Watch the video expansion on this blog post here.
One of the topics I speak about in my sessions and workshops on educator mental health is the effect that social media can have on the way we feel about ourselves. It’s not much different than what we tell our students: images on social media are the best versions of someone on that day coupled with filters and editing. “You shouldn’t compare your every day to their best day,” we say. Then the students walk away and we go back to scrolling through Twitter or Facebook and throw our own advice right out the window.
I would read through Twitter and feel like what I was doing paled in comparison to what everyone else was doing but I felt like I was working so hard. That person was putting out a new book. I haven’t put out a new book in a few months. That person just recorded a podcast. We haven’t recorded a podcast in a while. I really want to write more articles like that person. Why am I not sitting down and writing more articles? Social media was becoming more and more of a burden to me instead of the place for growth that it had been for me a few years prior. However, my negative attitude flare-ups were happening because I was allowing it.
Last week, I posted this picture on Facebook:
I took two photos to get this one and I added a filter that hid some of my wrinkles around my eyes. And the responses I got from my sweet, kind, loving friends were these:
This post happens to be a picture but it could represent any kind of post where someone is celebrating or showing something off. It could be a gorgeous sunset over the beach that shows their on vacation. It could be the last ground-breaking podcast that they recorded. It could be that they just wrote a book, read an amazing book near the pool on a glorious summer day, wrote a blog post, spoke at some massive venue, got a new job that they’re excited about, or an image of their sporty new car. It could be all of the amazing things that happen every day to people that they post on social media that we idolize and wish we could be/do/have that. Then we feel bad because we don’t do all those things and we haven’t taken pictures like that lately. But, there is typically so much more going on behind the scenes that we don’t see. For example, behind this photo:
You probably don’t know that I try to take pictures from the shoulders up because I’m so embarrassed of my weight and I hate the way my arms look if the picture gets too low. I struggle with my weight every single day. With every comment that said I looked pretty, I countered it in my head with reasons why they’re mistaken.
You may not be able to see that I’m in my bedroom and it’s a complete disaster. It’s my catch-all room and there is never enough space. If you only saw that room, you’d swear I was a hoarder.
You might not know that I’m an hour away from bringing my eldest son for a major surgery on his knee that just ended his college football season before it began and I’m dealing with the physical and emotional strain that it’s causing on him. My hair is curled and my makeup is done because I was up early worrying and I didn’t know what else to do with myself.
It may not be evident to you that I am still reeling over an argument with my youngest daughter a few days before or that my younger son is leaving for college soon and I’m struggling with the change or that my decision to leave my job is affecting us financially and I have major guilt over it.
I didn’t listen to any podcasts last week. I scheduled to watch three webinars and missed all of them. And the worst of them all: I made promises that I didn’t keep.
Do you feel differently about the photo I posted now? There is so much more behind a post than just the post.
Remembering that each of us have a story that goes along with each social media post makes each of us more human in what seems like a very inhuman way to interact. The issues I am dealing with on an every day basis are hidden from all my friends replying to the photo I shared. For every person who posts that they read a new book or listened to a new podcast and you think, “Ugh, I haven’t had time to do those things” remember that it may have been the only thing they were able to fit in that entire week.
You are not less because of what someone else has accomplished.
I’ve heard people talk about getting off social media because they are tired of the filtered images, the celebrations, and the bragging, but I am a firm believer that people should be able to celebrate their accomplishments no matter how small they may seem to anyone else. That may be the biggest thing they’ve accomplished lately and we all need to celebrate that with them. If it makes us feel anything but pride and support, that is more about the way we are allowing social media to make us feel than it is about what the celebratory post is actually saying.
We have control over the way that social media makes us feel. Someone else celebrating an accomplishment shouldn’t make us feel guilty or inept. If we feel that way, that’s on us. When I started to understand that there are always stories behind every post and that I had control over the way that I allowed social media to make me feel, it was a game changer in how I felt about myself in relation to the posts I was reading. It wasn’t that everyone else was doing things that I needed to be doing more of, it was that the combination of all the posts that I read and saw were little goals that I may want to set for myself (or maybe not…we can’t do it all). We may not be able to control what others put on social media but we can certainly change the way we think and feel about it, and being able to guide our emotions in healthier directions is one of the best ways we can move forward in the way we think and the way we interact with both ourselves and with others.
Similar to when you were in high school and you and your friends all accidentally showed up wearing the same outfits, my friends Jen Casa-Todd (author of Social LEADia) and Tisha Richmond (author of Make Learning Magical) also recently posted about this similar topic. I highly recommend you read Jen’s tweet here and Tisha’s post here.