Social media has been part of my daily life since 2007. Next year will be ten years since I joined Facebook. My Instagram and Twitter accounts started a few years later. While I wasn’t first cab off the rank, I’d say I was an early adopter. I wanted in. I wanted to be part of the conversation. It started by hooking up with friends on Facebook who lived on the other side of the world to me and has now resulted in me having conversations with people I’ve never met who enjoy my writing or who simply want to have a chat to me about something we have in common. I love it. I mean… I FUCKING LOVE IT! That’s humanity. Connecting with fellow humans about shit that concerns us. Stuff that we’re equally passionate about. Stuff we want to change about the world we live in.
What I don’t love. And what I simply don’t understand is the trolling and the haters. Why oh why follow and engage with social media accounts that you clearly don’t enjoy or disagree with. I’m not talking about healthy debate because I absolutely believe that there should be space for people to discuss opposing views in our world. Embracing difference makes us good humans. No, what I’m talking about are the people that feel the need to bring others down. People that feel the need to hijack conversations and incite debate about content they ostensibly know NOTHING about. Mostly they hide under pseudonyms and behind their keyboards dishing out advice and judgement.
I make conscious decisions about the accounts I follow, what posts I comment on and how I engage with my social media life. For example, I don’t follow any Kardashian-esque type people. I have zero interest in their view on the world. The products they promote. The relationships they’re in or what they call ‘normal’. Lifestyle and social commentary from people that live with privilege adds no value to my own life so I just don’t engage.
I didn’t engage with anything American politics (until I fucking had to, November 9 was a dark, dark day that required lots of wine) and I don’t follow right wing politicians because I’d rather spend my time and energy learning and debating things I understand or can at least empathise with. I cannot empathise with people who are intolerant of peoples right to choose how they live, who they love, who they worship, how they die, or how they raise their child.
The media and our consumption of it plays such a big part in our lives that often times we are unaware of exactly how much it influences our version of normal. It’s so easy to assume a level of authority when we read something in the press, hear something in the news or see a photo with a good filter on Instagram.
We’ve always had the mainstream media and their so-called ‘professional’ judgement but over the past decade this voice has become amplified by the cacophony of keyboard judges from all over the world. People who have little experience and even less empathy now pass judgment on what they see on social media. Worse, these people set trends and make a living by dictating what is cool, what is acceptable and what should make you happy. Making us feel that anything less is simply a lesser life
I call bullshit. This is not reality.
We see smiley happy people on social media all the time.
Photos can be deceiving. Of course we smile for the camera! That’s what we do. That’s what we’ve been taught to do since we were kids (tell me you don’t make your kids pose every single day for a quick selfie?).
I met a friend yesterday who I hadn’t seen in years. I’d been keeping up with her life through her great Facebook updates that told me she’s been travelling a lot, having a wildly successful career and her child is a happy growing cherub. When we met up I learned that her Facebook posts were her way of staying sane and putting on a brave face in what had turned out to be the worst year of her life. I get that. I think it’s definitely OK to put your best foot forward and help heal any hurt by painting the picture you want, instead of sharing every nuance of the rough times with people who you don’t see that often (I love my Facebook friends, but I actually only get to hug a handful of them every year!).
So, with my friend’s story in mind, I ask why do we continue to compare ourselves to others by what we see on social media? Why do we benchmark our lives, our happiness and our weight loss goals on the lives of others?
The ideal weight is not that which you see on the Instagram account of a bright 20 something model. It’s not the size 10 off the shelf at your favourite clothing store. It’s not the newsreader with professional hair and makeup applied daily. Hell, it’s not even what the BMI indicator tells you.
Your ideal weight is the weight that makes you spring out of bed in the morning because you’ve had a restful night’s sleep. It’s the weight that sees you making good food choices most of the time. It’s the weight that makes you spread kindness and inspire tolerance with all that you meet because you have patience, understanding and a good heart. It’s the weight that makes you achieve your life goals – whatever they are. It’s the weight that helps you travel the world. Raise your kids. Get that new job. Learn a new skill. It’s the weight that allows you to do absolutely nothing and be happy and confident in that choice. It’s the weight that lifts the burden of a society norm and empowers you to say ‘fuck that, I’m doing it my way’.
Your ideal weight is yours and yours alone. Noone can understand what it feels like to be you. Losing ten kilos may make the same difference to one person as gaining 10 kilos does to another.
When it comes to fitness and weight loss, the ideal weight is not something that you can see. It’s something that you feel. And that’s something you’ll never get from a photo on Facebook.