It’s important to recognize social media for what it is — a portrayal of life that isn’t always reality.
With the hyper integrated use of social media in our daily lives, the option to be engaged and active in those multi-platform networks is available 24/7. And to top off this non-stop interaction, there is the anxiety-filled need to keep up, based on the highlight reel of life that users tend to post. And why not post what makes you feel good or post the happy moments in life? After all, society touts not to air your dirty laundry. Plus, a picture of my dirty dishes may not be very appealing.
When you scroll through any social media timeline, you will see a beautiful dinner, a selfless loving spouse, a fabulous vacation, a 4.0 report card and surprise roses with dinner. There are two challenges that have cropped up as a result of gleaming, practically perfect-in-every-way social media posts: The need to keep up with posting, and the comparison of oneself to others. Both of these responses trigger the need to post for self-validation, due to the comparisons we can make against what we’re seeing — and the cycle continues.
Let’s look at what happens when we view a post. Do we appreciate it in that moment for what it is? Perhaps we think to ourselves, “What a lovely family photo; her hair looks great in this picture.”
Does it end there for our responses as we scroll, like, and comment? Or does the self-deprecating story in our mind chime in with some less-than-useful follow-up thoughts? “My hair never looks that good. Look how much her husband loves her — all the good ones are taken. Her children are literally models; mine won’t stop fighting. I am failing at raising my children. My life doesn’t look like hers at all and it never will.”
Down the rabbit hole we go, projecting additional meanings to posts, often at our detriment. Users attach meanings to posts that exist only in our minds. Our minds can be a dangerous place if we are not self-aware of the thoughts running through it. Our perception is our reality. How we view life is truly what we believe to be true for us. Posts of a lovely vacation may be equally interpreted as, “That looks like such a fun experience; my friend seems happy,” and “I will never make enough money to go on vacations like that. This is so depressing. I will be never be as happy as she is.”
We can choose precisely how we wish to interpret something, and we can also elect to not add meaning to a post and simply see it. We can view it and we can appreciate what we see, without assuming what it means for both the person who posted it — and for us, the viewer.
Choosing to believe something that does not make us feel good is a slippery slope. When we want something to be true, we will seek and find every bit of evidence to support that truth. When we believe, we believe.
Apply this idea to social media. What is our motivation to post on social media? Is it to share an experience or moment in time with others? Or are we posting because we don’t want it to appear that we didn’t have a fun weekend like everyone else?
When viewing social media posts, stay self-aware of how you are assigning meaning to the post. Appreciate the post for what it is and keep scrolling. There will be another tomorrow. And the day after that, post for you. Share what feels good for you. And above all, feel good for you.
Julie Couret is a single mom of two girls, executive coach and the host of Good Living with Julie on WWLTV’s Channel 4. For the highlight reel, learn more about Couret at 7602coach.com. For real-life Couret, follow her on Instagram and Twitter @juliecouret.