There has been a LOT going on around the role social media plays in our lives, and it has been coming up regularly in long conversations where I’ve found myself getting defensive with the mindset of ‘you just don’t get it’.
I know a part of that defense comes from how much this community has meant to me over the past two and a half years, another part being that I work in social media as a career, but another part is not wanting to admit the truth in other people’s arguments. Hot topics are something I tend to try and keep my distance from, but I started writing and found I had a lot to say on this. We all experience social media differently, and all have different stories, none more or less valid than another.
I was late to jump on the Instagram band-wagon, and my posts were few and far between without too much thought. Twitter didn’t do much for me and I deleted it for a few years after I caught out a fellow student cheating on midterms through it and decided the whole thing was just not for me. Concern for likes and follows wasn’t on my radar, and hashtags were used only when deemed humorous.
In January of 2013 I stumbled across the IG yoga community through a fitness hashtag, having never previously stepped on a mat. Yoga had seemed so intimidating but presented through these little squares everything seemed so much more fun and attainable. I loved the posts of advanced practitioners in poses I never thought possible, and I loved the humble modified versions other people posted showing an honesty with where they were at in their practice. If anything I loved the latter more, the message of being people comfortable and happy with where they were at was something I really needed and held onto.
I began practicing and connecting with people through challenges, and I got clean & sober sharing my thoughts more openly on here than anywhere else in my life. This platform became my journal, and these connections, however surface and shallow they may seem to others, were deeper and more authentic than most of what I had in my ‘real’ life.
Along the way I became attached to the outcome of my posts, I pushed my body past my edge in order to achieve the lines I wanted for a shot. I felt disappointment when I put in a lot of effort and received fewer likes than average. But when I started looking into analytics and putting statistics to my posts, to my surprise (and what is definitely a blessing of this community) I realized that the posts where I was contorted into a little pretzel with perfect lighting were not the posts getting the most response. It was the posts where I was being real, messy, and authentic, where I talked about my addiction or about struggling through life lessons, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. I learned that every bit of my attachment I had to the surface level bullshit of social media, was reflected in my attitude towards relationships and connections in my real life.
When I reached 10,000 followers and was recognized a few times in classes or walking down the street, I began to panic. Realizing that there were so many people reading what felt like my diary was overwhelming and I struggled to write posts that felt authentic. I had companies regularly emailing me about ambassador/influencer deals, and despite having been really selective in which ones I said yes to, making sure I got all the posts in felt overwhelming and the feeling of being obligated to post wasn’t a good one.
A short while later my mental health did a nose dive and I took a big step back. I occasionally posted about learning to reach out and ask for help, or vague references to lessons when I was having a moment of calm. When I look back through those posts I hardly see a glimpse of what was actually going on - needing to be on the phone with someone every time I left my apartment to go to class because I didn’t trust myself to put one foot in front of the other and not end up getting loaded, or the weeks without sleep because every time I closed my eyes I was reliving sexual assaults from early teenage years that I had never told anyone about, or about being curled up on my bathroom floor sobbing wanting any escape from the hell that was my thoughts. I was depressed, exhausted, and felt a million miles away from any resemblance of what my account portrayed.
Through the whole experience I learned more than what could be summed up into a few squares and my life has become richer and fuller than I ever thought it would. It’s not some big grand flashy life, it’s simply having friends that I can reach out to when I’m struggling and know that they are going to be there. It’s knowing that I’m valued and loved for who I am as a person, even though I still struggle with whole-heartedly accepting that.
Social media can be a beast, but it’s just a reflection of all the other crap. It can be used as a tool to harass, judge, and compare, or it can inspire and connect us. How we use it and the role it plays in our lives is a choice, sometimes it can go a bit sideways or the relationship shifts and that’s okay. I doubt I’ll ever go back posting the way that I used to, and the relationship I have with this platform will probably change many more times, and that’s okay too. We aren’t our poses, we aren’t our brands, and we aren’t responsible for how others interpret us. Telling people not to be jealous or compare, citing our flaws to try and rehumanize ourselves is exhausting and harmful, and having people up on pedestals does no one any good. If you want to post how-to videos, or you want to show off your fancy pants, or difficult asanas, or sell things, or have a space to share your thoughts - amazing, and just do your thing. The only thing we are responsible for is knowing our own intentions and taking care of ourselves. So do that, and take care of yourself.