I just saw Essena O’Neill’s latest video and thought I’d share my two cents because I love talking about these sorts of social issues. I’m not a psychologist, I am a psych student who is passionate about understanding people and creating change.
I love that she’s helping young people realise that proving yourself on social media to people who don’t care is a futile attempt to be happy. Life should not be a numbers game because that doesn’t help you grow as a person so you can make meaningful contributions to the world. But a lot of people still base their worth on numbers, and as Essena said, that can seriously mess with their heads.
People who are overwhelmed by social media are already vulnerable – they may be young or even older and have a poor self-concept and/or problems with loneliness. When they see what appears to be perfectly constructed lives and they compare themselves to the high standard they set for themselves, it makes them feel more inferior.
What should we do? We should all be ‘minimalists’ when it comes to life and only focus on things that matter. I don’t care that I have relatively few Facebook friends on my new account because I know 99% of them are acquaintances. Even on my old account, 99% were acquaintances! I try to be realistic. I use Facebook for group assignments, occasional messaging, posting artsy stuff, and getting updates from my psychology group. Social media is a useful tool in life, often necessary, but the take home message is that we just need to be mindful about how much time we spend using it, and for what reasons.
You can’t control what others post, but you definitely have control over your own thinking and actions. Ask yourself why you’re spending so much time browsing through others’ feeds/scrolling your Facebook and Instagram feeds if doing so feeds greater feelings of loneliness.
I like to keep my life more private instead of frequently letting everyone know what’s happening. I just don’t think that’s necessary and it’s a liberating feeling. If people want to know what’s going on in your world, they will ask how you’re going. It’s simple. You don’t have to Snapchat everyone you’ve added, hoping that some of them will reciprocate. Don’t expect people to care because when you place the value of your existence on whether or not people respond to what you put up on social media, it’s a recipe for mental disaster. We need to go out and live a full life. That might mean that we take 100 photos and try to perfect one of them for Instagram, because it makes us genuinely happy. My question is: Would you still be doing what you do if nobody clicked the like button or comment?
Do everything for YOU only.
Originally published as Game Changers on 3/11/2015.