The other day my mom sent me an article about how young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls from continuous smartphone usage. Who would have guessed that endless hours of scrolling, double tapping, and craning our necks over tiny screens is not great for us??? And, despite our best efforts to combat the evils of the modern world with hot yoga and celery juice, our digitally-induced slouch has lead us down a dangerous path. At this point, we’re basically evolving into dragons to save our spines. You know I love me some GOT, but this khaleesi would prefer to remain hornless.
After taking a peek at my iPhone battery usage, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to draw the conclusion that I’ve been denying for quite a while now:
I spend a lot of time on social media.
cue Sam Smith,
♫ “I know I’m not the only one.” ♪
In a matter of 10-15 years, social media has transformed from a college campus “Hot or Not” directory into multi-billion dollar networking, streaming, and advertising platforms. I’ve spent most of my developing years surrounded by this phenomenon, all the while, gaping at the explosive growth of some vastly underestimated networks that now connect close to 2.5 billion people. The scariest part?
I’m finding it harder and harder to remember my life without them.
I get that this isn’t the case for everyone. But, because I run social media for brands for a living, I’m in real deep. Some people *cough cough* (John), constantly tell me that “social media is the biggest waste of time.”
Don’t think I can’t hear you scrolling through NBA Twitter highlights in the bathroom every night...
To John’s statement, I have a two-part answer. First of all, yes, this whole digital universe is deranged. We’ve got a bunch of 15 year olds posing in bikinis and celebrities poisoning us with flat tummy teas. There are dogs that make more money from one Instagram post than I make in an entire year, and Facebook will probably serve me an ad for Chipotle tonight because I just glanced at an avocado that’s sitting on my counter. These are wild times, but 10 to 20 years from now, I hope we can all look back at the #influencer #ad era with the same sentiments of malaise and humor evoked by the good old days of gauchos and over-tweezed brows.
Now that we’ve poked a bit of fun at the industry, I’d like to give some credit where credit is due. Social media is a game-changer. It’s an invaluable and practically unavoidable marketing tool, especially for entrepreneurs and individuals in the creative industries. I’ve seen it take a stay-at-home mom from diaper changes to a six-figure income in months all because a post she did about her homemade non-toxic deodorant went viral. I’ve witnessed a 22-year-old go from making motivational dance videos in his bedroom to being the face of Glossier’s biggest product launch. I’ve used social media to make friends in a new city and stay connected to old ones, and it even helped me get two of my current jobs.
When I launched The State of Grace back in 2017, I was on cloud nine. I had two months of summer freedom to burn through before starting my first post-grad job, and I wanted to make a life-long dream of mine into a reality. So, I did it. I constructed and curated my own little space online to share snippets of my life, passion, and greatest joys FOR FUN. Instagram was still in its infancy, and the internet took itself less seriously. I took myself less seriously, too.
Boy, those were the days.
Almost two years later, I found myself semi-self-employed with a unique opportunity to dip a toe or two back into my creativity, yet, I ended up sitting at my keyboard for two months paralyzed and extremely bothered by a world that once enticed me.
I opened Instagram to a sea of sameness. Coachella ferris wheel pics, Daniel Wellington ads, “felt cute, might delete later,” and filtered selfies. Everyone was apparently having the time of their life with no wrinkles or acne or cellulite. Don’t even get me started on “cancelled” culture.
I was frustrated and angry. I wanted to make a change, but it all seemed so far gone. Finally, when yet another bot commented spam on a really personal post, I blocked them and shut down for a while. I stopped making my own content and I embarked on a mission to put more positivity online and change up my feed. I wrote genuine and thoughtful comments on other creators’ photos, blog posts, and videos. I connected with them as human beings. I unfollowed the people that made me feel insecure. I muted the drama and the perfect lives. I said goodbye to the daily reminders that I need more “stuff” to be happy, and I remembered that a majority of what I see online doesn’t tell the full story. I advise you to save yourself the grief and do the same.
Today, I open up my collection of apps fueled by a sense of empowerment. I am grateful for both the connective tissue that joins together my generation and the privilege to create freely and openly. I love that I have my own little place on the internet to be unapologetically me. And now, after some serious Marie-Kondoing, I’m ready to get back in the game. I like what I write, I respect who I am, and I’m not going to overthink this anymore. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m just going to be myself and have some fun.
Let’s do this, team.