The Social Media Mask
If you read my blog at all, you know that I don’t really hesitate to share my heart. Sometimes, it takes hours of spilling everything onto the keyboard in front of me, just to get it out there, then deleting and restarting. The writing I did previous to this post, I did not delete. I chose to post something different. I write with a lot of passion. Lately, I’ve been writing with anger and uncertainty. To keep a long story from being any longer, I will get straight to the point. I’ve been watching someone I love dearly destroy herself. I have also been seeing her hailed as an inspiration and hero on social media by those who don’t know what is truly going on. It has brought up a ton of emotions, but what I want to talk about in this post, many may not be in agreement with. The role of social media, particularly Instagram, when it comes to health, fitness, and recovery; has bothered me for quite some time. Social media has allowed us to connect to one another, but it has also allowed anyone to create whatever image of themselves they want. Not only that, but that image can easily be sold to the rest of the world. So, as someone in recovery, ona journey to health, or someone just browsing, how can you be aware of these factors and protect yourself?
Please, please, please remember that you simply cannot believe everything you see on social media. Remember there is a person behind the screen. A human being, who struggles and feels and messes up just like you do. The picture someone paints is not always an accurate representation of what is going on in their life. People LIE- ever consider that? What if that fitness inspiration behind the screen isn’t who they say they are? It is a very real possibility.
Hashtags generate followers. Seriously, try it. The next time you post a picture of food or some sort of physical activity, try using the following hashtags: fitfam, fitspo, fitnessinspiration, healthyliving, fitfood….I could go on. I can pretty much promise you using hashtags like that will get you more followers on a consistent basis. Why do I bring that up? Popularity. The more followers or likes a person has,, the “healthier” and “more right” they must be. If you listen to that guru, your life will change! Following those food recipes and adhering to those fitness routine suggestions will make you “healthier”. Add points if anything is gluten free, paleo, calorie-blasting, full of antioxidants, naturally sweetened, light, or fat-burning. Again, do you know the person behind the screen personally? I say that because I have literally watched people whose health I know is in danger post stuff like that and get a huge, supportive response. Healthy is the goal, right? Fitness is the destination!
Humans are attracted to tragedy. Sadly, I have often found that the more ill a person is, the more followers they have. We are compassionate beings, but we are also imperfect. We get attached to someone we don’t even know, and are compelled to watch their downward spiral. We love watching the drama unfold- it is our nature. It makes me sick to my stomach when I see photos of emaciated girls and women with hundreds and hundreds of “likes”. It shocks me when I see accounts openly showing self harm wounds with hundreds of “likes”. It saddens me to see people’s whose bio’s list their number of suicide attempts with thousands of followers. What do you like about that? What do you get from seeing those things? (Please note, I am NOT in any way saying these people don’t deserve attention, or support, or anything like that. I am simply expressing my concern with the glorification of suffering).
Be careful how you compliment someone you don’t even know. Again, because of the lying thing, but also, because labeling someone matters. Before you label a person as an inspiration, brave, strong, resilient…think about what those words mean. Not everyone who is healthy is strong. Not everyone who is fit is an inspiration. Not everyone who is miserable admits their struggles. What does being brave mean?
That question brings me to my next topic- bravery. It is all up to your interpretation, but I want to share with you mine.
Being brave is not pushing your body until it is broken, then pushing it some more.
Being brave is not avoiding criticism because it might tarnish your image.
Being brave is not hiding behind the lies of what you have created yourself to be on social media.
Being brave is not doing whatever you can to sell yourself to others.
Being brave is not continuing to hurt those who love you most because its easier.
Being brave is asking for help, and getting help.
Being brave is staying in what is scary and uncomfortable, because your life depends on it.
Being brave is showing people there are times when you don’t have your shit together. Many times, if we’re really being honest!
Being brave is listening to the people who love and support you even though they know your story and your true colors.
Being brave is being humble, and making changes to better yourself.
Being brave is giving yourself grace, but also not living like you are invincible.
Being brave is living your truth and being vulnerable. Because you’re human, and people need to be reminded that its ok to be human and messy.
According to ANAD (Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), at least 30 million people of all ages and genders in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. And, every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder; they have the highest mortality rate of ANY mental illness. Just 1/3 of those suffering will receive treatment.
If you’re someone in recovery, or not in recovery, realize that the way you show yourself to others makes a difference. If you can lose 15 pounds cleansing, can’t that 13 year old girl too? If you don’t listen to medical advice, and you say you’re healthy, then who should? If you can run marathons with fractures, can’t that young aspiring athlete push themselves a little further? If you label foods as good and bad, and people look up to you, then shouldn’t they restrict their diets too?
Educate yourself. Check yourself. You can’t believe everything you see on the internet, and you can’t spend all your time consumed by how it says to be “healthy.” There is more to life- it’s that simple. You are enough, just as you are. You do YOU. What is healthy, or unhealthy, for someone may not always apply to you. Health and happiness are not a “one size fits all” kind of deal.