Social Media…I Love You and I Hate You

On Monday, my attitude could most accurately be described as “sunshine”. Did you roll your eyes? I’m being serious, though. I started my day with 507 things to do and I was excited to get to work. This was a complete 180 from my attitude before Spring Break. I really think I was stuck in such a funk! I like to think that I am a person who is very aware. I am aware of other people and their feelings and what is going on. I am also aware of what is happening with me. This is not to say that I’m super emotional all the time, but if something isn’t right, usually I can figure out what it is.

So this funk that I’m speaking of…maybe it was the weight of the beginning of the semester. Maybe it was the weather. I really have no idea what it was! But I knew that there was something in me that was making me feel stressed all of the time and that’s why I couldn’t wait to relax on the couch at the end of the day (or mid-afternoon…or whenever there was time…). Just getting through the day didn’t sound like a way that I wanted to live my life…so I tried to figure out what was making me feel so stressed out. Yes, I had to go to work…yes, I had to go to class…yes, I had homework…but I was still doing things I enjoyed like working out and spending time with friends, so what was the problem?

I’m still not sure if I know, but Lent was approaching and social media was buzzing with what everyone was giving up. It took me a few days, but I finally realized that I wanted to disconnect from social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram because those are the two platforms I use the most. I decided I would continue posting to my Pursuit of Healthiness pages on both Facebook and Instagram, but I was going silent on my personal accounts and there was going to be no scrolling. Why do we spend so much time scrolling? And why did I think this was going to make me so much happier?

The impact that social media has on me is something that I have thought about before. This fall, I realized I was waking up in the morning and immediately reaching for my phone. Granted, I don’t have a clock in my room (I know, could I be any more tech-dependent??), so I do need to know what time it is when I wake up, especially if my alarm is not set. However, I was looking to see what time it was and then checking my messages. That’s fine. Keeping up with my family. I live out of state. That is necessary. But then I was checking Facebook. And Instagram. And Twitter. At which point I would scroll and scroll and scroll. Social media is not the national news. I do not need to know what people are doing at 7 o’clock in the morning. And this seriously delayed the waking up process. I decided I didn’t want to start my day with social media. It is not that important. Enter quiet time. My journal, my Bible, and a daily devotional (Jesus Calling) is on my night stand and THAT is what I spend time doing when I wake up now. That has been going well. But let’s get back to scrolling…

That’s where the problem is. Do I enjoy keeping up with my friends and family and all the other people I follow? Yes, I really do, and I like to post things myself, but there was a part of me that realized scrolling through other people’s lives was not only wasting a great deal of time, it was also making me feel bad about myself. It’s not that we shouldn’t be happy for our friends when we see them post something cool or exciting, but even if you are happy for them, there might still be a little part of you that’s playing the comparison game. I was definitely playing the comparison game with social media. Even if I had the cutest outfit, best workout, heard the most meaningful church sermon, went to the best brunch with friends…I looked at what other people were posting and somehow felt like my day didn’t nearly measure up to theirs.

That is just wrong, my friends.

There’s this stigma surrounding social media that you CAN’T miss out on the most recent posts or you are left out of the loop. If I gave up social media, would I lose touch with everyone I know? Instead of feeling overwhelmed by what everyone else was doing, would I feel overwhelmed and left out?

No. No, I would not.

I would still talk to the people who are important to me. I would look out the window on the bus instead of looking down at my phone. I would make conversation in the elevator (do you find that annoying? Sorry. I became that person!). I would read more books. I would get assignments done days ahead of time instead of the night before. I would blog more. I would make more plans with friends. I would take interest in people…by actually TALKING to them…because I didn’t know what had already happened in their day. And I would notice that the world is actually kind of quiet because even though I wasn’t on my phone…everyone else still was.

The Lenten season has not ended yet but I feel so much happier with myself at this point that I have kind of broken my social media streak of quiet. It started with my baby brother’s birthday…posting my daily meals or workouts is not important but HE IS! If you think about it, we are sharing the best parts of ourselves when we post on social media. We make our lives look all shiny and pretty. But even when we try to “keep it real” and we talk about the fight we had with our mom (please don’t share that with the world) or the endless traffic on the highway, aren’t we still looking for some kind of validation? We want someone to tell us our day isn’t nearly as horrible as it could be, that it will all be okay.

I think I knew all of these things before I went on hiatus, but I seriously needed to hit refresh. I don’t feel like I NEED to see what is going on anymore. I am also more aware of what I am sharing and how I interact with people on social media. I want to share things that are encouraging or interesting. I don’t want to brag or make someone feel like they aren’t good enough. It’s strange how constant contact made me feel stressed and less than…you would think it would be the opposite. That seeing and knowing what was happening would help be feel connected. And I guess in a way, I was connected to others…but I was really disconnected from ME. It’s okay to be selfish about yourself sometimes. I am in a season of life where I feel very selfish because I am working, still in school, living on my own in a new place…I don’t have to answer to anyone. It’s all about me. But really, sometimes it needs to be all about you. Don’t lose yourself in what others are doing because they can’t validate your feelings and you don’t need them to. YOU need to validate YOU. You need to build yourself up. You need to make yourself whole.

Monday Musings

So, my weekend looked something like this:

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Photo Credit: Angela Fu

UMD hosted the Southeast Collegiate Fitness Expo from Friday to Sunday and to say I had no idea what I was in for is definitely an understatement! I was required to go because I work at the gym, but once I saw the schedule of events, I knew that I would want to be there! What could be better than a gym full of other fitness instructors who love working out and nutrition as much as me?! I have decided that being around like-minded people is the best. 🙂

Saturday morning started off with an equipment-less bootcamp style workout led by Abbie Appel, a master trainer from Florida! Unfortunately, she didn’t bring the warm weather with her, but that room was full. of. sweat. We did a 40 minute workout: 8 minutes of work…a different exercise every minute…and then took a quick rest period. The class flew by and it was a perfect kick off for the events to follow on Saturday!

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She’s so cool she even took a selfie with us. 😉

After boot camp, I was famished because I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and I had ten minutes to hydrate, feed myself, and get to my next destination: Piloxing. Pilates + Boxing = Piloxing. And sweat. And fun. This trainer works in the D.C. area which is amazing because that means I can go to the class again sometime soon! I tried a bunch of different workouts on Saturday and ended the day in a seminar about social media…one, because it sounded cool, and two, because I just wanted to sit down!

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My mom sent me a care package last week and sent me all kinds of protein bars that sound like peanut butter and jelly. This bar was amazing and the perfect snack for my busy day. Why did she only send one?! Saturday night, we all had to find our second wind because there was a social at the UMD Golf Course. I really wanted nothing more than Netflix and pajamas, but it was so fun to see my co-workers all dressed up in “normal” clothes! We made sundaes at an ice cream bar with different flavors from The Dairy and danced the night away with what little energy we had left! Sunday started off bright and early with hip hop yoga…hip hop music playing in the background while we stretched and relaxed and restored our bodies from all the festivities of the weekend! I attended three seminars: one about personal branding, one about running, and one about body image. I took so many notes (#nerdalert) and left so excited about being a fitness instructor! There is just so much goodness about this job. What was left of Sunday looked like this…anything that required laying down, even homework, sounded great to me!

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During the weekend, there were certain seminars that we were assigned to monitor. Luckily, I monitored a session I wanted to go to! It talked about “fitspo” and how what we see on social media really affects how we think about our bodies, our exercise, our nutrition, and in turn, our happiness with ourselves. On Instagram, we are bombarded with images, but I feel like many of those are positive. My newsfeed is typically posts of people pre- or post-workout with an inspirational quote thrown in. However, there are so many “inspirational” pictures floating around the Internet that aren’t actually inspirational at all…they’re just degrading. That was not really something I had thought about before. I decided to look at my Pinterest workout board and see what kind of images I have been pinning:

I found six that made me shake my head. Three of them were shirtless images of Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, and Channing Tatum. I have no idea what that was supposed to represent for my workout life. Clearly, I am not a man;) But that kind of shows how men who aren’t celebrities might feel pressure to look a certain way.  Anyway, I have shared the other three here, but if you click on my Pinterest board, they’ve all been deleted.

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I feel like the body types represented here suggest that we should all be this thin. If you are a naturally thin person, there is nothing wrong with that. What I am saying is that you should not strive to push your body to an extreme that it cannot handle. I don’t have experience testing the jumping jack theory suggested on the left, but it seems kind of unrealistic to me. I do like the advice on the right…we can wish for whatever we want, but we are in control of our health, and that requires doing something to change your situation. Just like anything else in life. However, no one looks at that picture and gets all deep and thoughtful about the quote. When we remember that quote, we associate it with that picture. And really, I do not wear my sports bra to work out, so that picture just makes me feel bad about myself. I am proud of that girl for being so fit, though. 🙂

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If you clicked on this image on Pinterest, it took you to a page that told you how to get a nice butt. But honestly. I would rather see a photo with the actual exercises than these girl’s behinds. The bad thing about these images floating around is that even if we scroll right past them, we still think about them. Images are powerful and they can affect your thoughts. That is crazy to me. We need to change the norm so that we are surrounded by good thoughts and images!

Here…this motivates me to work! This is a great example of an image that is effective. We can’t play the comparison game because there are no butts to look at;) And it gives you steps to take the action you need to be a healthier, happier you.

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Another good example. Good message and an almost fully clothed girl;)

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Things that we say or read are powerful too. Luckily, most of the quotes I have pinned are about being a happier person. I was glad to see that after thinking about this topic. Here’s a quote that is everywhere in the media –> “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I would like to disprove this theory by asking you to think about all your favorite treats. Queso, peanut butter straight from the jar, and cookies are pretty tasty, too;)

You should use images and quotes and social media and whatever else you have to motivate yourself to be healthier. I am 100% supportive of that. I am just thinking that we need to do this healthy thing for us. It’s not even just about looks…you may compare yourself in other ways. Someone lifts heavier than you. Someone runs faster than you. Someone can do a crazy inversion at yoga. We just have to know that we are doing the best we can and that truly, we will only ever look like, run like, lift like, eat like, be like…ourselves. And occasionally, we don’t favor our own self. We want to be beasts;) So we need to practice using those thoughts constructively.

I have worked really hard to change my mindset. I want to focus on what my body can do rather than play the comparison game. I can run long distances, I can lift dumbbells that are heavier than they were at this time last year, and I can correctly do down dog in Yoga and PiYo classes. Do I wish that I looked a little different? Sometimes, but we all have goals. Your health is your life, not a short term goal. So at this point, my jeans still fit. I bought a bikini on Friday. And I really like dessert. I just have to be happy with the body I have and make those changes in a healthy way. When I have those days of feeling bad about myself, I hope that I still share positive thoughts and images with others. There was a time when I didn’t like how I looked and I thought that restricting what I ate and working out excessively would help me change my body. Both of those things did help me change my body, but I was also tired, craving sugar, and unhappy. There’s a part of being healthy that requires being happy. And being healthy doesn’t mean being skinny. I learned this. It’s a trifecta of working out, eating healthy foods, and being freaking happy.

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I challenge you to look at the images and social media accounts that you find inspiring. What is so inspiring about them? They should make you want to be a better person in all aspects of your life.

Happy Monday. 🙂

Special thanks to Alicia for leading such a thoughtful session!