PART C: Self Love + Social Media.
I’m not going to come up on here and tell you that social media is all bad and that we all need to boycott it. I’d be a hypocrite if I did, ‘cause without it you wouldn’t be here reading this post and I wouldn’t have been able to reach so many people with my health and wellness message via Hippie Lane.
It’s been such a cool experience, connecting with you all, and being able to influence many of you to be kind to yourselves and to choose healthy options with a mindful and balanced approach. With the responsibility of creating new and exciting dishes with food styling to appeal, social media inspired me to think outside the square, to help entice the mainstream community to rethink health. It propelled me to unleash my creativity in ways that couldn’t have been explored otherwise.
Growth happens through continually challenging yourself, whether it be personally, physically or professionally, and within the high intensity instagram environment, I was able to grow my skills not only in food, photography and styling, but also in business relations, marketing, work relationships and much much more.
For the reasons above, and for it’s contribution to the growth of my business along with the steady income and the many benefits, including the beautiful clothes, jewels, health and beauty products, travel stays, social invites and all the other perks that come along with having a social media presence, I’m of course, very grateful.
It doesn’t end there though. The whole social media experience has been a huge learning experience for me, and without the ups and downs of the last 5 years that I’ve been riding the instagram platform, I wouldn’t have made the life changes and mental shifts possible to have gotten to where I am now. I love where it has taken me – to this exact place of clarity and renewed purpose.
If you’ve read my previous 2 posts on Self Love, you will know that this is the final of the 3 parts that felt entirely necessary to write, to give you a complete picture of how self love comes in many forms. It’s not just salt baths and yoga classes, but much more about your daily habits and the people you surround yourself with. And that includes your time on social media platforms and your digital ‘friends’.
Apart from taking me away from being present and in the moment which I value so much, during those foggy years when I was at my peak use of social media, I began to notice that as I was building my brand presence, I was unknowingly seeking validation from my audience. This became obvious when I observed a shift in my moods based on how well my recent post performed. I’m talking about those all important figures – the likes and comments and the amount of reshares. This is how it would go: If my phone was buzzing with responses immediately after my post, I would regard the post as a success which would translate into a rewarding and positive work day, and a boost in my mood. If, however, the post was slow with comments and likes, and largely ignored by my community, I would be self critical and regard the recipe or image as a failure. Here you have evidence of that all-or-nothing mentality that plagues perfectionists and undermethylators (relating here to part B of self love post), which works to undermine all your previous successes.
How sad is that?! When I think back on this now, I think it’s totally nuts, but it was what it was. I went on to realise that this was in fact the case for almost all users that I was in contact with at the time. But apparantely, I had it good compared to most.
My validation-seeking was related to my food posts which was pretty much all I posted in those days. It was related to the desirability of my recent recipe, not my face or body (or self image). It literally hurts to think how it must be for the girls and women who are measuring their self worth on the response of their recent selfie, or booty pic. It sounds ridiculous but this is real life for the majority of users.
It didn’t take me long to realise that I was going down a slippery slope, when I pulled myself out of the trap that they, the creators, deceptively put us, the users, in. It’s a purposely addictive platform where users are programmed to seek validation, now with added insights and promotions, all geared toward more views and popularity. The creators want to keep users locked in their self-inflicted misery so that they keep coming back for more and more validation.
A little history. Major shifts began to take place early in 2016. To create anxiety amongst successful online business users and influential users, Instagram changed their algorithm. Posts were hidden from followers. Influencers were up in arms about it, as instagram moved toward their monetisation scheme. To appease their growing anxiety, users were subtly coerced to promote posts, and slowly but surely, become slaves to the machine. Now with business promotion and paid options in full swing, organic post and story views continue to plummet.
It was at this time, as the algorithm first shifted and paid promotions came into effect that I made my initial decision to reduce my usage, even if it meant a decline in business growth. I decided that my self worth is more valuable (hallelujah ⚡️) … and this was precisely when I went a little ‘extra’ in the wellness sphere for myself and for my community. Best thing I did. It was from this time that I started to see Instagram, the trending users and the overall community for what it really is.
The impact of validation seeking and incessant scrolling / comparing is so intense, that many now recognise the dark side of social media, and are working toward bringing awareness on the topic.
Idolisation of Instagram Influencers
In a 2016 study published in “Current Opinion of Psychology”, it was noted that comparing and envying other people and their lives on social media leads to feelings of depression. Obvs right? When you are looking through vacation photos of someone’s (free) trip to the Maldives, perfect relationship statuses, beautiful bodies, happy occasions and the (often annoying) captions that go along with them it’s pretty obvious that for people living in the real world with real jobs, depression, envy and discontentment would be the norm.
This statistic has always bothered me, and has made my purpose on social media – to inspire health, truth and integrity, all the more important. Hence why I’m writing this post.
I’m not as prone to this statistic, as…
1. I have a background in psych 2. I am in the solid years of the 30’s (definitely the best stage of my life so far) where you literally start to see things clearly and with a broader perspective and 3. I have worked on myself, emotionally and spiritually, for most of my adult life, and as a result feel reasonably confident within myself and with my life choices.
To add to that, I have a deeply fulfilling relationship and a healthy loving family. I am passionate about my work, have genuine friends who I love, and a body that functions well without disease (thankfully). To add, I notice the positive things in my life, and take time to reflect on them everyday. This, along with a little bit of wisdom and a secure self esteem, offers me a shield of protection from the underlying message on social media and within our society that we are not enough.
But what about the majority of young girls or the wounded women who have not yet reached this stage of life? What do they do?
If you’ve happened to meet me, know me through life or had a chance to connect with me on social media, you will know this has been my biggest dilemma as a social media player. I am almost too aware of the bs that goes on on the platform, that it has pushed me to make serious considerations, over and over, as to whether I want to be a prominent member of the instagram community amongst the many other influencers and their multi-facades. I find this comes up almost every time someone talks to me about my work and the inevitable next topic – instagram and my (beautiful) feed. Don’t get me wrong, I like hearing nice things about my work and style, but shit, it feels superficial. The look of one’s feed, the amount of likes, comments and follows, the ‘it’ followers to follow. It makes me cringe, big time.
I feel strongly about exposing the layers of the fake constructs of social media influencers, not for my personal benefit, but for the benefit of the many users who are feeling at a loss. And especially for the girls, like my daughter in the near future, who have very little chance of securing their worth amongst the narcissism that is running rampant online.
The thing is, many of these issues can be solved by the simple awareness of the inauthenticity of the many profiles that you follow.
If you could see through it – the shiny images, the hidden messages in captions, the gushing comments between influencers, the jobs and promotions many do just for the financial benefit, the faces and airbrushed bodies, the travel destinations that are always amazing and without hiccup, and the relationships that we all wish we had – you will realise that the unnecessary feelings of jealousy and inadequacy are caused by idolising the lives and relationships of people that do not really exist.
Reality Check: Many of your idols construct their lives with images that make the perfect story. The sad thing is, most don’t even realise they are doing it. When you are influencing on social media, you are so caught up in the whirlwind of it all – the comments, reposts and praise, that you are not really present in your life. You become a product of the machine and dish out more images that get the most favourable response. And these images are often the most ‘ideal’ and on trend, with hidden messages that spell the perfect love, life, body, food, scene, etc.
And this goes on for a certain amount of time until the social platform, aka instagram, changes their strategy and seeks new and unique users, imagery and hidden messaging. The influencer will then either realise and change up their image (fake alert) to appeal by adopting the new trends, or move on. And move on I did, when I realised that the new structure of instagram and continual changes in algorithm were no coincidence, and keeping up would mean that I would have to sell my soul (literally) for the ongoing success. And as you all guessed, that was never a viable option for me. ✖
This does not mean that everything you see online is fake, and that all the popular girls and women ( & insta husbands) fake their shots. There are some seriously amazing people out there who inspire hundreds, thousands or millions with their beautiful work. It would be a huge generalisation to categorise all as lacking in integrity or inauthentic, but the reality is, they show their best work, where most photos are curated with a lot of time dedicated to getting the shot with the hope of appealing to their followers. This is achieved by showing their ideal lifestyles which is most often set up just for the shot. Those images are not as candid as they appear. Nor are they having as much fun as they look like they are. These users will not tell you that they have issues in their relationships, just as we all do. They will not say that they often find it hard to live up to their healthy image. They will not tell you that they often feel anxious about their longevity as an online influencer and they will also not reveal that their paid travel is often exhausting and much of their time on vacay is spent taking shots for you to see.
So what can you do to protect yourself from the fake flutter of images you see every. single. day. ?
- Reduce your time on social media. Engage in your real life relationships and reap the rewards of being in the company of people you love with no annoying distractions. If your friends are distracted by their phones whilst in your company, speak up and tell them that what you think. Most have an unhealthy addiction to their phones / social channels themselves and need a little inspiration to put it away. Be the one to help shift their attention to being in the present.
- Read between the lines or what I call navigate the bs. Understand that the majority of the people you are following are just ordinary people in a privileged position. They have a talent (just as you do), that has been noticed and they are riding the wave. They may look nice, have cool clothes and an enviable looking lifestyle, but you don’t know their in’s and out’s. They show you what you want to see, and if you come face to face with any of your ideal influencers, I guarantee that you will be surprised at how different they are from what they portray on IG. That’s the truth.
- Unfollow people that make you feel less than. It’s ok to like and admire people for their beauty, talent, success or personality. As long as the admiration is fostered back into making improvements within your life, not to drown you in depression and despair. Most of us started on IG to inspire others with our creativity and passions. As the platform turned to a business model, many now use it for other purposes. Whether it’s to show themselves or others that they are important or to use it for their own personal or professional benefits, that’s their choice entirely, just as it is yours to allow it to impact you positively or negatively. You are the master of your life. Don’t let fomo stop you from disengaging with people and accounts that make you feel unworthy. Instead, choose to follow people who are making a difference. Social activists, poets, writers, artists and creatives who are more about their work and less about themselves – and feel the difference.
What I learnt in 5 years as a social media influencer is invaluable. It has been the ride of my life and I’m grateful for all the highs and even more, for the lows. It’s through the low periods that I made the necessary reflections, to heal parts of myself that had been ignored for so long, and to help you, my community, to see clearly in the mental mess that it can most definitely cause.
As I wrote this, I naturally had more awakenings about myself and my current state of mind. I reflected on my Instagram, my primary workplace, and the all-important look of my ‘feed’. I sat with the unnerving feeling that I’m profoundly disconnected with it all. I’ve felt this lingering for a while, but hadn’t quite put my finger on what it was that was bothering me. It’s not that I don’t like the photos that I’ve put up for you to see, or that they weren’t real. I’m proud to say that I’ve been true to myself, no question, and those photos and experiences that made ‘the cut’ for Instagram were genuine.
I asked myself what wasn’t right… was it the look, the colours or the feel of my feed. I guess yes, sort of (I like soft colours with food but I’m actually not that girlie or pink in my real life lo)… but it actually goes deeper.
I want more realness. I want to peel back the layers and upload more natural, less curated shots. I want to upload whatever I like, even if it’s just a few bare ceramic plates, the latest handmade earrings that I love, inspiring artwork, or a tourist shot of me on a camel. Whatever I feel. Not what you (no offence) expect from me. I’m sorta done with that.
I understand that I may disappoint some followers who want to see ideal lifestyle shots, but there are so many accounts out there offering the ideal lifestyle, you don’t need me for that. If you’re here for the right reasons, you’ll know that you’re here for the honesty.
I just want to be – to show and express what I love, how I think and what I value, without the ‘perfection’. Not because I can’t or because it’s too hard, but because I don’t feel it. It’s not me anymore. If I don’t make a change, I’m afraid I’ll be gone for good.
As always, thank you for reading and feel free to reach out ♡
Disclaimer. Images within this post were found online via Pinterest. Quotes are my own.