When a colleague asked me if I go home from my job working on social media and spend the evening looking at even more social media, I wanted to say no. I suddenly wanted to be able to say that I’m not all-consumed by scrolling, posting, snapping, replying and commenting, but that would be a lie.
I spend my life online. Ever since I had to start a Twitter account as part of my studies at university, I’ve grown increasingly more wrapped up in the life I lead on the internet- because it is a life. It’s like having another life, but a version that’s in snippets and smaller updates. Starting this blog to connect with people who have the same rare disease as me was another thing that spurred on my social media use.
About four years ago, I was nowhere near the level of social consumption I am now. My Instagram account was stale, only being updated with photos from nights out or my dog weeks after they happen, I used Twitter for pretty much one function only (connecting with a certain health community) and my main Facebook use was posting photos. it was starting working in the digital marketing/social media sector that took things to a whole new level, which isn’t surprising. What does surprise me, is that I don’t want to put it down at the end of the day, despite it being a job 9-5, I don’t feel like I have had enough or need a break, I just keep going.
I’ve read loads of stuff about taking social media breaks and the benefits of unplugging and I did last year for a couple of weeks- one of which was spent deep in Irish countryside, so it was easier to pry myself away with no signal and no option but to surrender my phone to the bottom of the bag. But I don’t feel like I need to cleanse myself from all this time online. I recognise some part of the culture of sharing and looking so much at other people’s lives that’s bad for us. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that seeing what others have and comparing your life to what you see plastered over Instagram isn’t good practice. It makes some people very, deeply unhappy. Google it and you’ll find tons of people who blogged to say so- then probably shared their blog on social media. It all comes full circle.
I won’t be signing out and having a hiatus of the online world any time soon, but there are ways that it affects my life that I have become more and more aware of:
1) I get all of my inspiration from stuff I see on social media.
From travel, to bedding, to projects I want to take up in my spare time, I do things because others have done them and reported back on social media. Often just one photo sells me something, which is why brands love Instagram so much. Photos of places people are having holidays has pretty much dominated where I have wanted to travel to in the past couple of years. I no longer actively sit down and search for things I want to do, I just see and think ‘yep, gimme some of that.’ I’m not sure if this is good or bad- but seeing as Pinterest, a social site made for inspiration is thriving, it would seem I’m not alone.
2) My diet is impacted.
I so often decide I want to eat something because I see a photo on social media, or I see a recipe on shared. It used to be that someone would mention a certain food, or I’d smell it or see someone eating it, but now it’s all online- no nice smells (although how long until you can include the aromas of your Thai green curry on Instagram is anyone’s guess), no quick taste, no conversation- just a photo and I’m sold. Good for burger joints, bad for my bank balance. Though one positive is that most of the food I gravitate towards online is healthy, so the stuff I see and decide to eat is usually green and good for me.
3) I look at the world like I’m looking through a camera.
This is actually something that I annoy myself by doing. Photo sharing is pretty much my favourite part of social media, especially photos of places, be it a far-flung beach or a nice corner of London, I love it. Now though, it means I’m always looking at stuff for photo angles, or nice colour schemes, or thinking about how it might look cropped to a square. It’s annoying even typing it out. I’d like to drop this habit, but I don’t feel that’s likely.
4) I ‘know’ a wider variety of people than ever before
There’s a big difference between knowing someone personally, as in there are opportunities throughout the year when you get close enough to physically reach out and touch their arm or something, and talking to someone online. The idea of ‘online friends’ used to make me cringe. Why on earth would I want friends I haven’t even met in real life? How do people even call themselves friends when they’ve only ever typed to each other? In all honesty, I used to associate the idea with desperation or with people who don’t go outside, but that’s ridiculous. The internet is SUCH a big part of our lives now, as is social media, that unless you really keep yourself to yourself, you’re going to come across ‘strangers’ all the time. If you’re active on Twitter, you’ll likely end up tweeting strangers. You’ll start talking to them. You’ll read what they have to say, you’ll find common ground and get along. For me, this has mostly come about through actively participating in a health community, and from blogging. I ‘know’ people all over the country- know about their lives, their likes, dislikes, holidays, experiences, where they ate last night- it might sound weird to some, but it’s become the norm for me now.
5) It’s boosted my confidence
You’d think it would be the other way round, but actually, social media and being confronted with so much detail on others lives makes me feel comfortable. I don’t feel insecure or like I don’t measure up to the many people behind the many accounts I follow, who all put the best of themselves out there. If they can do it, why can’t I? This is probably something that affects social media users in a big way- caring too much what people think, but there are so many ‘users’ out there, I don’t really care if the odd person looks at something I’ve posted and thinks ‘ Lauren you are rubbish’. I feel in a way, quite liberated and a world away from the overly self-conscious person I once was.
6) I feel braver
Okay, so this might sound incredibly lame, and is probably a measure of the power of social media, but I take more risks and do more that scares me now because it’ll look good on social media. I only actually realised I was doing this very recently and the thought itself sounds a bit stupid, yet it’s done me a favour really. Paragliding, mountain climbing, tuk tuk driving,- amazing experiences and things I’ve loved doing, but mostly inspired to do because I’ve seen others do it online and wanted my own experience to share. It makes me braver. That sounds mad, but it’s true.