"I look great all the time, my children are the perfect mix of slightly cheeky and well-behaved (probably because they never watch TV & only eat organic steamed vegetables), my husband and I are as in love as the day we met, I have never experienced anxiety and my business runs so beautifully and smoothly that I have extra time for exercise and reading books you may never have heard of or even understand for that matter (it's not your fault, I'm just more clever than most)."
If this reminds you of someone you know, it's probably because you spend even a few minutes on social media. Ah, social media. The magical land of unicorns where filters make us look so good and our lives are so perfect.
Raise your hand if you get exasperated by people trying to put on a perfect show on social media!
Friend, let's be real for a second. We all do this. How much of our own struggles and imperfections are we willing to share with the Joneses? And should we? While I don't have the answers to all these questions (and this is a blog post, not a PHD), I feel like we could all benefit from a little social media etiquette to approach our favorite platforms in a more mindful manner.
Here are the principles that guide the way I interact with social media, to get a more authentic experience out of it.
1. If You Blink, you'll miss it
"The best moments of my life don't make it to social media."
I absolutely love this quote, and I'm sure we all have been guilty of doing the exact opposite at some stage in our lives. But if you only take away one thing from this blog post, let it be this one. Don't miss out on life because you're too busy showing what a great time you're having. Don't watch the live concert through the teeny tiny screen of your smart phone. Don't watch the sunset in a square format. Don't miss out on your lunch hour trying to check in and document whatever you're eating. Just be there. Don't live the moment with social media in mind. You're gonna miss all the magic (and who knows, real life unicorns too).
2. Have the Mindset of an Imperfect Boss
"Anyone who spends just a few minutes on social media knows the pressure of perfection that so easily makes itself known. It tells you to do more and to be more and we’ve had enough.
We are The Imperfect Boss and we are on a mission to liberate thousands of creative women from perfect."
Ashley Beaudin (http://www.theimperfectboss.com)
Today marks the start of the third round of The Imperfect Boss campaign. Started by Ashley Beaudin, this is has become a movement of women in business rebelling against the perfection standards of social media.
The truth is, running a biz is damn hard work. It's messy, it involves a ton of trial and error that one doesn't necessarily want to splash out for everyone to see. And the same goes for living, and working, and parenting, and family life, and friendships. Let's face it: life is a gigantic hot mess that we try to figure out as we go along, so how can it ever be perfect?
Try to keep this in mind when scrolling social media:
We ALL struggle.
Every single one of us.
So embrace your imperfections, try not to share a distorted version of reality. It will only make you more unhappy as you see the gap between what you would like your life to look like and what it actually is. Give your life a break friend. You're doing the best you can so let it be a beautiful mess. This brings me to my next point:
3. Get inspired, not Envious
And inspire others, do not try to make them jealous. That being said, it is human nature to compare ourselves to others. I'm not telling you "stop being envious goddammit!" 'cause if I knew how to switch the envy button off, I'd be the first one to tell you how!
When you scroll through your feed, try not to put your mean, judging goggles on, and try not to compare yourself to others. Be genuinely happy for the good things that happen to them, admire how they achieve something, and try and take away lessons from what they do best.
Similarly, think twice before you post. What is your intention with this particular post? Make it about sharing (and I don't mean pressing the share button). Like real sharing. Like when you only have one M&Ms left in the bag and you give it to your mate kind of sharing.
4. Be More Like David
David is the man behind the counter at my local coffee hangout, Brewtown (if you live in Johannesburg, do yourself a favour and check this place out). He greets every single person walking by, wishing them an awesome day and breaking into a little dance (I'm watching him do this exact thing that as I write this). There is nothing fake about it. He treats everyone walking into his coffee shop like a long lost friend, and tries to infuse their day with a shot of positivity the strongest coffee could not begin to compete with.
Well that just rocks my world. And we should all bring a little happy greeting dance to our social media as we log in. Open your account like you would open the door to an awesome party with all your best mates. Cause that's what it should be. Ask yourself how you can throw digital kindness around like confetti today. And leave all the negativity at the door.
5. Clean Your Feed
Speaking of negativity. Clean. Your. Feed. Now.
Tired of seeing that bully from high school grinning around? Uninterested in reading about your second cousin's puppy training? Can't stand to read another negative update about the weather or politics?
You're in luck my friend: I hereby grant you the right to unfollow and unfriend like it's going out of fashion. Think of that awesome party. Who would you like to see there? Well, that's pretty much who you should keep in your social media entourage.
6. Have a conversation
So now that you've narrowed down your circle to your nearest and dearest, social media should not be a one-sided experience. Do you go to a party to watch people, check out what their house looks like, question their taste in interior decor and leave without saying a word? If you do, please don't come to my house. I'm serious.
The beauty of social media is to keep in touch with people who are far away. Having left my home country over 12 years ago, I have really loved the convenience of being able to chat to my friends and family, and share moments I wouldn't have otherwise been able to share with them.
But this cannot be a one-sided conversation. Don't stop at showing your tribe what you're up to. Show your peeps that you care and that they matter to you. How? It's a dying art in our digital world: the art of conversation. Have a conversation with them, just like we used to have on those old phones that only served one function: have a freakin' conversation.
This goes back to my first point. Don't be a slave to social media and choose when, where and how you will connect, and really be there while you do. Concretely, that means you need to:
- Limit the number of times you will check your accounts.
- Switch off your notifications so you don't feel compelled to jump in every time your phone beeps.
- Stop multitasking. And for heaven's sake don't check your accounts while talking to someone pleeeeease!
- Finally, post, interact and like to your heart's content. And then let it go. Forget about it. No-one is watching how many likes you are getting, this is not a popularity competition nor a gauge of how worthy you are. Also, guess what? People are busy (just like you) and there are sophisticated algorithms at play that won't show your posts to everyone you know. So don't take it personally if someone doesn't interact back.
There you have it boss!
In a nutshell, my guide to navigating social media in a more mindful, authentic manner. This helps me waste less time, nurture authentic relationships and avoid feeling like I have to pretend to be perfect all the time.
This post was actually inspired by a conversation I had two days ago. A friend from high school got in touch with me for the first time in years via social media, and it was really great to find out what he's been up to, and be able to show some digital support for his musical endeavour. Social media's not all evil when handled with care :)
Now tell me. In the spirit of authentic conversations. Does that make any sense at all or am I alone on this here? Reply below or catch me on Instagram and let's get chatting!
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