Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Stop Instagramming Your Perfect Life"

Warning! Somewhat self-indulgent non-sewing post ahead. You have been cautioned. :)

I read this article today, and thought I'd share it, since it seems to be something that crops up in the blogging community a lot, and especially on the heels of Heidi's post about fighting perfectionism. The internet is so great in that it connects us with people we'd never meet otherwise and gives us more inspiration than we know what to do with. I love the internet, I really do!

Yes, I love technology. But not as much as you, you see. But I still love technology. Always and Forever.

But I also know that it has an adverse effect on me a lot of the time. It is difficult to be 28 and stuck in a dead-end grad program with no transferable skills and little shot of finding a career that I actually give much of a flip about, while friends are at the point in their careers that they are starting to go somewhere. It is difficult to have just enough money to make ends meet while others are taking fun trips or buying houses. It is difficult to think that if things don't work out with this boyfriend, that really might have been the last shot and I'll end up alone and family-less, as my newsfeed parades an endless stream of wedding photos and baby pictures past my face and I begin a slow descent to cat ladydom.

While I love knowing what people are up to and the inherent nosiness I have is easily satisfied by Facebook, I don't think it makes me very happy. So why do I use it? How can I use it better and remove that totally unnecessary stress from my life?

This article, "Instagram's Envy Effect" by Shauna Niequist really made me confront these questions:
I’m not anti-technology or anti-Internet, certainly, but I do think it’s important for us to remind ourselves from time to time that watching other peoples’ post-worthy moments on Facebook is always going to yield a prettier version of life than the one you’re living right now. That’s how it works... 
Our envy buttons also get pushed because we rarely check Facebook when we’re having our own peak experiences. We check it when we’re bored and when we’re lonely, and it intensifies that boredom and loneliness... It makes sense, then, that anyone else’s fun or beauty or sparkle gets under our skin. It magnifies our own dissatisfaction with that moment. When you’re waiting for your coffee to brew, the majority of your friends probably aren’t doing anything any more special. 
But it only takes one friend at the Eiffel Tower to make you feel like a loser.

Preach it, sister.

I took this detour today because I think it's something that probably a lot of us can relate to (I mean, we all follow Camille Roskelley's blog, right? How do you not feel crappy about your living room or your hair after that?) Comparison can get one really, really down. And speaking for myself, I have a great deal of things to be thankful for: a good family, the support and love of an incredible group of friends, good health, the opportunity to spend a few years doing funded study at a great school (even if it makes me want to tear my hair out), a warm and safe place to live, plenty (too much? :) ) to eat, and to do it all in a country with many problems, but also many privileges. The problem is, it's so easy to let myself forget ALL of that, and focus on what I lack, and others have. It's petty, and also not so awesome psychologically.

And I don't think that it's bad to post photos of your adorable kid/trip to Switzerland/expertly cultivated and thriving all-organic garden/6-carat engagement ring. If you feel guilty about doing it, maybe it's worth reflecting on your motivation for posting them. But in general, I think this is less about what people choose to share, and more about how I choose to consume it.

While I don't have an action plan in place quite yet, it's been good for me to think about why I let selected images from someone else's life have so much power. I'll probably consider using Chrome Nanny (this is an awesome tool if you find yourself spending too much time on one site--and it's a free plug in!) to limit how much social media I'm ingesting. I can close browser tabs instead of leaving all 25 open at once for easy access (yes, I'm one of those people), forcing me to be more mindful of what I am choosing to open and look at. If these things are affecting my happiness and well-being, there is no reason to let them. I'd like to look at my life not through the lens of an Instagrammed Eiffel Tower, but through other, more meaningful lenses.

So there is my little foray into non-sewing psychology. :) I hope you'll forgive me, but from what I read, it seems like an article that might be thought-provoking for a lot of others, and I wanted to share it.

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  1. An interesting and thought provoking post. My social media interaction is mostly limited to sewing blogs and I enjoy being part of that online community because I have very few 'real life' friends who have any interest in it. But I still find it's easy to start feeling under pressure to keep making more/faster/more beautiful things and to post regular;;y etc. I think it's really important to take stock from time to time and reflect on how we are engaging in these virtual spaces. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I don't have Instagram, and who is Camille Roskelley but they are plenty other people I know that seem to be in Barbados all the time. Good for them! I chose not to be able to do it anymore like I chose to do a phd and not live university before I was 30. It is easy to feel the pressure but it is easy as well to make sure you are happy with your choices nd believe in them!

  3. I read that article and your post and I agree. I have been studying for a test I need to take for my profession, and I have been limiting my time on the internet (where I mostly look at sewing blogs), but I have found that I don't feel such a need to push myself to create something just so I can post it. It is somewhat liberating. Facebook is mostly a time eater, although I look at it daily!

  4. This is a great post!! Like Janine, I read a lot of sewing blogs and also feel the pressure to make, to make better, to try new things, to get 'that' line of fabric, to buy 'that' book! I enjoy looking at people's lives on IG but agree that it has to be taken with a pinch of salt!

  5. Preach it, sister. I have to catch myself often and remind myself I am not as inadequate as I sometimes feel while browsing the landscape of perfection that is Instagram.

  6. Great post - You are spot on with this! I have been examining my own use of social media and how much do I allow to be a total time suck. Keeping up with the Joneses was always an unrealistic expectation (which doesn't stop people from trying to maintain an illusion of perfection) but you're right: we CAN choose how to consume the barrage of information being shared. btw, I live in Switzerland.:D

  7. Hehe :) This is why I really love those folks who share the "keep it real" photos - the messy sewing spaces, the out-of-control stash storage, the not-one-hair-in-place candid shots. Power to the people! ;D

  8. Hell, yes. Trying to alter how we consume social media sounds like an excellent plan. It can be daunting, trying to see past the barrage of pregnancies and weddings and accomplishments and travel that are so often on Facebook, but doing so makes a lot of sense.

    I mostly just don't log on very often. And I still worry sometimes about ending up a crazy cat lady. So for what it's worth, you're not alone there.

    Encouraging more people to actively choose to expose their imperfection also sounds like a great idea, and a wonderful way to make more of us feel more comfortable with the fact that, really, we're all human. We all have bad days. It's just that almost nobody blogs about them.