March 5, 2020

Likes, Comments, Hashtags, Filters: Our Social Media Obsession with Validation.

How many likes did I get?

Who saw my post? Did they write something?

I wrote a masterful newsletter. Why did all those people unsubscribe? She is my friend and she unsubscribed.

I know they are on Instagram all the time. How come they didn’t like my picture?

My people-pleasing, perfectionist, I-want-you-to-like-me tendencies are not built for this age of social media. I would not categorize myself as obsessive, and yet social media seems to bring that latent part in me to the surface.

I could just turn it all off. And I have a million reasons why I don’t do that. I’m a yoga teacher, retreat leader, and acupuncturist, and I need to be on social media to let people know what I’m up to. I have many friends who live far away, and seeing their pictures brings me delight. I need to know when that person I barely know gets a divorce, gets engaged, has a baby, loses their job, or moves to Costa Rica. This is all pertinent information for me living a happy life. Right?

I posted a picture to Instagram the other day without my glasses on. I hadn’t posted in many days and thought, I’ll post a simple picture of me and my dog. Keep my Instagram feed moving and fresh. Right? Later, when I looked at the picture with glasses, I saw that the picture highlighted every wrinkle in my nearly 50-year-old forehead. Gasp! And I didn’t even capitalize on it by a #nomakeup hashtag, or #almostfifty, or some such nonsense.

When did we become such an image-driven society? Or perhaps we always have been, as the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” implies.

Now, even more so, we get to feed this obsession with images and words that remind us that the grass is greener on the other side. And we get to paint a picture that our own grass is lush, full of life, and oh so beautiful. I do it, and I bet you do as well.

Even as I write this, I’m oh so aware that I hope you leave a comment or drop me a heart. The parts of me that want, desire, need external validation are fed like a hungry, insatiable monster. What is the antidote? Do we continue to feed a monster that is never satisfied—or are there other solutions?

We could, as Nancy Regan said, “Just say no.” Personally, I have yet to be successful at this approach. If you are, I celebrate you! For me, I need to get at the root of my unhappiness around social media.

I’m part of Elephant Journal’s apprentice writing academy. Since joining the academy, I’ve been reading many more articles than I normally do, paying particular attention to those articles that score a 10. I started playing the always joyous (sarcasm here) comparison game. I’ll never be a 10. I want to be a 10. 10 is cool; it shows that I’m important, that I’m smart, that people care about what I say, that I’m liked, and as a bonus, if you get a 10, you’ll be coined a winner and there is even a little money involved. 

My question to you: “Does it matter—like, really matter?” You say: “No! It only matters to your ego, Wendy.” (Good answer, by the way.)

Sometimes our mind, well, my mind, creeps in saying, “It does matter. You need to be a 10 to matter, to prove that you exist.” A little dramatic, and yet so much of our life is spent proving our worth to exist, and social media opportunistically feeds into this need.

The good news is that I/we have a choice. I could wallow in: “I’ll never be good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not thin enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not young enough. I’m not old enough.” Sound familiar?

Here comes the kicker. When I say, “I’ll never be good enough to write like all those amazing people,” I’m saying some part inside of me believes or was told: “You are not worthy. You are not enough. You must be a 10 to even exist.” This is bullsh*t and lies.

How do we combat a lie? We defeat lies with truth. Truth comes from inside of us, deep inside of us. Truth is not found in our mind, and rarely does our truth reside in another person. Truth comes from our soul.

The antidote to the traps, stress, anxiety, jealousy, and worry that social media fans the flames of is connecting to our own soul. It is sitting in silence. It is meditating. It is in mindful movement. It is breathing. It is walking in the woods. It is writing with no filter. It is praying. It is being. 

Once we have connected with our own essence, we can then go back out to the world confident in our own worthiness and enoughness. We can then pick up the phone and scroll away, knowing our own divine nature is not threatened by what anyone else is doing or being.

When I am present to the sacredness of my own soul, I no longer feel the need to prove anything. Social media ceases to be a monster of my own creation. It simply is—just as I simply am.

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Wendy Swanson  |  Contribution: 8,265

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