Tag Archives: Social Media

Self Care In A Pandemic (40): Be Inspired, But Don’t Compare…

In the UK, there are a couple of well known insurance companies with catchy ‘theme tunes’ (or ‘jingles’ if you use Americanised English) as part of their adverts.

One is called ‘Go Compare’ with a caricatured opera singer singing ‘Go Compare, Go Compare…!’ Some might find it a little annoying, but it certainly sticks in the mind, and as far as advertising is concerned, I suppose that’s the point – to be memorable, and to ‘stick’.

Another cute advert that you might be aware of is one with animated / toy Meerkats that deliver the lines. Their slogan lets us know that it’s not ‘Compare the Meerkat’ but ‘Compare the Market dot com’ in an Eastern European accent. Almost everyone over here will know these characters because they’ve become so memorable. I even know that the original Compare the Market meerkat is called Sergei! Another is Oleg, the baby meerkat. They offer discounts, cinema vouchers and added extras as part of their low cost insurance. Let me just say that I’m not sponsored by anyone, but it just proves my point that these things can be catchy and stick with us.

Our culture teaches us to compare:

So what does that have to do with anything, and with self care in the pandemic in particular? I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that our culture, particularly western culture or cultures that use a lot of advertising and / or social media encourage us to compare our lives with others or with a ‘dream like’ life.

We are prompted to compare our skin with the skin of airbrushed models so that we will buy that next beauty product that will make us more like the ‘ideal’. We are compelled to compare our bodies, our lifestyles, our health and fitness, our belongings with other people’s and to fill up that ‘lack’ in our lives by buying that next product or paying money to make our lives better in some way.

Sometimes we are prompted to compare our lives with those who are poor or suffering in some way so that we will realise just how much we have, how much they need, and give towards fulfilling the need of others through charitable acts. Such comparison can be good, when we are giving towards causes that are just and fair and above board and that actually do help other people. While comparison can be ‘the thief of joy’, it can also be a humbling force that causes us to be more grateful and to give to other people out of love, duty or kindness, and in that case it can help us to live more thankful and giving lives.

Aside from the world of advertising, social media also can be a source of comparison with our peers. This can prompt a variety of reactions within us if we are part of those worlds. I imagine that people who constantly scroll through social media may do so to keep in touch with others, but they may also find ways to celebrate their friends blessings and achievements. However, as the news stories often highlight, there is a darker side to this psychologically. I’ve read quotes that say that the pictures other people share of their lives are often the ‘highlight reels’ of what is going on with them. We may never know that, but what we do know is that studies show that constant comparison can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and wellbeing.

Is this something you need to think about in the pandemic when issues such as loneliness, poor health, illness and low self esteem may be more at the fore than usual? Do you need to take a step back?

Of course we don’t need to be part of the worlds of social media to experience the comparison trap. We might experience it through the updates of a friend through text, email, letter or face to face. Even though we are separated by the pandemic restrictions, we are in many ways more ‘connected’ than ever. We need to forge out mutually healthy and beneficial connections, but this is not always the case when people are part of worlds when they gain insight into the lives of people they are not necessarily close to.

It is good when we face comparison to take a step back and be grateful for what we have, for our own lives, and to seek to be inspired. Comparison isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s what we do with it that matters and how we process our thoughts, emotions and reactions.

There is a verse in the Bible that says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”. What a verse to hold to in 2020 and going forwards, with so many ups and downs and contrasts! Christianity prompts us to lift our eyes away from ourselves to Jesus Christ and to love and serve Him and other people.

If you are struggling with the comparison trap, know that you are human, everyone experiences it to some extent, and don’t beat yourself up for it. Perhaps you need to take a step back, work on a change of attitude, or think about whether something is ‘triggering you’.

I don’t experience much of this on Word Press blogging. Actually, until recently I have enjoyed the variety of things coming up in my news feed on the bloggosphere. Unfortunately, however, I felt the need to unfollow someone whose blog I enjoyed reading because of the contrast that wasn’t good for my mental health – something good is happening in their life and while I don’t personally know them, I am pleased for them from a distance. But at the same time, it feels like they are sharing a lot about this good thing and it is in a way a stumbling block for me, and so to protect my mental health I’ve had to consider not seeing those posts so much. I can choose to go to their blog and read it when I like, but I’ve also chosen not to have those posts randomly pop up in my feed when I’m not mentally ready to see them, because the contrasts are difficult for me. That’s ok. We all need to consider each other, but sometimes we’re not so good at doing that, so we learn as we grow.

I try to write posts that will encourage all of you, but please do let me know if there is anything that you find challenging or want me to consider in how I can better support you through my writing.

In the meantime, remember that your life is unique, beautiful, one of a kind and incomparable. As you live it, seek to uplift other people and don’t let your successes cause anyone else to stumble as far as you are able or it is in your power to do so.

Your life is precious. Live it well. Today. Be blessed. x

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Know your online ‘triggers’…

One of the things I realise that I love about Word Press, and this ‘blog life’ is that I very rarely feel any kind of fear or anxiety when logging in. And because a lot of online fear and anxiety is caused by unkind words of other people, I’d like to commend each and every one of you for your positive influence on the internet. I have never encountered another blogger who has tried to cut someone else down or cause harm or offence. We all have this open platform to share, and I can with real gratitude say that I am part of a community of bloggers who are encouraging, inspiring, motivated, helpful, understanding and positive. Whether or not you or I feel good, we seek to use our blogs as platforms for something good, wholesome, creative, informative and expressive. What a blessing and privilege to be part of this! 🙂

However, more and more on other platforms (which I don’t use), people experience all kinds of negativity, and as such it is important to be aware of and know your online triggers and to safeguard yourselves from these, as well as gaining understanding so that we can safeguard the younger generations coming after us.

Children born in this generation are born into an online world. Of course, not everyone in every part of the world has access to the internet, yet for the most part children in relatively affluent countries do, and they have never known anything different. They perhaps lack the perspective of young people and adults who have either grown up with lesser exposure to the online world, or experienced the internet as a ‘new’ invention, or for those older still have been part of a time before the internet (yes, hard to believe, lol! 🙂 ). I’m part of the generation growing up with less exposure to the internet (I remember dial-up modems 😉 ), and I am grateful that in my young childhood I either had my head in books, in imagining adventures, or I was outside playing and making things with my friends. I have perspective.

I was bullied and I also know how harmful and long-lasting the scars and pain and damage from other people’s cruelty can be, well into adult life. However, I was never exposed to anything like young people (and adults) experience nowadays online.

Lately, news stories and discussions have been affecting me, ‘triggering’ me as it were, so I have decided to be more mindful of my boundaries and what I choose to be exposed to. I have also been learning more about what the younger generation faces when it comes to ‘trolling’. Unlike when I was bullied, an incident may have replayed again and again in my mind or among a small number of people, now the situation is that bullying and ‘trolling’ can be replayed again and again for example in online videos, memes, photos etc. which can be viewed by millions of people. How hard must that be when someone’s open shame of being cruelly treated is ‘permanently’ on show for a whole online world to see!

This is heart-breaking, and without writing anything specific that could be triggering to any of my readers, can lead to great tragedy. This is why it is so important for us as adults to become more well informed, to know how to set boundaries for ourselves, and to teach our children and young people in our lives how to handle life in an online world so that their experiences will be uplifting and positive and so that they can discern the truth from lies. I as an adult am still unpicking my way through the bullying of my childhood, but I knew the people who were being cruel to me, and by God’s love, grace and forgiveness, I have forgiven them, whether or not they ever realised how much damage they caused. However, today people, thousands of people can anonymously use their words like knives as they sit behind a computer screen and attack other people through their keyboards (thinking that it is somehow their ‘right’ or that because they are not face to face it somehow won’t cause as much harm – I honestly don’t know or understand the mentality of such cruelty at all) – complete strangers, and this can be devastating.

I used to think as a child, everyone is saying these mean things about me so they must be true, and it really messed me up psychologically, but as an adult I am reasoning out these lies and realising that I’m not the only one. The world is full of cruel people and no one deserves to be treated that way. We all need so much grace and forgiveness. For children nowadays, the ‘everyone’ may really seem like every one in the world is against them because of the sheer multitude of people who can comment or hurt a person with their words online. We all know this needs to stop, but what about navigating our course and helping others do likewise?

If I can summarise what I’d like you to takeaway from this post it is to know this: you, yes you, are truly valuable, unique, loved, one of a kind, and so very important. Keep being kind and encouraging others to do so. Thank you for being part of this online community that is supportive and encouraging. Know your ‘triggers’, whether this is in the articles you read, watch or listen to on the news, or whether it is more personal things that you are exposed to if you have other online accounts where people are unkind. Find ways to manage your exposure, and grow strong in your mind to know that the unkind words have no place in your life and do not reflect your true identity. And as you grow stronger and wiser seek to be a voice and an advocate and a mentor for the younger generation who are exposed to so much ‘flippant’ and careless negativity and cruelty online. You really are special and you truly make a difference, so keep holding high the banner of Kindness, and you will be blessed in return. With love and peace to you all. xoxox

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Are you Liked?

Social media has changed things. For those of us who are young(ish) adults, we may remember a time before the Internet (yes, younglings….there really was such a time! and no, I’m not old 🙂 ), the transition to when the Internet first came to be, and our first intrepid steps into this new world of knowledge at our fingertips. Yes, sometimes that knowledge would be a bit slow to load up on our computer screens, we had dial up modem connections and we also had a bit more patience. These were the days when our first instincts when presented with a school or university paper to write were still to go to the ‘LIBRARY’ (yes, the kind of library with books made of *actual* paper 😉 ) to do our research, and perhaps venture into the strange and novel ‘World Wide Web’ to supplement our findings.

Put in perspective of the length of human history, it is fair to say that the Internet is actually quite a new creation, and hasn’t actually been around for that long. And yet, nowadays, it seems like babies are weaned on the milk of electronic gadgets and gizmos that are rapidly changing and developing, and many school aged children, even very young children, cannot imagine a world, or their lives, without the Internet, and have never experienced such a world.

So although as adults, those of us who were growing up just as the strange language of this mysterious ‘Web’ began to enter our parlance, or who were already ‘fully fledged adults’ as it were, had passed through those fiery adolescent years of wondering if anyone liked us after all, we are still faced with this nervous desire to know whether we are ‘liked’ every time we connect to the web. Or at least, most of us are.

Social media has changed things. In many parts of the world it is absolutely and irreversibly the norm. We no longer see the Internet primarily as a tool to gain knowledge or to supplement education and learning, but as a multifaceted, ubiquitous, all things to all people, source of input, entertainment, news, gossip, stories, celebrities, fact, ‘fake news’, colours, noise, opinions, ideas, creations, inventions, innovations, trends, popularity contests and the seemingly endless list goes on and on and is daily reinvented.

Perhaps those of us who blog seek a quieter and more reflective online space, that the more fast paced social media tools that we may also use such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (and there my knowledge of such things ends 😉 ) would grant us.

But nonetheless, even the more reflective world of blogging shares the common feature of the ‘like’ facility.

How many of us log in to our Word Press accounts and immediately look at that little bell at the top right of the screen to see whether it has a little red or orange marker to indicate that someone has ‘liked’ or appreciated our content? You can be honest with yourself here.

It is a fascinating little ‘button’ that often makes me smile when I click on it, mainly because it makes me feel more connected to you. I realise that on the other side of this computer screen are real people, with fascinating stories, unique lives and thoughts, who have taken the time to acknowledge and appreciate mine. That is really something special, I think. And truly, the Internet can be a wonderful place, with some truly special people in it.

However, sometimes I wonder whether there is something about that ‘like button’ that triggers an instinct in ourselves to evaluate who we are, our value, and the value of what we have to say by how many ‘likes’ we receive. If we pour our heart and soul into writing something meaningful to us, and it is not noticeably acknowledged, does this in turn impact our self-esteem, even on a subconscious level?

Don’t get me wrong, I think ‘likes’ are wonderful. I genuinely like ‘likes’, and feel more connected with other people online because of them. However, if we find that our attention is unduly drawn towards whether something we have shared on our blogs has been liked or not, if we feel our heart sink if it hasn’t, and if we feel a glimmer of old feelings from childhood and teenage years when our likeability by our peers seemed to be a direct evaluation of our perceived worth, then perhaps it is time to take a step back.

I know that sinking feeling. And I know it has deeper roots than anything Internet related. As a child I was badly bullied for a few years, and I was worthless. I didn’t just feel worthless, but my existence was consumed by this rejection, the not measuring up, not being liked or being actively disliked, of being undesirable, outcast, rejected, neglected, unworthy, broken, hurting, isolated, ignored, overlooked, despised and alone. My broken heart and wounded mind is still being repaired and undergoing a process of transformation. No child, or adult for that matter, deserves to feel that way. And the more I think about it, the more I realise I feel passionately about encouraging other people, as well as myself, to know that although it is lovely, and a natural human desire, to be appreciated, our worth as individuals, as members of this community, and the worth of what we have to say and to share cannot be diminished by the lack of a ‘like’.

You *are* a star irrespective of whether anyone has pressed that star to like your post. You are unique, incredible and fascinating, with stories that no one but you can tell, and a world within a world of thoughts, imagination, hopes, dreams, fears and love. You can change things in everyday small quiet ways and even that in its own way is revolutionary. You are important because you are you. This is our humanity. And sometimes, as wonderful as the Internet is, the online world can rob us of that assurance. We are faced with numbers, targets, statistics, comparisons, and we are encouraged, especially by advertisers to never feel quite good enough – the next achievement, or makeover or purchase will add value to our damaged, inadequate selves.

And yet, despite our brokenness, our mistakes, our evaluations of self and others, we are infinite. And we are important. And even if we are not ‘liked’, we are created for a reason, and we are LOVED.