When I read this Forbes article about how social media can affect your emotional well-being, I thought, of course. Yes.
But, wait. You don’t have to completely stop using social media…just slow it down, right? Wait, wait, how does a person like me who is so knee-deep in it really regulate oneself? I mean I’ve definitely thought about it and wanted to walk away from it. Or check it less? And, while I’ve wanted to slow it down for sure, I’d alway grab my phone and scroll, refresh, look at likes, etc. Over and over. It’s just what my life had become. It’s kind of exhausting, no?
This past week I took a big step to changing for the better – I deactivated my personal Facebook account. Last year, it was Twitter – way too many angry people on there. That one was easy. Facebook was harder. My family is on there. My real-life friends. Business contacts. But it was time. It was making me literally sad. I’ve never been married, had kids or taken a ton of vacations or bought that dream house. Don’t get me wrong, other than the occasional lonely weekend, my life is just fine. But when I looked at Facebook, I just never measured up. I felt less than. I already struggle with “why not me?” and Facebook just made it sting a bit more.
As for Instagram, my issues with it are less about feelings of inadequacy and more so about authenticity. It just doesn’t feel real. I don’t mean in terms of bots and paid engagement. I mean people just scrolling through, liking and commenting on people’s photos because they feel like they are supposed to. I’ve done it. We all have at one time or another.
I think my favorite thing on Instagram is the stories feature. They feel real and in the moment for the most part. You see that account you follow as a human and get a peek into their life. I try to post super ordinary mundane parts of life on there. Or rituals, like trips to the farmers market. Real life. Since I’m food-focused, I love following cooks like Lucinda from Mad Hungry to see how she actually cooks. Not just pretty plates. I’ve actually learned more from Instagram stories. Also, I don’t follow very many famous people, but I love Andy Cohen’s IG stories. They are hysterical, he’s my fave.
This needs to be said because it makes me really happy: When you develop a certain level of following, you can talk up your favorite people and places. That is the best part by far for me. I love when you meet people…be it a bartender, a chef, an owner, etc…and you naturally click. And on top of that, the way their food, service, place makes you feel makes you want to go back. Over and over. And then someone you don’t know messages you and thanks you for posting about a particular place. They went on your recommendation and they loved it, too. Hands down – best feeling ever.
The influencer thing is such a strange phenomenon. I don’t fit there at all. Over the last year or two, I was becoming more and more uncomfortable having a (somewhat) public role. My social media presence began with writing a food blog ten years ago to teach myself how to cook. Later, I created an Instagram account because it was a seemingly cool new platform. With Baltimore’s food scene expansion, my focus shifted from cooking projects at home to having lots of meals out. My following grew organically and very gradually. Now, six years and 13,000 followers later, what I’ve found is that my happy place is more behind-the-scenes. I have hosted events, judged food and beverage contests and every time, I ended up feeling uncomfortable in some part of it. By default, I am invited to a lot of things and turning down free meals and access is hard to do at first. Then, it begins to feel freeing. Bottom line is that it’s very important to stop yourself from buying into the hype and thinking you are entitled to it somehow. It’s funny, though, even now I will see food and drink photos on Instagram at events and whether I was invited or not, get a little jealous. But it’s fleeting, thank goodness. That said, if a restaurant or person I like a lot invites me in or wants me to experience something they’re doing, I might consider it. I’d just try as gracious a guest as possible. I also try to give real constructive feedback if they ask for it.
Back to that whole social media self-esteem thing. You can get past it. For me, I know it’s going to take time. Yeah, I took a seemingly extreme measure of deactivating my Facebook. For you, it could be setting a limit on your use. There are plenty of apps that help you do just that. For me, I get really obsessed with things (so glad I know that about myself) so I knew I had to cold turkey it – at least for now. But in a lot of ways, a pause button can be really, really good for you.
For now, my obsession is my house. Decluttering. Fixing it up. It’ll take a little while to save up to do the projects I’ve gotta do, but my hope is to sell it and take a break from home ownership for a bit. Get more into my cooking, one day write that book. Take a breath. And I will still go out to eat! I’d miss my industry friends too much otherwise. I will still post on my Charm City Cook Facebook and Insta, but I hope that the content I post will make me feel happy and more, well…me.
Self-care is being talked about a lot more lately. I’m glad about that. You really do have to take care of yourself first. I’m the kind of person who whenever I start to feel sad or sorry for myself, I tend to say something about being lucky and so many people have it worse than me. Yes, that may be true, but I haven’t felt happy for a long time. I guess now I am saying that my well-being is a worthwhile mission. My happiness surely is.