We're All Searching for Connection
In the last six months or so I’ve become fascinated with lifestyle vlogs on YouTube and Facebook. These folks - usually women, I’ve noticed - are the updated mavens of style, health, beauty and a happy home. They are Martha Stewart for a new generation. I love them.
Most of them have built mini-media empires, using the magical accessibility of the internet and brilliant algorithms of social media to connect to people who want what they have. I have much to learn from them. Their specialties are a little different, but they’re all variations on a theme: how to live your best life. I unequivocally support this goal! After all, it’s why I became a therapist, why I started this blog, why I’m pursuing my professional endeavors. Trying to understand these “social media influencers” led me down a rabbit hole, though. I found this helpful Forbes article on what a social media influencer is, but I started to feel really uncomfortable as I investigated further. As I read more about this new “expert” in our culture, I began feeling the tug of something deeper and more complicated.
Now mind you, there is nothing wrong with any of these vlogs/websites/people. They’re having a good time, they’re sharing their experiences - it’s fun! They’re entertaining! But in reading the comments sections, I noticed how much striving and yearning is going on, and how many people denigrate themselves for NOT being like these “influencers.”
In the most globally interconnected time in human history, where the internet makes a huge portion of the planet’s population accessible to us, we’re desperate for intimacy. We’re riddled with self-doubt, loneliness, jealousy, anxiety, depression… In short, we have Keeping-Up-With-The-Joneses Syndrome. I’m seeing this KUWTJ Syndrome not just in the comments sections of YouTube and Facebook, but across social media and the internet, and it’s spilling over into our real lives. Rates of depression and anxiety are on the rise among teens and adults. A simple search can produce lots of reference material on this. These infographics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness are well-researched and very interesting, for example. Americans, in general, are less and less happy. (The World Happiness Report is a fascinating read - you can even download it so you don’t have to read it online. ;-) )
So how do we combat this epidemic of disconnected connectedness?
-Take a social media break. Limit how much time you spend on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Set a timer if you need to.
-Strive to eat at least one meal a day with friends and/or family. Put your phones away, look at each other, talk, chew, swallow. Repeat.
If you find you’re comparing yourself to someone online, remember that we tend to put our best life on the internet, but our real life is a lot more messy.
Spend time in nature. Go for a walk, grow plants in the dirt, sit in the grass, play Frisbee in the park… Just get out there! There’s so much research on this, I should do a whole post on it. Stay tuned for that.
Volunteer. It is good for the soul to be needed, and there are no shortage of people and animals who need YOU, specifically. Pick a favorite cause and offer up your time and talents.
Get to know your neighbors. It can feel weird to put yourself out there, but even if all you do is smile and wave over collecting the mail, you have made real human contact.
If you feel like these things aren’t working, or you just can’t do it on your own, please call a qualified mental health professional. Sometimes, people just need a little tune-up to be their best.
Go forth and grow well, friends. I will happily sacrifice page-views if it means you are out in the real world, making real connections.
Curious about some of my current fave vloggers? Read on…
https://downshiftology.com/ with Lisa Bryan. She has good energy, and is very encouraging about sensible, healthy eating. Plus her house looks like a spa.
https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/ with Jill. City couple moves to the country to be modern “homesteaders” and have many adventures. She’s kinda nerdy - I’m down with that. I’m not a fan of her devotion to multi-level marketing essential oil products, but none of us is perfect.
https://jugglingthejenkins.com/ with Tiffany Jenkins. LOVE HER! She is very real, very approachable, and she’s talking about addiction in a way that people need to hear.
https://brenebrown.com/ Brene Brown is not a vlogger, but if you’re going to spend time on the internet looking for inspiration, this is the place to go. She’s a researcher, professor, author, and recent Netflix star. Her work is fantastic, and I highly recommend her books, and her Netflix special.