So I’m on my flight back from Scotland yesterday, my laptop is on the tray table and I’m looking back and realising it’s been 3 years since I started blogging. I thought – what’s interesting about this? What do people want to read about? What really shouts at me a topic ripe for discussion?
I’ve gone through some amazing highs and of course crazy lows throughout my short blogging career. And sometimes I stop and do a bit of thinking and Googling to try and understand why. There’s a lot of research that clarifies how happiness (and of course unhappiness) is linked to social media. The reason why we all check social media is because it feels good. When someone likes, comments or somehow validates what we’ve expressed, a feel-good chemical in your brain (dopamine) gets released and it makes us feel happy and satisfied – “Yay, I got a like!” On the other hand, social media can also cause so much anxiety – feelings of dissatisfaction, underachievement, distorted perceptions of how others are living and enjoying themselves, and so on.
I get messages from my blogger friends who are doing an amazing job on their blog and social media platforms, but they’re telling me how bad things are and they are having anxiety about it. I look at their accounts and I only see amazing content and gorgeous photos with thousands of likes, but still it’s not good enough. These are big bloggers with huge followings and loads of likes and comments. This makes me wonder, when is it going to be good enough? Are we ever going to be good enough?
Once upon a time, if you asked me how to grow your Instagram, I could rattle off a list of bullet points of how you can do it and it would have worked a treat. Almost like in the old days of SEO where you could trick the internet into making your webpages seem more relevant and important to the world than they really were.
But now, after all of Instagram’s algorithm changes, I honestly couldn’t tell you what to do. I’m subtly trying different things and different strategies and I don’t really know whether any of it works – sometimes it seems to, but maybe that’s just coincidence. Instagram is out of your control. You can’t control it because, unlike a blog or an online shop, you can’t own it. One day I might get a huge amount of likes and on other days it feels like the world just doesn’t notice me. Does this make me feel bad? Yes it does. I’m not going to pretend that I’m some super zen master. It makes me question my judgement, my creativity and how interesting I am as a person. But I asked myself, am I proud of what I put up? The answer is YES. I spend hours planning, shooting, editing to bring what you see on Miss Gunner. I am proud of my work as a creative. Instagram has pushed me to think outside the box. And in a world of platforms where mass popularity drives everything, I think it’s quite cool to avoid the big trends and seek out the niche audiences. It’s not as lucrative, but if I had to change my style to become viral, I’m not sure that I’d be overcome with feelings of contentment…
So here are seven things that help me stay happy, while living in a world of social media:
- Your success is not relative to that of others: There are so many amazing creators that I look up to. Their work is so beautiful and amazing. If I keep comparing my self to the biggest and best bloggers in the world, I would probably cry myself to sleep every night. But instead I observe their achievements and appreciate their work and see how hard they have worked for that photo or blog post, and it is something that I aspire to. Even if you become the Beyonce or Taylor Swift of social media, there will always be someone younger, cooler, and more popular rising through the ranks. So ask yourself, “Has my work improved from six months ago?” If the answer is yes, then that’s your measure of success.
- Enjoy the journey: When I decided that I wanted to go back to do my 2nd degree at 25 years old, most of my friends were getting married, buying their first house and I was basically broke and going back to university again. I would go straight to my IT job after uni and work until 9pm every night and I worked every weekend to save for rent, books and food. It was hard and I thought I would never be able to catch up to anyone. But I knew exactly what I wanted and I was going to work hard to get it. I put my head down and finished studying and I had so much fun along the way. I graduated and I worked in a job that I loved and paid me well. It allowed me to have the flexibility to start blogging as a hobby and now I’m blogging full time. I get to travel around the world for work and I don’t have to answer to anyone. I make all of life’s big decisions for myself. So all I’m saying is YOU are on your OWN journey, and you need to stop and look at your life everyday and make sure you’re enjoying the journey. Because if you’ve created some version of success based on other peoples’ journeys, you’ll have forgotten to focus on the little things that YOU enjoy along the way.
- You ARE enough: As hard as this may sound, it’s so true. We are our own harshest critics, but just make sure you see how far you have come. Stop and give yourself a pat on the back. I’ve learnt from meditating to just be grateful for the things that you have in your life and not focusing on the things you don’t have.
- Meditate: I only just started doing this properly 3 months ago, and it’s made a huge difference to my headspace. I’m so much calmer, more focused and my anxieties (while always ready to pop up) are under control. You can start with just 10 minutes a day, and work toward 20 mins in the morning, 20 mins in the evening. (You can thank me later! Hahaha.)
- Get out and exercise: Exercise releases dopamine! The same chemical that gets released when you use social media! Just as good as a bunch of likes and comments and you have complete control over it! And it’s obviously not just a mental benefit, it will keep you looking good and fit! Win win! I really love working out and I sleep so much better after I work out.
- Socialise with real friends: It’s amazing to connect with people on social media, but there’s nothing better than hanging out with your real friends. People that don’t care about getting a cute shot of you together at a cafe. People that just want to have a good laugh with you and people that really care about you. So make sure you nurture those relationships! They are the ones that will get you through life. (Not your Instagram life!) That friend that will get in their car to come and get you if you’re ever in trouble – let them know how much they matter to you.
- Switch off! Make sure you have some down time without social media. As much as I’m so grateful for doing this as a job, like any job I need to take a break from it. You can’t be working 24-7. When you feel anxious about it, just switch off and get out of the house without your phone.
Thank you so much for reading guys! I would love to know how you guys stay happy in the world of social media!? What do you do to remain focused on your own happiness and your individual journey? I would love to hear your thoughts!