A couple of months ago, I came across an incredibly honest post from one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist. It is starting to change the way I view a lot of different things, especially as they pertain to me as a creative. Here’s how she opens things up:
“My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life.”
I don’t think I need to tell you how right she is—partly because I’m hoping you can look inward and admit your life on social media looks much better than your life not on social media. She speaks some pretty profound truth here:
“When you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, the majority of your friends probably aren’t doing anything any more special. But it only takes one friend at the Eiffel Tower to make you feel like a loser.”
The Search for Significance
Here’s one thing I know: we all post these kinds of photos. I think all of us are guilty of this in some fashion—posting photos to elicit a response.
I’ll be the first one to admit it, as I know for a fact there have been times where I’ve tried to find the right filter to make my photo look amazing.
Times when I went out of my way to snap the perfect shot, so I could share it with the world in hopes for a handful of “likes.” In the end, and when I’m truly honest with myself, there’s a reason that I’m doing this.
As a person who was clinically diagnosed with major depression years ago, and someone who shortly after that was admitted to a psychiatric facility and placed under suicide watch, I believe I have some credence here.
Back when all of this went down, I was heading in a tragic direction and sought out anything that resembled approval. I wanted to know others found value in me, and I was something special. It just mattered to me.
The reach of social media amplifies this yearning we have. Let’s face it: our society has an epidemic that is creating narcissistic tendencies, and those are severely killing our creativity—at least they do with mine.
You Are Not Alone
Loryn Thompson, Data Analyst of our company, Rainmaker Digital, also suffers from this. She calls it the “media loop,” and admits that it is one of her worst technology habits:
“Here’s how it goes: I pick up my phone in the evening to check Instagram. Then I jump over to Facebook… and after I get bored there, I hop over to Reddit. Before I realize it, I’ve lost an hour, and I’m back on Instagram again.”
There’s nothing wrong with getting lost in social media, is there? Because everything in moderation, right? Well, she goes on to say:
“The problem isn’t the circular behavior itself. The problem is how it makes me feel. Some evenings, loading up on cute animal GIFs is exactly what I want to do. But other days, it feels more like a trap. The more I scroll, the worse I feel. The worse I feel, the more I scroll.”
That is precisely the moment our creativity and productivity dies. It happens to Shauna. It happens to me. And I’d be willing to bet that it happens to you.
We spend our minutes, our hours, and even sometimes, our days—stuck in the quagmire of “not good enough,” and that eats away at our souls, and eats away at our ability to create the stuff we love and what is so personal: our art.
By no stretch do I ever expect to create perfectly, but if I’m not creating at all, my perceived value and sense of self-worth can take a really big hit.
Life Without Filters
Like many things, social media can be a good thing—of course, in small doses, and when not abused. So why not let it enhance our life, rather than define it?
I encourage you to put a limit on the amount of time you spend on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or whatever platform sucks you in and spits you out.
Loryn suggests some things we can do to break the negative media cycle:
1. Combat your muscle memory.
2. Remember to breathe.
3. Make time for reflection.
4. Be realistic about your productivity.
5. Use mental “hooks” to stay focused.
If this list seems overwhelming to you, pick one of them. Take a small step to reclaim your life, and to get back on track. Annie Dillard, in her beautiful book, The Writing Life (aff.), once said, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”
We can spend our lives on social media, or we can spend our lives doing the very thing we were meant to do. And then we can share what we create with the community around us—authentically, on social media.
Back to Shauna’s article. She brings it home for us here:
“Let’s choose community. Let’s stop comparing. Let’s start connecting. Because community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind—doesn’t happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram.”
Here’s to being honest with ourselves, and being honest with our businesses. Here’s to building a tribe of loyal followers, who judge us not on the art that we create, but why we create it.