Today I watched a video that fascinated me.
In it, a girl is lit up like Christmas morning – oddly, it’s because she’s turned her back on what was helping her make money. Instead, she built a website dedicated to talking about how toxic it can be.
Let’s be real: most of us probably don’t immediately think the epiphanies of an 18-year-old model will be very relevant to our lives. But they are here, I think. Because she’s talking about social media.
Two reasons why Essena O’Neill is right and this matters:
These are simple truths, but ones we often forget. So, yeah. She’s glowing because she’s figuring out how to disentangle herself from that.
Now let’s be clear:
I’m not saying social media has no place. I’m saying that social media for NETWORKING is not the same as social media for SELF-WORTH. The former is incredibly valuable. The latter is incredibly destructive.
This spring I gave my social-media class a project called “Going Dark and Lighting Up”:
I wasn’t concerned with exactly what they accomplished (though I pointed out that the longer they tried, the easier it’d be to write about it) as much as I was looking for their insights.
They were great. But what I found surprising was how much their ideas lined up. This isn’t verbatim, but:
And keep in mind, they could still text all they wanted – they just had to avoid Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. It wasn’t that they lost communication. It was that they lost their view into others’ performances, and their own sense of performing.
We are not as interesting when we are trying to be interesting as we are when we’re actually living.
As Essena O’Neill said, “Why is all of my time spent looking at other people’s beautiful, perfected, edited lives, and why am I spending all of my time trying to make my life look so edited and beautiful and perfect to the rest of the world? What are we doing?”
Nothing. We’re doing nothing. She called it “validation through numbers” and she’s not wrong. We perform – we act – we make ourselves impostors when we become malcontent with our actually interesting selves.
You are not numbers.
You are not “how many” – whether that’s how many people liked your picture, how many zeroes in your paycheck, how many times you made yourself sound admirable when you were feeling anything but, how many pictures make you look good.
You are the cool shit you geek out over. You are the moments of beauty you take the time to notice. You are the attention that makes the people you care about unwind. You are the conversations you’ve lost yourself in. You are your silliest ideas. You are the dire ways you have fucked up your life and clawed your way back. You are your mistakes and your sins and the way your voice vibrates in your chest and the way your eyes crinkle.
You are anything but numbers.
Social media can connect you to amazing people doing amazing things and it can help you in phenomenal ways. If you use it that way.
But it can also suck away your time and your confidence and your interest in your own actual life. If you use it that way.
You’re already a badass unicorn. Stop trying to prove it and just be one.