In a world of click-bait and marketing and advice-giving (because now everyone with an internet connection is an expert), this is the time of year we get inundated with end-of-year lists. The best of, the worst of, top 10s, top 50s, of last year. The ways to make next year the greatest ever – what to do, where to go, how to be. I wrote a long time ago about trying to separate myself a bit from those lists in general, not just at the time of the new year. I’ve been pretty good about not getting sucked into the life hacks and the articles that promise quick fixes. And yet – I find myself thinking about this topic again. It’s been on my mind lately, and then on Sunday I flipped the page of my running training journal only to find a section on comparison. Yesterday, I was going through the archives of a podcast I recently started following, and came across one discussing advice to new writers and how the only piece of advice that’s really important is, “whatever works for you.”
It’s hard to tap into that “whatever works for you” when the entire world is at our fingertips. We get so much input daily, that it’s hard to know where our own brains stop and the world begins. I wonder how much of this is a trigger for me. Does this constant source of material against which to compare myself make it harder for me to see myself, harder for me to make decisions, harder for me to know how I want my life to be?
I’m not so millennial that I’m thinking about it in terms of curating my life to produce beautiful photos on Instagram or the witty turns of phrase on Twitter. As I told a friend last week, I consciously know that the Instagram and Facebook lives I see are not a full picture of someone’s life. But does that conscious reasoning really save me from comparing? How much does this view into other people’s lives affect my own thinking and set me up for having an unrealistic idea of what my life “should” be?
Last week, J and I both deleted the Facebook app from our phones after a conversation about not using it mindfully and finding ourselves in a rabbit hole of comments and responses without remembering how we even got there. There were a couple of times last week we found ourselves wanting to show his mom a photo or each other a post and not being able to, but really, I haven’t missed it.
So why not just delete everything? Due to the universe’s sense of humor, these very triggers when I opt in are also triggering when I opt out. What if I miss something? What if people think I’m weird? I want to be informed. I want to be in touch with far-away friends. I want cute puppy pictures.
I don’t know what the answer is. I’m sure I could find a lot of advice about it. Delete everything, take a week/month hiatus, curate my feeds better, use more mindfully, lock apps at certain times of day… on and on. All I know is that in a time in my life I’m feeling disconnected from myself, I don’t want to replace my sense of self with everyone else’s lives and construct an unattainable life goal.
Perhaps as with any tool, it comes down to proper use. It comes down to identifying the foundational reason I use any of these tools, use them for that purpose, and put them down when I don’t need them. There’s that saying – if you have a hammer, everything becomes a nail. Perhaps we’re all carrying around hammers, hoping we find a nail, and perhaps coming across a nail every once in a while, but otherwise bashing the parts of ourselves that make it hard to connect with ourselves and on an intimate level with those around us.