Social media gives me a platform on showy days and it’s also the place for me to seek new brands, artists, holidays, restaurants and even pooches. It’s also where I’ve found new causes and a community of people out there that inspire me as they fight for change.
Despite the good stuff, I have also been known to check out ex-boyfriends, their new girlfriends (this one is a vortex) and perv over the fabulous women I’d like to be. WE ALL DO IT, PEOPLE (well, all my friends do).
I’m also guilty of drunken posts that I’ve woken up to with a series of hearts and speech bubbles alerting me to the fact that I posted something – God knows what, the night before – usually along the lines of “I LOVE MY GIRLS!!” + some cheesy emojis but that early few minutes offer the worst deep breath/cringe moment there is.
Also, while I’m at it, I may as well plead guilty to posting happy pictures on sad days and optimistic Rupi Kaur/Gandhi/Maya Angelou/*insert your fave here* on hacked-off days.
The truth, as we know, is that it's all filtered. Although obvious, it’s sometimes easy to forget the filter factor and before you know it, you’ve dipped your toe in the comparison whirlpool and been sucked down the plughole of doom.
Some of my lowest days have been off the back of a night out with my friends, seemingly ‘living my best life’ for all to see. Only to be followed by the Sunday blues, wrapped in my faithful blanket, covered in toast crumbs and scrolling through an infinite number of feeds that make me feel less than (other than @frobabies @raven_smith @theartofshade_ – they give me life!).
If this sounds like you too, having awareness of the impact of social media upon your time and your mood could be useful.
To combat social media anxiety, for me, sometimes going cold turkey is the best thing. I like to have a few weeks off each year. I delete the apps from my phone and tune into real life. Initially, I notice how many times a day I go to check my phone. I notice how much more I enjoy events and dinners without whipping my phone out to capture and post them (saddo, I know,) and in so doing, I notice that I’m still good – actually even better without the likes and the comments, and that I’m definitely better without the comparisons in my life. Just observing this gives me a reality check that helps me to reset.
Once I’m back online, I clean-up the accounts I follow and add new ones that provide inspiration. My general criteria for following are:
1) Do they inspire me?
2) Does the content make me feel good?
And on Facebook or any platform where for me it’s supposedly actual friends, I ask myself:
1) Do we say hello if we see each other?
2) Do they wish me well?
3) Do I wish them well?
3) Do they inspire me?
If the answer is no, I take joy in the magic ‘click’ to unfollow or unfriend accordingly.
With all of this, there’s the illusion and then the experience of things and so in the spirit of being honest and authentic, I want to share some posts of my own, with an accompanying caption that shows what was also / really going on for me at the time,
1. Dec 2013 ( right pic) CAPTION: #QUEENIE #SELFIE
I was in a really bad place when this photo was taken. It was my works' Christmas party. I hated the way I looked- I felt overweight and ugly. Four weeks before this I had a painful shingles outbreak on my face and in my scalp. The doctor and my therapist suggested that I should to be signed off work at that point because I was so depressed, but I refused for fear of losing my job or letting anyone know that I had mental health issues. At the same time, my stepdad who I loved dearly had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and I was afraid of what would happen. I felt guilty that I lived in London, whilst my parents lived in Manchester. I was also replaying the previous Christmas and my relationship breakdown over and over in my head. Having constant panic attacks that were so bad, I went to hospital and had an ECG test, so convinced was I that I was having a heart attack. This night, I left the party as early as I could and cried in the taxi all the way home and into the night.
2. June 2013 (middle pic): CAPTION: #ANOTHERDAYATTHEOFFICE
A good time in my new job, on a project that took me to 10 Downing Street. In my personal life. I was spending many weekends in bed and suffering night terrors, screaming loudly and waking my flatmate at 2am night after night. I also had debilitating migraines that meant I had no sense of balance when I walked. I went to see a specialist because I had 'googled' so many potential brain issues. (DO NOT GOOGLE YOUR AILMENTS!) I was struggling with terrible loneliness and was plagued by internal voices that told me I didn’t deserve to be in my job, in every meeting and that everything I said sounded stupid to others in the room – on repeat, for months.
3. May 2017 (left pic) : CAPTION: 'HAPPY HOUR'
Ten day solo holiday in paradise. Five days of bliss and pride at doing it alone, followed by one day of horror when a man drowned in the sea before my eyes. This photo was taken after a sleepless night with knickers on my head and the lights on due to lack of an eyemask, a lively storm blowing against the roof and fear of an apparition of the dead man in the dark.
Authenticity is becoming a bigger theme now on social, but I think that looking to ourselves and acknowledging the good things can help to protect against the potential impact of comparison. I know that this is obvious and I also know that finding things to love can be hard when you are feeling like there is nothing to like at all, but the recognition that we are here despite whatever life has thrown our way and that we are enough on our own little Island is a powerful thing if we can really realise that.
Instead of comparing my single life to the insta-perfect romance, I’m appreciating that until someone special comes along, solo walks, cinema dates and nights at home with great food are a great way to enjoy the space. And, if like me you compare your body to something unattainable : whether it’s loathing your stretch marks, hairs in weird places (age is a wonderful leveller on this one) and blobby bits, it’s worth remembering that your body is also the most amazing machine there is-it fights infection, keeps you warm, restores itself, and has in-built ‘fight or flight’ systems. And, so if you don’t have a thigh gap (Summer 2015 I was OBSESSED with this), your body is still pretty much the most amazing thing about you for just doing what it does, even when you don’t look after it so well.
So after the annual 4 week hiatus, I’m back online, but offline I can’t fit in my jeans, I failed at dry January and being a vegan and didn’t work out for 6 weeks due to multiple bouts of flu, but I’m celebrating the fact that I AM HERE after a December that was difficult emotionally… I’ve deleted a few accounts and am appreciating that the girl in my feed with the hard abs, downing green juice and dropping sumo squats probably has some other stuff going on too.