I have been using social media for a long, long time and I love it. I have my twitter and tumblr and Instagram sites and spend a fair amount of my time on them, especially on twitter where one of my favourite things ever is to live tweet the shows I am currently watching (if you follow me then you know exactly how much I love doing that!). I have done so many amazing things and met some truly incredible people all because of social media sites.
I have also found myself buying a lot of stuff I normally wouldn’t and feeling more shit about myself than I thought I ever would.
The former is easy to understand – Instagram has to be the biggest online shopfront windows in the whole world and I buy way too much because I see someone else rocking it (case in point: I just bought some silver short shorts. Who knows when I will wear them since I live in London where it’s almost always cold). The latter is so much more problematic. I run and I go to fitness classes therefore the people I follow generally also do the same. They always look better than me, wear better clothes than me, and have better abs than me. Always and seeing picture after picture of the perfect person with the perfect abs in the most perfect clothes is demoralising.
Actually it’s more than demoralising: it’s crippling. I was lucky when I was a teenager because I spent my teenage years blissfully unaware that I was supposed to hate my body. There were things I wanted to change but only in a vague way because it was what everyone else was doing. It was what I was supposed to do even though truthfully I didn’t care. So when I reached my twenties I thought I was safe, safe from feeling shit and safe from hating my body, because obviously only teenagers have issues with the way they look. Then Instagram happened and my mentality started to change.
It was a slow process, really slow and I was so sure it wouldn’t affect me, that I was immune because I wasn’t a teenager but after a while I would look at myself in the mirror and hate my body. Why wasn’t my stomach flat? Why didn’t I have abs? In fact it was so slow and steady that I didn’t even know it had happened until I found myself looking at an Instagram picture of someone I didn’t know and both hating myself and hating her.
Why in the world did I hate her? And why did I hate myself? Because I wasn’t her? But that made no sense because I loved me. Didn’t I? Well yes, maybe I still loved me but I didn’t respect me any more and when I realised that I was horrified. If I couldn’t respect myself then no one else would. I was this outwardly confident woman in her twenties who spent most of her time comparing herself to others.
I spend so much time competing with other people (and other women in particular) on things which aren’t important at all that I had lost track of the fact that having a healthy mind is as important, if not more important, than having a healthy body. Why am I comparing myself to people who are not me? They have led different lives, have had different journeys, and different experiences: I am not allowed to compare, not supposed to compare. So I stopped. Instead of criticising myself when I saw a picture, I mentally congratulated that person and separated their achievement from me. I separated their life from mine. And my life is so much better. So much better.
I am beginning to think of myself as perfect again. I feel lighter and happier.
At the same time it never occurred to me that my Instagram feed made people feel horrible about themselves the way other people’s Instagram made them feel about themselves until one friend tentatively told me that my pictures intimidate them. They had just started running and seeing pictures of me running all the time made them feel terrible because they couldn’t do it. My reaction was to tell them to unfollow me. Don’t compare yourself to me and if my posts make you feel bad then unfollow – your mental health, my mental health is far more important than follower count.
Social media is supposed to be fun and not a competition. We are perfect as we are.