The trend in the last couple of years has been moving our lives online. Whatever you think of also has its online version. Restaurants, music, photos, meetings…you name it, we got it. Many of these online services improve our lives. But as with every exciting new thing, there’s a flip-side. Did we forget how to live offline? Quite possible when it comes to social media.
I’ve long been a proponent of limiting our use of social media. In fact, one of my first ever blogposts has been about social media (now long deleted). But during the last couple of years, I came to realise social media is better than I thought, but still one of the worst investments of my time. For example, LinkedIn secured me a couple of part-time gigs. Twitter is a place where I learn daily. And Instagram is great for the laughs. And, since visiting Heidelberg for my exchange, it’s the only way to keep in touch with people around the world.
The problem is when we start living online. It becomes a downward spiral for us and our followers. Take Instagram, for example. Everyday people succeed in building a large audience and become influencers. Usually, it’s by showing off their perfect lives. Beautiful photos of themselves, where they are and what they eat. Couple this with cliché descriptions, and you get a winning combination.
Having a beautiful Instagram feed is good for the influencers and great to look at. But it gets problematic when the followers (we) start comparing their (our) lives to the influencers’. Comparing ourselves to others, in general, can be a source of dissatisfaction. There’s even a psychological theory about it called the Social Comparison Theory. But bombarding ourselves with “perfect” lives of Instagram influencers is mental suicide. It gets to us all eventually.
The most bizarre phenomenon I keep noticing are relationships. I still can’t wrap my head around people constantly sharing relationship photos. Everything perfect and all smiles. Is this the reality? In my opinion, that’s one aspect of our lives that we just have to keep offline, as it’s arguably the most important one.
Yet, I think there are at least two ways to counter this phenomenon and act preventively. This largely has to do with changing our mindset.
Firstly, don’t try to share every moment of your life. Be more private, on and off social media. Some time ago, I stumbled upon a photo of a list of things to keep as secret that I largely agree with. I think this is even more significant on the internet.
Instead of “bragging” where you are and what you do, keep it to yourself. Learn to enjoy these moments by yourself and spare your followers from comparing themselves to you. You’re doing both parties a favour.
Secondly, convince yourself that your life is better than it seems on social media. Based on my social media profiles, one could say all I do is stay at home, study and write a blog post now and then. It’s quite the contrary. Of course, it can quickly seem otherwise in comparison to people who publish everything online. But not needing the affirmation of others is what improves my life - I’m more free because of that. And that’s more valuable than any follower count.
This is how I try to function. For the record, I never downloaded TikTok, never signed up for BeReal and deleted Snapchat a long time ago. I’m thinking of deleting Facebook, but too much school communication happens there. Instagram is border-line. But I like Twitter and LinkedIn, so that’s where I spend most of my time.
I believe this is the solution. You don’t have to be on every social media. Pick a few and be ruthless about whom you follow. Do they post content offensive to you? Do they post too much and you feel overwhelmed? Are they blowing smoke? Click unfollow or mute. That’s the greatest feature about social media - you can always ignore people without them knowing about it.
To conclude, I want to stress that no one is perfect. There are still days when I find myself spending far too much time on Twitter. The perfect photos still sometimes get to me. What’s my recipe to counter this? Go on a detox by deleting the app or unfollow those accounts. It works every time.