birds, there are the athletic and the sedentary and we all have an opportunity to share our lives with one another. Oftentimes, this is a beautiful thing.
The danger is when the lives on the screen become the lives we long to conform to.
With the pervasive hustle culture and picture perfect lives, the lives we actually live start not to measure up. Those photos with friends in the city don’t compare to the nights we’re home alone. The sunrise at the beach doesn’t mirror the rainstorm that shakes the house. We scroll and see fun memories while working for hours on end, wishing for some relief.
Taking social media breaks helped me see how for someone like me, it was easy to idolize what was on a screen because it fed a narrative of what happiness was supposed to look like. One of the coolest experiences of growing up and moving across the country was learning in a new environment in and outside the classroom – getting to know people was getting to know how they lived and what their sense of home was.
Social media can make you feel as if hustle culture and moving to a big city after graduation and going out all night on the weekends are the only ways to live a happy life. It’s so important to recognize that because you curate who you follow, you are inevitably missing out on people who live differently.
There are people who live at home in multigenerational homes. There are those who have big families and share rooms. There are those who move to small towns and countrysides to garden and have a slower pace of life. Some people travel in vans and backpack. Others are self-employed. Some people work with their families at their restaurant. Some people share their apartments with their friends. Some 9-5s are 8-6s and on and on. And there are even those who don’t post their lives on social media to share with the world.
There are so many ways to build a life and if you only look through a screen, you might end up emulating a life that isn’t best suited for you.
This even goes beyond jobs and lifestyles to values – some people want to be homemakers and their husbands enjoy being the providers of the family. Some dads want to stay at home and moms want to work. You don’t have to hustle hard and work nonstop if you don’t want to. Instead of being a CEO someday, you can be a small business owner. You can enjoy being an employee at a job you love with no need for a raise. You can choose to have a side hustle or you can choose to watch Netflix with your friends every night after work.
Social media can so easily make you narrow minded on a specific type of way to live because it’s all you see online. Curate your feed for exploration. Follow people you don’t agree with. Follow people who live in small towns. Follow artists, follow CEOs. Follow people and try out different lifestyles to see what resonates with you. You can only begin living an intentional life only after you decide what you want your life to look like.
Ways to Build Your Life
Step away. Step back from all forms of social media, even ones you enjoy and refocus on your real life. Focus on the people close to you. While that can be hard because you may not have access to them in person due to the pandemic, you can still call them. You can write letters. You can FaceTime them. Get connected with your community.
Examine your patterns. After watching Youtube or scrolling Instagram, there is always something that catches my eye. What is that you see that you may want to emulate? Maybe you would like more time to rest. Perhaps you’re interested in travel. Maybe you want to learn to garden or sew. Perhaps you want to make your home more cozy.
Switch things up in your life. It may not be that social media is the source of your distress, but it reveals your awareness of it. For example, your room is always messy and you feel frazzled because of your busy schedule. Seeing people online that are relaxing is causing you to feel less than. You may want to make some changes. Say no to more activities. Make room in your life for self-care – cleaning your space and spend some time being instead of doing. Perhaps you are ready to travel. Start saving money. Start planning your trip (for the future, not COVID times).
Dream up the best life for yourself.
Maybe after college, you’ll work in the corporate world, learning to hone your skills and about the typical environment. If that doesn’t work for you, perhaps you work for a startup with good work-life balance. You can move away to the country if you don’t like the city. You can start a band. You can make it your goal to live abroad. You can network to get your foot into a new industry if you don’t like your old one. You can stay just where you are if that’s where you want to be.
Try on life for size. Make some changes. Wear new clothes. Move to a new part of town. Find a new job. You never know what awaits you.
Social media can be a great source of inspiration for what you want your life to look like. But you can’t make your life into an Instagram post. Your life doesn’t fit 280 characters. Your life has a lot of depth, so go out and explore!
How is social media inspiring you? How are you building your life?