Disclaimer: Before I proceed, I admittedly am a user of Facebook, Twitter and am avidly on Instagram.
My Instagram account was once set on “private” and I would only give permission to those I knew because I didn’t want the whole world to know my business. I didn’t like the thought of having people whom I didn’t know, have a glimpse of my life and not having any control of what they would do with the photos or information that I would post. I say “glimpse” to set the tone of this piece – because let’s be honest, even what we post is not our complete stories. In fact, most of it is a filtered versions of ourselves – like putting your profile up on a dating sight – we put only the good stuff, because it makes us feel good. However, I do my best to be as honest and true to posts as possible and while I have challenges, I chose not to put negativity out in the world, because I believe it manifests more negativity. But that’s a different blog.
As I reconsidered sharing my “business” to a public domain, I recognized that one of the things that social media is great about IS promoting your business. So as I changed the way I looked at social media and my commitment to embracing the actor in me, I knew that Instagram, Twitter and Facebook would be great platforms to put out to the universe – and of course any casting directors or producers looking for new talent – that I was an actor, a positive energy and one who was getting back on track to achieving a fit life. As a result, I set my IG account to “public.”
What a rush and great feeling it was to receive more likes on my posts than ever before! So I started participating in the game of gaining followers and likes. Seeing who was “liking” my posts was cool, which turned into followers, was a bit of quick high. I had no idea who these new “followers” were, but I thought, “Sure, follow me. If I can inspire you, then this is great!” I got sucked in. I thought to myself, “Wow, there are people out there that enjoy my posts and maybe, just maybe be be impacted by my posts?”
I was addicted and could get why this new found addiction to social media and who likes what were taking the world by storm. BUT while I was enjoying the sudden “insta-likes,” from people I didn’t know, I also found myself feeling, what’s the word? I don’t even know what the word is to describe this hesitation about strangers following me and essentially knowing what’s going on in my daily life – even people from other countries. Yes, I recognize that I am in control of what I post and how much I post each day – but I don’t want to filter how I post based on a fear of what strangers find out about me. Perhaps it’s the paranoia I have learned from my father who was always telling my siblings and I to be cautious of everyone. “Don’t trust people or put out any kind of information that would put you in danger,” he would always say. Of course, then I began my analysis paralysis about this phenomenon or fascination to gain as many followers and likes as possible. Thus creating a sense of filtered love/appreciation for any of our followers who “like” our posts, which gives us a sense of affirmation that we have followers who can relate to us or appreciate us. I am using the term “followers” on purpose. These “followers” for the most part, aren’t “real” friends if you have over 50 – okay maybe over 100. They aren’t people that you can actually call up and say, “Hey how’s it going, haven’t talked to you in awhile.”
Rather, they are people who mutually connect with you and vice versa through a filtered lens. We see what we want to see. We see love by the number of likes we receive and the number of friends we have on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, Instagram and Facebook are great mediums to promote yourself, your brand, your business to the masses. But for those of us that aren’t celebrities – yet; or those of us that don’t have million dollar businesses, what do these masses of followers and likes generate or create?
Well, when I saw this photo from Elite Daily of someone snorting the “likes” icon for IG, who reposted from Mr. Goodlife (got give credit where credit is due), it occurred to me what kind of society and culture we are cultivating today. We have become a society that thrives on multi-tasking with the use of smart phones: checking and responding to email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap Chat, etc.; we communicate more via text and emails versus actual conversations on the phone or in person; and we are extremely visual and wanting more things to look at. All of which is setting the tone of teaching our kids (albeit, I don’t have kids of my own, but my students are my kids) that looking down at the their phones and their laptops are the accepted forms of communication and that what is shared on Facebook and IG is the reality.
And then I read this article by Kate Fagan on the tragic suicide of Megan Holleran (http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/12833146/instagram-account-university-pennsylvania-runner-showed-only-part-story) What Ms. Fagan wrote about the role Instagram and other social media platforms have been in our lives, really struck me, “With Instagram, one thing has changed: the amount we consume of one another’s edited lives. Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered. In a recent survey conducted by the Girl Scouts, nearly 74 percent of girls agreed that other girls tried to make themselves look “cooler than they are” on social networking sites.”
I was saddened to read about Megan Holleran and saddened by the future generations because of impact of social media and the filtered reality that it creates, causing people like Megan to doubt her own life. But I have hope. It is my hope that while we can embrace the power of social media to promote ourselves, we do it in a more honest and loving way. We teach our kids that there is more to life than checking Facebook status and liking Instagram posts. My friends are smirking right now because they know I love me a good selfie and I probably post more than I need to. But I am grounded, at least I am moving in that direction. I didn’t grow up in a time where everything can be video- taped, posted and shared in a milli-second. I know how to have a conversation and use text messaging only as a quick way to give an answer, not as my means to get to know someone. We need to start encouraging people – young and old – to take time to play outside with friends, making mud pies, going to the beach or park, and racing big wheels (do they even make them anymore?), as I did when I was a child. We should step away from the video games, the TV monitors, and smart phones, to go and visit with friends, go on bike ride adventures, chase fire flys and not come home until it’s dark. Because the people we spend time with, are the friends who are truly going to have our backs when we need someone to call for support.
So please, instead of checking the number of likes and followers you have, check your immediate circle and cultivate those relationships that are real and who can save you when shit hits the fan. I have an amazing circle of friends and without them, life is would not be the same. I’ll take these circle of friends over 1,000 followers any day.