The Social Media Illusion

“You look SO busy!”

This is what I hear every time I see someone in person that I haven’t seen for awhile. They’ve been following my business Facebook page or they get my email newsletter and somehow come to the conclusion that I’m swamped. I actually don’t use the word busy and I encourage others to ditch it too. Everyone is busy-that’s just life. But I find the word itself makes one feel more chaotic and out of control.

My answer to those exclamations is, “It’s all an illusion.”

Social Media Is An Illusion

I teach digital marketing, manage my own accounts, and follow others for inspiration and examples. I’m completely surrounded by the internet all day long. I pay close attention to the tactics people and businesses use in presenting themselves.

We as viewers, tend to forget that social media is a tool and can be used any way we choose. It’s not an accurate view of our lives and work just like reality television isn’t a realistic view of anyone’s world. We use it to present a curated vision of who we are. It is not reality.

The Truth

In August of last year, I was in the middle of editing my second and third books simultaneously when my back became so stiff I could barely move. In September, I rolled out of bed funny and experienced the most excruciating pain of my life next to childbirth. It didn’t go away for about two weeks. Neither my chiropractor nor general physician was able to give me a definitive reason for the pain. I was grateful that it went away on it’s own after a few weeks but I knew the problem wasn’t solved. I had books to publish and work to get done so I kept my fingers crossed and proceeded with my life.

I knew the other shoe would drop and it did in December. I sneezed and found myself at that exact same level of pain – in public this time. I managed to make it home but I then spent the next 4 weeks sitting on an ice pack until I could get into a good physical therapy regimen. We found out it was a bulging disc and that exercises, better shoes, and regular workouts were the answer.

Today I Feel Great

In between my two episodes of pain, I updated my friends on Facebook as to why I hadn’t been out and about as much as normal. Weeks later, I had a new client ask me about my back. I was shocked she’d found out (through Facebook) that I wasn’t well when we barely knew each other. I didn’t share my second bout of pain with anyone online for fear that other clients would get wind of my health and not want to hire me. I shared only what I wanted people to know. When I tell people that only casually know me about my 5 months of back issues, they all say they had no idea.

It’s Not Real

I read a story about a runner at University of Pennsylvania named Madison Holleran that committed suicide during her freshman year of college. She mentioned that she wasn’t as happy as her friends were at school, that she wasn’t adapting, and Instagram showed her that her life wasn’t as great as theirs. She used her social media channels to present an illusion to the world as to who she was and how she felt. She knew it wasn’t true but it didn’t occur to her that maybe it wasn’t true for her friends either. That they were ALL presenting a false version of themselves.

I’m not blaming Instagram for this situation. I’m calling attention to the fallacy that social media is a real and balanced view of life. It’s the mirror we get to edit.

Enjoy It While It’s Happening

Next time you feel bad about yourself when looking at other people’s lives online, remember, it’s all an illusion. Live your life for real and don’t worry about the photos and videos that prove it happened. It’s not meant to be experienced digitally! You will have sharper memories of your adventures when you don’t record it and will be present and that will allow you to enjoy your real life to it’s fullest.

7 Comments

  • Thank you for putting into words what I have felt about over reliance on the media, Facebook, Instagram, etc. The media is a great way to stay connected but it can’t take the place of a real life. I have a hard time understanding parents engaged with Facebook, Instagram, etc. when their darling children are sitting right next to them being ignored.

    I use the digital media like everyone else but it is not real life, it’s just electrons flying around.
    Sometimes I have my head in a book or magazine ( or the computer) and have to pull myself away from my love for the written word because I know I am not paying attention to my family or something else happening in the physical world.

    Bravo for your post.

    • Pam, thank you for taking the time to comment.
      I find myself doing the same thing you mentioned. When I’m engrossed in something digital, I hear in my head, “I’m missing it! All of it!” and I put it away. Granted I’m a bookworm and before digital was an issue, my head was always buried in a book. I’m just glad I’m aware of it now.
      I hope you are well!

  • This is going to touch hearts and open eyes. You are very generous to share this with us.  I was leaning toward the screen in fascination and concern, with a dozen thoughts about how many ways this will help people.  Then you leaned in and smiled warmly when you concluded, and by then I was smiling back at you, in recognition.  Congratulations and thank you! 

  • Yeah I never seen the point of “Social Media” its all about “me myself and I”.
    Friends post their most important events on FB but don’t bother to call you or even email.  Just want to have the one way monologue and see the number of “likes” and comments come in without actually communicating. Soon this will be a thing of the past just like the Glutten Free fab.

    • As with all tools that are used by humans – there is the good, bad, and the ugly. I appreciate what social media does for those that run non-profits, raise money and awareness for important causes, and connect people that would otherwise not be able to find each other for support or volunteerism. Just like the pen, sword, and money – it’s what we DO with it that truly matters.

  • Very nice and innovative article

    this was a Illusion consultant

    Thank you for sharing this
    Information.


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