So, this just happened this week and I have seen it a lot but not a ton so first, I will explain what I'm talking about. There is a sweet 19 year old girl named Essena ONeill who has made social media her career over the past 3 years. She grew a large following on instagram (500,000 followers) and her youtube videos would get over 100,000 views per post. She was paid upwards of $2000 if she simply posted herself wearing a company's dress. She was signed in LA to a top modeling agency mostly because of her following, and she "had it all" but yet was so unhappy. She went to her instagram, and changed all the captions to words that depicted what actually went into making the photo which is hundreds of different takes to get the right angle and photo, fake happiness, and touched up everything through filters and apps. She talks about constantly seeking the validation of likes, followers, and praise on her stuff. She did a really moving youtube video that I'll attach below. It's long (17 minutes) so I have summarized a lot of it, but it's really moving. I actually ended up crying with her because I feel so much of what she feels.
I don't know why but I literally couldn't sleep after watching this youtube video. My mind is just all over the place. She encompasses everything that I have felt for the past few months, so I wanted to explain my thoughts which of course are going to be on both sides of the spectrum as usual. I hope I'm even able to remember everything that I have to say...
Our society is really addicted...I mean really really addicted. We aren't just addicted to the people that we think are perfect on instagram or facebook but we want to be them. We so desperately want to be them. We look up to their lives as perfect, and we think about just how happy we would be if we could be that person. We aren't able to see the other side of things.
Just like with money, it doesn't matter how much you have, you will always want more. It doesn't matter if you are Selena Gomez because she's not Taylor Swift, and I was just curious so I went to Selena Gomez's youtube. She has 7 million followers. Taylor Swift has 16 million. You know that bothers Selena. We are human. It's never enough. I thought that if I could just get to 50,000 followers then I would be able to relax. Nope. My mind wonders what it would be like to be one of the ones with 100,000.
I have prayed and prayed AND prayed about this, but I'm going to be real with you. Numbers when you are even "at the top" haunt you. Maybe it's just me, and if so then I guess I'll just look silly saying this, but I think that with Essena coming forward, it allows us all to feel a little more brave that we aren't alone. I put myself out there every single day, and many times at night I find myself looking at pages that have a similar following to me that get 3,000 likes on their photos when I only have 800-1000 and wondering what I'm doing wrong. It makes me feel like people don't like me, they aren't engaged, and what can I do that will appeal to people? I justify this because it's my job right? Like 800 likes isn't enough Katie... WHAT THE CRAP? Get a grip.
Vlogging is the new thing, and as much as I love it, I find it to be hard. I find it to be really consuming and that I'm taking social media to a whole new level of completely taking over my life. We are supposed to carry around cameras with us every single day just so that people can get a glimpse into our lives of what they think is perfect. Now don't get me wrong, part of the reason that youtube is hard for me is just because it's A LOT of work but I do love when I have a finished product that I get to share. But every single time I have posted a youtube video, I look at the views and think "Why do more people not watch this like they do the other fitfam girl videos?" It hurts my feelings every time I see the views and lack of followers on youtube. I know it takes time to grow, but I feel like it's this constant battle of building a following to like me. And as I type that I'm embarrassed to say it, but I'm just trying to be transparent in regards to this movement.
It's never enough. Social media never stops or sleeps. It literally infiltrates into every facet of your life. There's facebook (2 separate pages), instagram(2 separate accounts), twitter, pinterest, blogging, garmin connect, starva, snapchat, email, youtube, vine, and periscope. Somehow we are all expected to be actively available on all these accounts, and all it does is continue to separate us from the communication with those around us. I'm on my phone all the time, and I try to be diligent about stopping but it's just the facts.
Working from home, I have literally started looking into something similar to like seasonal depression because I was curious if my feelings were the same as others that work from home. And I'm definitely not alone. We are MADE for communication, and even social communication is not enough. It doesn't satisfy that need to be with people, talk with people, love people, and it can be hard to not sink into this rut. It makes me want to be introverted, and lay on my couch every night and work. It makes me have to fight to be social, and it makes me feel depressed and lonely at times. It makes me question my career change, and thinking if working in a pharmacy would leave me feeling this way. I will say I'm very able to look at social media thru the lens that it belongs in and separate myself for the most part. I feel I have a good relationship and I'm able to let it go, but every single thing she says rings true for me.
Now, I want to talk about the other side of things. She talks about how we see these perfect lives, and we don't know about the depression behind them. While this is true for her, and may be true for others, I think that depression and anxiety is something that a lot of people struggle with but that's more individual. I've experienced this some with being alone and seeking communication with others, but the things that I post are real. The happiness that I portray is how I actually feel, so I never want that to seem like it's all a big show. I do take selfies 100 different times to get the perfect one, but don't we all? I mean it would be weird if we all just took one badly lit selfie and post it. Like of course you are going to continue to try to get a good one!! Sometimes the millions of takes are photography and art, not conceit and vanity.
It's so hard because as a 13 year old girl, they are not able to look through the lens of how I view social media. They see these girls, and they want to literally be them and sometimes will stop at nothing to try to do just that. People are doing EXTREME things to get famous these days. I think that as she says, instagram has become a business and companies are exploiting big names. While thats true, I think that we all know that (or that we need to make that aware). We all know that when an ad comes up about Wendy's on Tv, we take it at face value. We don't think "Oh the happiness portrayed in this Wendy's commercial is so real." If you see a girl and she's obviously promoting a product, then most likely it's going to be positive statements. Most likely they are going to spend time to get the perfect photo. It's an ad, and you are a popular face that they want on their ad. Leave it at that.
I think that we also need to be aware that just like hollywood is not always the best for young people, maybe a career on social media isn't either. But it happens. And if you are one of the "lucky" ones, then I guess the best thing that you can do is to be thankful for the opportunities that it will provide you but also be able to step away from it. A job is a job. I think that if we wanted to, we could all sit here and talk about the woes of our jobs. A pharmacist has to put on a smile every single day while they are literally driven into the freakin ground and yelled at daily. It's a ROUGH ROUGH job, but if someone was active and vocal about how bad pharmacists are treated and made a youtube video about "I Quit Pharmacy", I think the reaction wouldn't be as positive. I know it's different, but I guess I'm just playing devil's advocate here.
While there are so many things about social media that I could literally rant about for days, I am beyond THANKFUL for the opportunities that it has given me. I have been able to provide for myself while working from home and having a completely flexible schedule. I work my butt off, but if my husband wants to go on a trip, I don't have to ask off. I just take my job with me. When we moved, it was only one person having to find a job. I have been able to work with some big companies, and get lots of free stuff that I've promoted. I am so MOVED by the way that I feel that God has used me in this industry to be able to bring some many women out of the bondage of food fear. I say God using me because honestly I just feel like I'm a vessel, and that I'm just passing on information that I've been so fortunate to learn and how it's changed my life and hopefully in turn change others. I wouldn't want to give that up even in the dark moments of "Lord, why am I doing this to myself? Why do I continue to compare myself? Why is it never enough no matter how many followers or likes? WHY!!!?"
While there are many fake people on instagram who only talk to you for your following (yes this happens), I have met some of the most incredible people on there as well who get me on the deepest levels. It can be hard sometimes to find people who understand you completely especially in a world like marathon running or ironman training. People think you're nuts, so I've found finding connections through that to be so good for my soul. And while many pages may do things to look like the perfect image of whatever it is they are doing, they inspire me to the fullest extent. I feel as if I wouldn't be who I am as an athlete without this inspiration on a daily basis through youtube and instagram.
I also am slightly confused. She said that she is quitting social media, but she just switched to another form of social media. She created a website where she is going to be real, and that you can give what you think it's worth for the ebooks that she provides or just simply to give. I get it. I totally do. She has to have an income and if she quits this, all of her income completely stops but isn't it just going to become the exact same thing....creating content to please people in order to make money? Seeking validation in likes and followers but just on a different platform that isn't about your happy life but rather just about finding happiness elsewhere? I'm all about that and in fact, I'll probably support it, but if she's quitting, why are there still videos being produced?
Lastly, because of course, I always think about these things, it brings me to my faith which I know that everyone doesn't have. I think that we will constantly be searching for that validation in life if we don't find it in someone else. Even if we all quit social media, we will always want to feel beautiful and wanted and loved. That's not going to change. That's how we were created, and He gives us the choice to decide if the validation that we seek is in the world or in Him. I choose Him, but it's not always that easy. However, I do think that it completely changes the ball game and I think that if just for one day, we could all see ourselves in the lens that our heavenly Father sees us, and not through the lens of how perfect our instagram is and how many followers we have achieved that day, then we would be a better society because of it.