Social media helps us reconnect with old friends, view our cousin’s new baby photos, and watch all the dog videos. That’s all lovely. But too often, we use (or should I say misuse?) social media to boost our egos.
And any time we let our ego run the show, we run the risk of misaligning with our values and straying off our soul’s true path.
But don’t worry! There are many ways we can be more authentic and intuitive with our social media use. I’ll share those tips with you in this post.
How can social media lead to an inauthentic life?
Social media can dangerously get us caught up in creating a life that looks good on the outside rather than one that actually feels good on the inside. It makes us feel false pride and joy because we got a lot of likes and comments on a post that in actuality may not really resonate with our deepest values and true desires.
And on the flip side, we can get sucked into the comparison game and feel bad about an otherwise joyful and fulfilling life. Legitimate social science research proves that social media personas are overwhelmingly facades and highlight reels. This means that social media can trigger our ego and, in doing so, drown out our authentic, intuitive selves.
How is our ego the enemy?
Your ego is your true self’s arch-nemesis. The ego cares what others think of it. It feels good by looking good to other people. It wants to be impressive and respected and liked and even envied.
For this reason, social media is your ego’s wet dream. It can be your higher self’s worst nightmare.
I don’t know about you, but I want to live as authentic, joyful, and intuitively informed a life that I can, which means that I need to tap into my inner wisdom rather than petty ego wants and outside pressures to decide what kind of life to lead. When we figure out what goals and desires are actually in line with our soul’s true purpose (as opposed to achievements that our ego is convincing us we should want), we can experience real fulfillment. At least that’s my take on things!
I’ll use a few examples from my own life to illustrate just how tricky social media can be.
How social media (temporarily) ruined my career.
My intuition had been telling me since the first year of law school that I was on the wrong career path, but I didn’t want to quit because I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t hang or that it was too hard or that I somehow couldn’t cut it. So I stuck it out and, luckily, ended up with as dreamy a legal job as possible: an intellectual property lawyer representing artists and designers in copyright and contract disputes.
And I made sure everybody on social media knew just how dreamy my job was! My Instagram feed was filled with shots of my office desk, complete with fresh flowers and trendy pink blazer hung over my chair and an issue of Vogue peeking out from under a pile of legal briefs.
Did I actually read Vogue at my desk to keep up with the latest fashion trends? Of course not! I didn’t even have time to eat proper meals or get a good night’s sleep! In fact, my job actually had very little to do with fashion trends. Terminology and a basic understanding of fashion design did come in handy now and then, like when my managing partner didn’t know how to pronounce Proenza Schouler. But other than that, fashion was pretty irrelevant. I wasn’t going to let other people know that though! And an issue of Vogue looked like something a “fashion lawyer” would have on her desk, so on social media it went.
So I embellished a little. Is that so bad?
Another time, I had to fly to Minneapolis to take a corporate deposition and I was terrified. I’m not a good solo traveler and I had already been away from work for several days in recent weeks because of a prolonged anxiety attack that landed me in the emergency room (but that’s another story for another day). Did I reveal any of this on social media? Of course not! What I did reveal was a shot of my Starbucks and designer luggage at LAX. #jetsetter.
What’s the takeaway here other than I was a big fat phony? My point is that my ego told me that I should be proud of my accomplishments and focus on the positives of my otherwise unfulfilling job. If other people oohed and aahed at my life, maybe I’d like it more.
And this ego-driven (and pretty shallow) thought process resulted in refusing to listen to my higher self, which was trying to tell me via stomach aches, complete loss of appetite, inconsolable shivers and shortness of breath, being on the verge of tears at all times, and out-of-this-world irritability levels that something was seriously wrong with the life I had created for myself.
But my life looked so good on social media, so I was crazy for not wanting it, right?
How social media (almost) ruined my relationship
Yes, social media can help you pretend you love a life that’s not serving you. But the flipside of this is also true.
Social media can also make you doubt a life that is perfect the way it is. I remember reading the mushiest, most romantic proposal and engagement posts on Facebook and totally freaking out that I didn’t feel the same way about my then fiancé (now husband). I remember thinking to myself that if I wasn’t as obsessed and nauseatingly head-over-heels for my fiancé in a very public way, maybe we weren’t really in love. “My heart still flutters every time you walk into a room,” I’d read, and then guilt myself for feeling nothing but annoyance when my fiancé would have the nerve to walk into a room and breathe too loudly during the season finale of Pretty Little Liars.
I remember even telling a therapist once that I couldn’t believe how some women could possibly be so into their kind of unattractive husbands (based on what I saw on social media). “My fiance is legit more attractive than some of these men, so doesn’t this mean I should constantly be wanting to jump his bones? And, ergo, if I am not in fact constantly jumping his bones, isn’t there something wrong with me?” I asked in desperation.
She calmly replied, “Facebook is a highlights reel. None of that stuff is real life. We can talk about your happiness, your love life, your stress levels, anything you want. But I’ll tell you right now, you do NOT want to waste the money you’re paying me to talk about Facebook.”
In conclusion, if you want to live more authentically, you need to be honest with yourself about the effect Facebook, Instagram, or other social media have on you and take appropriate actions to protect your mental health and wellbeing.
No, you don’t have to quit social media completely!
Before you freak out, no–you don’t have to quit social media completely to live a more intuitive life. But, you wouldn’t still be reading if you didn’t, like me, find social media to be a bit problematic for your mental health at times. So, if you’re in the same boat I was in, try one of the following:
1. Detox for a limited time.
If you are in dire need of a detox, take a week or even a month off of all social media. Just deactivate your accounts if you don’t want to delete them completely. I had a friend who would deactivate Facebook the last three weeks of each semester in law school. That is some admirable self-discipline.
2. Designate an offline day.
Can’t go a week without social media? A less extreme way to give yourself a break is to designate one day a week—perhaps Saturday or Sunday—to be your offline day.
Societal and cultural norms seem to have instilled the sanctity of Sundays to me, even though I’m not a very religious person at this point in my life. I currently treat Sundays as a family day. My husband and I usually take our dog on a morning hike and get coffee together. And my mom, sister, and I take turns hosting big family dinners every other Sunday night. Since I’m devoting most of my Sunday to spending quality time with family anyway, designating it a “no social media” day doesn’t seem like it would be too much trouble.
3. No social media before breakfast!
Alright, so you can’t go an entire day without social media either? How about you implement a no-social-media-before-breakfast rule? This forces you to start your day on your own terms, present in the moment, before turning to social media. Take your shower, walk the dog, check your planner–hell, you can even check your email. Just don’t go down the social media rabbit hole until after your morning routine and breakfast are taken care of.
At that point, you might have already forgotten about it or have already begun being so productive that you don’t want to take a social media break at all.
Alternatively, you could do what my friend James has been doing for quite awhile now, which is not to check social media (or email, according to him) after dinner. It’s easier for him to wind down and relax before bed that way.
4. Delete your apps from your phone.
This is a particularly good strategy, I think, for those of us who are social media voyeurs. In other words, for those of us who follow 6,750 people on Instagram and Snapchat and have posted only three photos in the last two years.
What is the strategy? Well, if you’re just consuming (rather than creating) content on social media, then you can consume it on your home computer rather than on your phone. If you delete the apps from your phone, you won’t reach for social media out of habit or any time you are bored for a mere two seconds.
If you want to check social media, you have to get to a computer. That minor inconvenience will help you cut back if you’re the obsessive type.
But I’m a blogger. Am I being a hypocrite here?
As a blogger, I had to make a conscious decision at some point to just not care about social media for awhile because I wasn’t going about it healthily.
What do I mean? Well, I could sense my stress and anxiety levels skyrocketing as I obsessively tracked followers (and worse, unfollowers). I would beat myself up when I didn’t have a new photo to post or didn’t have anything interesting to say that day. I felt like if I didn’t have anything Insta-worthy to share, that meant my blog was shit, my business was shit, and probably my whole life was shit.
But, that is simply not true! Even for online #bossbabes.
I love social media and find it pretty hilarious and uplifting most of the time. I just had to take a step back and level with myself. “Alright,” I said to myself, “I will likely lose some followers if I let up on social media for awhile. But I’m okay with paying that price because the benefits (being more present in my daily life, for one) will outweigh those costs.”
I’d love to hear your current relationship status with social media. What do you think about the effect it can have on us (both good and bad)? Leave a comment below!