Why Instagram Is Ruining Your Life
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If you were an alien looking at the Instagram news feed, you would have to conclude that most humans spend their lives in leisure traveling and smiling all day long. You assume that there were far more honeymoons and fights — far more moments of laughing so hard that you cry than an actual crying and far more successes than failures but none of that is true.
Our lives are not represented by the photos that we share. We are pretending and it comes at a dire cost. There’s been a lot said about the dangers of consuming social media. After all, the sites are designed to be more addictive than crack. The articles do little more than waste your time and the misrepresentation of how people live can lead to depression with the state of your own life but those are the easy criticisms.
The real danger of Instagram and other social media sites is not in what we consume but in what we create. Think of it this way — every time you post a photo you are contributing to the creation of a persona. Kind of like in a video game — you post a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower and your sophistication stat goes up, you delete a photo where you look bad and your beauty stat goes up, or you share a funny meme and your humor step goes up.
2:14 You’ll be more unhappy the more you care about those likes
2:43 You sacrifice your own experience to promote your identity
3:16 You outsource your happiness to the masses
3:38 Curating an identity stops you from investing in you
4:08 Curating an identity limits you
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If you were an alien, looking at the Instagram newsfeed, you would have to conclude that most humans spend their lives in leisure traveling and smiling all day long. You assume that there were far more honeymoons and fights — far more moments of laughing so hard that you cry than an actual crying and far more successes than failures but none of that is true. Our lives are not represented by the photos that we share. We are pretending and it comes at a dire cost. There's been a lot said about the dangers of consuming social media. After all, the sites are designed to be more addictive than crack. The articles do little more than waste your time and the misrepresentation of how people live can lead to depression with the state of your own life but those are the easy criticisms. The real danger of Instagram and other social media sites is not in what we consume but in what we create. Think of it this way — every time you post a photo you are contributing to the creation of a persona. Kind of like in a videogame — you post a photo in front of the Eiffel Tower and your sophistication stat goes up, you delete a photo where you look bad and your beauty stat goes up, or you share a funny meme and your humor step goes up. You'd choose these photos specifically because you want those stats to go up — you want that persona to be seen in a certain way. Everything that you leave out is also on purpose whether it's because it's embarrassing, boring, or not who you want that persona to be and all this is fine. Nothing is wrong with creating a persona — the problem arises when you get attached to that persona. When you look at your Instagram photos or your Facebook profile and you say, "That is me." At that point, the persona, the mask that you have decided to show people becomes your identity — you protect it. Every selfie needs to be pretty enough and every caption needs to be funny enough. With every single post you are saying, "This is who I am. Judge me," and that is when you doom yourself because that constructed identity isn't who you are. Sure, you're in that photo but that's not how you look all the time and sure, you did write that caption but you're probably not that clever all the time. Those moments are fragments of your life carefully selected to make you appear a certain way. They aren't the whole you. And so even though you crave the validation from the likes and the comments, they don't really make you happy. In fact, the more that you care about those likes, the more that I can guarantee you will be unhappy. Why? Well first off it takes a lot of energy to create and manage an identity. Think of all the photos that you ever taken and deleted — the time you spend filtering, editing, plus the work you put into getting dressed up knowing that you'll be seen later on Instagram. Think of the time spent crafting witty tweets and captions. You are trying to control how strangers perceive your reality when you do this and it is incredibly taxing. Second, you sacrifice your own experience to promote your identity. Last year, a girl I knew backpacked to Asia and after the first week, she was homesick and physically sick. She felt lonely and hated it but she continued for weeks more because she was afraid of what people would think if she left. She was afraid that they would think she was a failure. The whole time she posted smiling pictures on pristine beaches while people commented how lucky she was which only made her feel more stuck. We don't do the things we want to do because we care more about what other people think of us than what we think of ourselves. Third, you outsource your happiness to the masses. Have you ever been bummed that you didn't get enough likes on a photo? If so, you are literally outsourcing your happiness to a mob. That kind of dependence on the reactions of others, especially strangers, is a classic road to misery. You can spend your whole life trying to please a group of people that you barely even know. Fourth, curating an identity stops you from investing in you. Getting physically fit takes months of hard work and discipline. Choosing a flattering angle, adding a filter, and taking a photo in the gym takes about thirty seconds so it's no wonder that many people choose to work more on their persona than on themselves. It's always easier to change the persona. But when you focus on that, you don't get the benefit of actually being fit or of actually being happy. Your persona levels up while you stagnate. Fifth and lastly, curating an identity limits you. You've probably learned that you need to be a certain way on social media. For most people, that's smiley and happy — for others, that's whiny and outraged. Either way, you lock yourself into a fixed identity that dictates not only what you share but how you act. You forget that you always have a choice on how you want to behave. Now, let me make this clear — this isn't just limited to Instagram. This happens on Facebook, on Snapchat, Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, and, yes, for those of us posting videos, it's the same on Youtube. It happens offline as well in the way that we tell stories to build ourselves up — in the clothes and the cars we buy to brand ourselves. We create a persona and then sacrifice our lives in order to promote it. So, yes, I mean it when I say that Instagram might be ruining your life. The effort that you put into appearing a certain way wastes your time, influences your behavior, and makes you unhappy. And given the way the technology is going, there's nothing you can do about it. The end. Just kidding. But I have plenty of things that you can do to break this cycle and while quitting social media is an obvious and effective answer, it just doesn't solve the whole problem. We still have to break free of the desire to be seen and judged in a certain light. We need to learn to let our actions speak for themselves. Plus, Instagram and social media isn't all bad. More than once, I've met someone briefly who I eventually became very close with because of social media. I wouldn't want to give up those connections so how can you remove all that bad that we talked about while still retaining the good? First, start by limiting your consumption and the easiest way that you can do that is to avoid the feed. Whether we're talking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat — the feed is almost always designed for mindless consumption and I can, yes, include Youtube and Reddit in that list as well which are my sins. The homepage is just more trouble than it's worth and I tell you this at my own expense since the YouTube homepage is where I get most of my news from. So, here are some things that have worked for me. For Instagram and other apps where you follow people, follow high-volume posters that you don't care about. It just nukes your feed and trains you not to spend time there. For Facebook, the Facebook newsfeed Eradicator is the easiest and best fix which I will link to in the description. You can also delete these apps on your phone except that you're only going to log in from the computer which is oftentimes far more cumbersome and therefore you will do it less often. Then, bookmark specific subreddits, Youtube channel, Pinterest boards, whatever — to avoid entering those sites through the homepage and, very importantly — because I still cheat all of this — get Stayfocused or some similar app to block certain sites or at least limit your time. Second, coming back to the identity portion, for one month, stop posting. Stop telling stories that bolster your persona. No more recounting the supercool party that you went to or how you volunteered or how hard CrossFit was. Instead, pay attention to what you enjoy doing when you have no reason for doing it other than for the experience itself. Do you still enjoy the club when you don't get a geotag photo? Do you still go to CrossFit when no one immediately knows you went? This exercise actually showed me that I like vacations far less than I thought. So I stopped taking them and I felt happier plus I saved a bunch of money. Third, go do something really cool like skydiving or surfing or maybe something that you should do like volunteering or donating blood — something that reflects really well on you — and don't take a picture, don't post a status, don't even tell anyone. This is great practice in caring more about your experience and doing the right thing rather than the social validation that comes from it. Now, some of you might be in a position where you have non-identity boosting reasons to be involved with social media and I count myself in that group. I believe that these videos have a positive impact on others and I know that they have a positive impact on my finances. So if you've got reasons to be posting other than identity creation, how can you participate in the healthiest way? First off, don't lie to yourself. I know a lot of starting entrepreneurs who think that Facebook and Instagram are important to their business yet their customers come from other channels or business people who think that they should have a social presence yet do nothing to monetize it. If that's the case, those likes are not driving your business — they are driving your ego. So save yourself — get out now. The dopamine withdrawal will be hard but it's the only way to save your real life. And if you legitimately are a professional creator, you need to separate the audience reaction from your identity. Do you see this number? That's how many subscribers we have today on Youtube. And I thought that when this number was 100,000, I would be over the moon. Part of me thought that if we could just hit 100,000 subscribers, I would be emotionally set for life. We hit it, we got our Silver Play Button, and I swear my next thought was, "Man, when we get a million subscribers, that'll really make me happy." I hope you get the point that that number in your head that when you get it it'll be enough — that number will never make you happy. Whether that number is likes, subscribers, or even dollars, it is just an indicator of how many people have clicked a button. And, yes, it can be connected to income and, yes, it is connected to the amount of lives that you're impacting but that number is just a business metric — it's not a measure of your worth. Similarly, the comments aren't about you. They are sometimes about the work you've done and oftentimes about the person commenting so take them for feedback and then go back to creating things that move people without wondering what it says about you. I hope that this video helps you break the cycle of identity creation and preservation. Live your life first. Do the things that you want to do first. And if you want to take pictures of those things, go ahead. Just remember, your character emerges from what you do not from what you broadcast. If you like this video, click on the button on the screen to subscribe. If you do, you're going to get the best tips that we have for being your most charismatic and confidence self in the moments that count the most and this video is a bit of a departure but still focuses on a big scene that we cover which is self-esteem and how to build it in the right way. So if you want more every single week, click that button now. If you are regular subscriber, please let me know what you think of this style of content in the comments, not that it would be all the time, but I like these topics with a kind of philosophical bend and if you do too, there will be more coming. If not, well, we'll go back to what you guys like. Anyways, I hope that you have enjoyed this and I look forward to seeing you in the next video.