The Problem with Social Media
Today, we are getting real. I started this blog to inspire others, to be honest about my struggles and to keep moving forward in a positive and constructive way. When I started in 2017; I was at a point where it would have been very easy for me to curl up on the couch, be disheartened that things weren’t going my way, and not try. I saw all of my friends that I had made throughout my years of playing golf succeeding, healthy and happy from what I could see. I could have easily been a victim of my injuries and wondered why I had failed. But that’s not who I am. I have always believed that the struggles I am facing right now are to make me better, teach me lessons, and put me on the path that I need to be.
As a result of starting the blog, I became a lot more engaged in social media. I had more time on my hands than before and it was a device I used to distract me from reality when I needed it. I told myself it was for business and to promote my brand (which it was) but it also became an overwhelming part of my life. You can post a photo and get instant gratification and acknowledgement that people “like” what you are doing, which in a time of struggle, feels a lot like support. While there are plenty of times social media can make it easier to connect with people, I felt more disconnected than ever. Friends that I had seen almost every week at golf events weren’t in my life anymore and the only interaction I had with them was through social media. Instead of calling or reaching out to see how I was doing or what was going on in my life, they would like a photo on Instagram and occasionally comment “so jealous” on a photo when they had no idea what was going on with the person in it. I am not saying this with any judgment because I will be the first one to tell you, I am guilty of the same thing. It’s not until I took a step back and thought about how I felt that I realized I was doing the same thing to them. Our interactions had become superficial and filtered through comments or likes on an app.
The truth is, most of us feel this way yet we continue to repeat the same cycle. Its easier to look at someone’s photos on Instagram and think “everything is going so great for them” or “they’re so happy”. But the truth is, we all enjoy posting pretty, perfectly filtered images and letting the likes roll in. I am very aware and honest about my relationship with Instagram most of the time. I don’t consider myself to be someone who values myself based on what other people think of me. I am also aware that I have trained myself my whole life as an athlete to block out opinions of others; which for most people, is not the case.
For me, I use Instagram as a way to share cool experiences and to be able to look at my photos and enjoy the memories associated with them. I also respond to messages asking me for advice, insight or opinions. I never intend to make people compare themselves to me or to envy my experiences; yet I am also aware this can sometimes be the effect. I know this because I have also been on the side of it where I look at someone’s photos and immediately, subconsciously or not, start comparing. No matter how happy you are with your life, it is human nature to look at someone else’s and aspire for more.
I am extremely happy with my life right now. If I really think about it, I am probably as happy as I have ever been. I have a great job, get to travel, play a sport that I love, have a good relationship with my family, great friends and feel like things are really going well. So why do I sometimes feel like there should be more? Why is it so easy to compare yourself to others even when you are happy? Because you see the absolute best part of 500+ people that you follow. You see their most productive, most attractive, and most fun moments of the week or even day.
I got into the habit after getting out of my relationship and instead of waking up in the mornings and talking to someone, I turned to Instagram. I would look at my phone for 30+ minutes in the morning without even realizing it. I filled my brain with all of the exciting, fun and interesting things other people had shared while I was asleep and got out of bed feeling like I was already behind. As I mentioned, this is coming from someone who is genuinely happy and believed I was strong enough to not fall into this trap. I can’t imagine the effect this could have on someone who isn’t in a good place or who is struggling with a number of issues.
Influencers are a huge part of social media and are certainly not going anywhere any time soon. I have a huge amount of respect for what they do- managing their own business, curating images, creating content, among other things that go on behind the scenes. But we have to remember; their job is to appear “perfect”. Not in a literal sense but if you think about it, brands want to work with people who have it all together, capture beautiful images and who are “idealistic”. They want their products on people who look cool so that we want to buy the said product because we want to be cool too. This was happening long before social media in the form of billboards, magazine ads and tv commercials. The only difference is, we weren’t walking around with ads in our pockets/ hands 10 years ago.
Here’s another kicker for you- I moved to New York in February and only knew 3-5 people in the city. Most of those were distant friends so I really had to make an effort to find friends. I joined dance classes, fitness classes, worked in coffee shops among other random activities to put myself out there and connect with people my age. I went to a fitness class that was kind of a “pop up” event hosted by a fitness influencer who I follow on Instagram. I showed up and it was a group of about 15 girls who all had heard about the class through social media. It was a fun workout and I got to chat with a few girls who I thought could potentially be fun to hang out with again but most of them were all a bit guarded… Imagine my surprise when instead of asking for my phone number, they asked for my Instagram. The process went something like this- they typed in my Instagram, saw the amount of followers I had, and immediately I became “validated” to them. They were more open to having a conversation and wanted to know more about me after seeing the number of followers on my account. WHAT?! That is crazy to me. I knew our culture is definitely changing but I had no idea to the extent.
I don’t say all of this to scare you or to say that Instagram is bad. But I do genuinely think the only way to move forward is to be able to have an honest conversation about it. I am not sure what the solution is other than to use social media with caution. Don’t let it consume you. Look people in the eye when they speak. Read their body language. If you see someone who looks sad or uncomfortable, go out of your way to say hello. I am certainly going to strive to have more genuine relationships moving forward. Social media is the easy way out in the short term but in the long run, it might have a greater negative effect than you think.
My goal in talking about this is to be honest. I want to be transparent and open about my struggles as much as possible and I do understand that everyone is different. But a lot of us are dealing with the same issues and I would rather be a part of the conversation than a part of the problem. Yes, I still want to post pictures on Instagram and want to share experiences I am getting to enjoy, but it is just my highlight reel. It is the most flattering angle along with the perfect light. But just know behind that beautiful photo in Bali with clear turquoise waters, was a 20+ hour flight in economy to get there.