Hi loves. Excuse me if I’m getting too emotional or contemplative, but the whole second-semester senior thing is kicking it so of course my blog post of the week needs to be mature yet sappy and slightly preachy. Right now I feel like I’m IN IT, in the heart of my teenage years and not knowing what to wear, how to act, little squabbles with friends and boys, all the stupid but fun stuff. Sure I’m newly 18 but I'll always be my same 13 year old at heart when it comes to social media: self-conscious about how I look, wondering who is hanging out with who, and honestly just waisitng time scrolling. Thinking back on the lessons I’ve learned and what I wanted to share with you all this week, I felt like I needed to unpack the whole 'unsatisfied' part about posting. I'll get to that later.
Whether you’re trudging through freshman year or junior year, navigating social media probably has been and will continue to be a constant, unrelenting obstacle throughout your life. My relationship with social media and my phone in general has probably been a lot like yours: a constant need to pull away yet stay in the know, an endless cycle of curating perfect posts, validating your friends through enthusiastic comments, and mindless scrolling through TikTok. Social media is an artificial, made-up toy designed to peak our interests and keep us coming back, that's why we have each other to lean on as we figure out how to form healthy habits with social media. While sometimes tumultuous and aggravating, my relationship with social media is more often than not one of subtle temptation and instant gratification, a sweet escape after a long day of work, and a great way to keep updated on everyone's life.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how validation, gratification, and approval have shaped my intentions and the person I aspire to be. I’ve always wondered about social media cleanses and the curse of ceaseless procrastination so I’m dedicating an entire post to social media because I have a lot to say. Especially my online presence.
When it comes to procrastination, let’s start off with the givens. Who doesn’t love using social media as the perfect procrastination tool? If I’ve spent draining hours at school or work, of course I’m treating myself to a little mindless scroll. Yet we all know perfectly well that if our phones weren’t there taunting us or we didn’t give in to the pleasure of social media algorithms and endless content we would finish work earlier and go to bed earlier. Duh. But how do we tackle the procrastination problem? Is a social media cleanse the right answer? There’s definitely a part of my brain that says 100%, take a long break and try to forget social media even exists for a least a few weeks. The more realistic, experienced side of me knows social media is a drug and complete withdrawal can sometimes do more harm than good. I find that the times I have logged out of my social media it was because I was waiting for something. I know that sounds elusive but I was waiting for someone to respond to a snapchat and couldn’t bare looking at my phone, waiting for more people to like a post, or some other random superficial desire. My cleanses were never just random, unprompted retreats and I felt that social media was consuming my brain even more than usual when I didn’t have it. I wondered what I was missing and held greater expectations for what may be awaiting in my dms or on my snapchat when I returned. Rather than a cleanse, I would suggest weaning off of social media. Spend a few less minutes than you typically would on your phone before bed or when you wake up. Spend the first 10 minutes in the car with a parent who's driving you completely focused on speaking to that person. Cut yourself off in baby steps over requiring yourself to take a harsh break (obviously, if you think that the harsh break would be best for your mental health than of course do that). When you use your phone and social media less and less and less it eventually becomes a habit to not rely so heavily on social media usage. Creating good habits around social media is a realistic possibility. While it may seem harder to just completely remove yourself from all social media, I think you’ll be surprised by the challenge it takes to form new routines and stray away from bad patterns. Push yourself to turn off your phone at a certain time and stick to your word. Create trust in yourself and be in control of your relationship with social media, don’t let it control you.
Self-image, beauty standards, and immense comparison
I open Tiktok and I’m met with a stream of perfectly figured, long eyelashes, evenly tanned, well-dressed girls who look 5 years older than me but claim to be my age. I’m in awe, I’m intrigued, but I’m also critical and can’t help but instantly compare. I began applying this same evaluative and critical eye to the photos of mutual friends I follow on Instagram: mostly when it has to do with a boy but also people who go to school with me, people who are in long-term relationships, and people who are socially popular and well-liked. It’s a subconscious mindset and coping mechanism that has allowed me to indulge in acknowledging my own insecurities while also protecting myself from attacking my own physical appearance in an overwhelmingly harmful manner. This passive yet active scrolling with a critical lens is an attitude toward social media that I’ve decided to reconsider. Now, instead, I remove myself from the picture. Someone else’s beauty has nothing to do with me. I regulate what I consume. I know that everything and everyone is fake. Photoshop, depression, and wasted time are behind every photo. Of course, I compare myself for sure. I’m wired that way but now I’m less insecure and more aware of reality and the good things I see in myself. Any trace of doubt is not an all-consuming feeling anymore, it’s a reminder of the insecure feelings I have and can continue to overcome. Posting makes me feel like I’m waiting for something… and there’s no way to avoid that. A social media break isn’t going to get rid of that, but there’s a way form those better habits. Turn off your likes and comments. Don’t set goals. Or else you’re waiting.
Is it just me or the mirror selfie not fulfilling?
This is kind of a weird concept but bare with me. My go to photo is a mirror selfie. I can pose how I want and get the angels I like I best (I actually hate myself for even caring enough about mirror selfies to explain this but I digress). However, I'll look through my camera roll from the weekend and see if I want to post any of the mirror selfies on my Instagram story. Sometimes I'll do a casual story post that I LOVE yet find myself feeling unfulfilled afterward. It's bizarre. I post but my life doesn’t change. I’m still the same girl that was sucking in, applied extra mascara, and covered up all blemishes. That mirror selfie was not validated by anyone except for myself. It’s always been ME giving ME the courage to take risks, do well in school, wear what I want, and say the things I do. And that’s been enough. While it would have been nice to have tons of guys over the years being that source of validation for me, I’m glad that I can rely on myself. Yet sometimes with posting photos of myself I get sheepish and vulnerable. If social media is actually prohibiting you from being able to be that hype woman for yourself because you are just hyper-fixated on appearances and others' opinions, ask yourself “what am I good at”. Then do those things and be GREAT at those things. There are always going to be days when you feel a dire need to post something hot. And why shouldn’t you? It gives you some immediate self-validation but that's the thing! The immediate high after posting is just not enough. Probably for a second but not long term and that’s actually a good thing. Remember this need for more, and look to other means besides social media. Miss perfect girl from the other school with the great Instagram has endless time to make her presence look immaculate? Great for her! But you don’t have that time to take hot photos because you're busting your butt at something way more worhty. You’re real. You have values and you have priorities. Remember that.
When you take a second to look up from your phone, remember that amazing things are coming your way every second of the day. Not to get preachy but every moment in life has the potential to be filled with light and love and friendship. Once you realize that you’ll be a lot happier. Give yourself the opportunity to experience life beyond a screen. Post what you want and follow who you want, but don’t ever let yourself lose sight of the reality before your eyes. I like the saying 'disconnect to connect'. If there’s one thing you can take away and tell yourself going forward, social media isn’t that deep. No one’s life or looks are EXACTLY like the story they are telling online. Let yourself see the fun in life and the good in others.
We got this,