Communicating Happiness: A Week Without Social Media

As a college senior, I do go out on the weekends with my friends; however, there are plenty of weekends where I choose to stay in–often curled up under the covers with Netflix on my screen and a mug of tea in my hands. Although I choose to spend my night like this, happily, I can never seem to avoid opening up Snapchat or Instagram and seeing friends and acquaintances having a “college” night out. This is at least what I did until I started my social media cleanse.

This past weekend made me remember what it was like before Snapchat–when I chose to do something with my life and didn’t worry about coming across a post shared by friends who must be having a better time than I am. This never really was the case though–others were never really having a better time because remember, I chose to stay in, or I chose to go home and spend time with my family. However, checking Snapchat was such an instinct to see what everyone else was up to, that I would disregard how it was impacting what I was up to.

For instance, this weekend I was able to be home to celebrate a late birthday dinner with my family. It was a Friday night, one where my closest friends were enjoying a night out at school. Without Snapchat, I had absolutely no idea what they were doing. What bar were they at? Were they having a good time? Was it more fun than we had the previous weekend?

These are all questions I could’ve had answered, or at least made assumptions of, had I been able to open up my Snapchat. And you know what this would have done? It would have distracted me from my mom, my grandma, my aunt and my brother who were right in front of me.

This may sound so trivial to someone who has never experienced insecurity over “missing out” after seeing something posted on social media. As a girl who lived through college with full access to social media, I experienced this too often over the past couple years, and I don’t believe it’s the healthiest use of social media. As much as I have tried convincing myself that what other people are doing doesn’t affect me–even though this has improved with age and maturity–I still realize it is easier said than done.

This is exactly why my 100 Happy Days begins with a social media cleanse. In order to focus on my happiness, I want to give myself the opportunity to really live for the now–to live for what’s right in front of me, not what I think is happening 100 miles away.

Without social media, I even decided to completely turn my phone off a few times this weekend, something I probably would not have done had I not deleted my apps. I went out to lunch with my mom and left my phone in my car. There was zero chance that I would even check my phone and become distracted from our conversations and delicious meal. This is something I hope I continue long after my cleanse finishes.

Yesterday, the sunset was beautiful and I didn’t once think to pull out my phone and send the image to someone else. Rather, I just took it all in. No social media post necessary.

With just a few days into the cleanse, I’ve remembered how life does not stop when you don’t have access to the internet for a few hours. I may have lost all my Snap Streaks with my best friends, but you know what I haven’t lost? Connection to my best friends. If I want to know how their weekend was, I make plans to meet up and hear all about it. If I want to show them a picture of something, I send it old school via text message (which my friends were witness to this weekend when the Snap withdrawals were real).

My first week of Communicating Happiness did not have any major life-changing moments in it, but it was a great reminder that this project is going to be positive. I’ve been journaling in my Happiness Planner every night and have focused on becoming more aware of how I am reacting to life around me. One item it asks everyday is to write down what I am grateful for. Every single day I have written: my family and my support system. I’m pretty sure this is going to be repeated another 93 more times too. Just another reminder that no matter what circumstances occur next, I have a pretty cool group of people around me to keep me smiling when I need it.

-Rachel

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Communicating Happiness: We Were on a Social Media Break

To jumpstart 100 Happy Days and my #CommunicatingHappiness blog series, I decided I would participate in a “social media cleanse” beginning tomorrow, April 13th. This may seem strange that someone who is building a career centered on digital media wants to remove herself from social media. I am choosing to do this, something I have attempted in the past, because I believe part of my 100 Happy Days needs to focus on being in the present. Being in the present is something we hear so often, I know at least I do; however, I can never seem to fully grasp it.

I’m not saying social media is the root of all evil when it comes to happiness, but I am saying that I often find myself in an endless scroll on so many platforms–opening and re-opening apps–yet never really feeling any sense of joy after finally closing out of them.

I stand corrected on that comment actually, because my friends do know how to crack me up with a good, relatable meme.

The point though, is that as much as I love sharing images and life moments on platforms like Instagram, I still find myself feeling more negative than positive feelings as I lock my phone. And this is coming from someone who is an honest advocate in not sharing photos just “for likes,” but rather for the love of the photo or the moment. Even with this mentality on sharing posts on my own profile, it’s still as if this system with a sole purpose of “connecting,” disconnects me from my own life.

I’m attempting just 21 days (not 100) of closing my apps because let’s be real, social media is still a huge part of my life and the industry I am beginning a career in. I do hope that taking a break will allow me to refresh and connect more with myself and support system, rather than trying to connect with the lives of strangers on digital media.

I just want to reiterate that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with social media, although I do believe there are plenty of misuses and abuses to the digital world. I think this break will be a nice chance to focus on the backbone of communication. Communication is not only done through digital forms, even though this has become the new norm. The foundation of communication is the same as it’s always been, no matter what new tech apps launch next. It is sharing stories, speaking with people, listening and being fully engaged, writing, and emphasizing physical, authentic relationships.

I must place a disclaimer on this “cleanse” because I will continue using Facebook as the sharing platform for my blog and keeping up with events on my campus, and obviously I’ll be on LinkedIn as well for professional reasons. Additionally, I’m going to be taking the same pictures I always do over the course of the next month, so be prepared for plenty of #latergrams coming your way on May 13th.

And if you try to contact me via social in the next month please remember:

-Rachel

“Spread a Little Love Today”

I love social media. I also hate social media. I’ve developed this love/hate relationship because I love what social media has the power to do for good. I’ve seen successful charity initiatives, family and friends reconnecting, celebrations, and of course there is my admiration for social media marketing. But I’ve also witnessed the negative power social media has on its users. Sometimes social media is used, for a lack of better phrase, just to be mean. And I’m not sure if the effect that typed words have on others is always understood.

When I graduated high school and was ready to take on the almost real world, I was a little naïve in believing that everyone would just go on through life, doing their own thing and not caring about what the person beside them is doing.

I’ve noticed this is the case in most scenarios, but then there are the instances where you read or hear certain critiques of people that are blatantly mean. Even the smallest pieces of a person’s life or body can become the subject of criticism and gossip. This always catches me off guard because we all have such different styles and personalities that you’re bound to come across people of all kinds.

No, we are not going to be friends with every person we encounter, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show kindness in our interactions with other people, after a person walks away AND when we get in front of a computer screen.

You don’t like someone’s hair? Cool, don’t get yourself that haircut at your next appointment. Does someone have a different political view than you? Awesome! Because you’re actually allowed to express your own opinions (AMERICA, yay). Does someone have a hobby you think is weird? GREAT, let that person enjoy it and don’t try the same hobby in your spare time.

But why make a negative comment toward any of these?

Does laughing at another person’s appearance actually benefit your life in any manor? Unless you’re making money off judging people’s appearance (Fashion Police, looking at you and not as a fan) then I’m guessing, probably not. Maybe instead of frowning upon something we don’t like or agree with, we start looking harder for the things we do appreciate in a person.

Even a random stranger. I know it’s unheard of. Why would you EVER talk to someone you aren’t friends with? Just wait and see the smile on that person’s face when you tell them their outfit looks great, or that they did amazing on that class presentation. I like to believe I am part of the norm when I say that this actually makes me feel a hell of a lot better than ripping on a girl’s dress because it might not be something I’d pull out of my own closet.

There are so many other things–important things–happening in this world to worry about. What other people think of you should not be one of these worries; but yet, we all can probably admit to caring a little too much about other’s opinions at one time or another. The older I get, I like to believe I’m becoming more secure with myself and immune to caring about what the person next to me is thinking because in reality, the majority of people are so preoccupied with their own lives that they aren’t going to notice what a mess you might be that day (or everyday). But then you open up the Internet to see all these judgments…

Scroll through your Twitter feed and you’ll be hard-pressed to find it free of judgments. Personally, I’ve created a phrase as a reminder to double check my own social media:

Never post something that includes the kind of humor Ellen DeGeneres would not be proud of.

I’m by far not a saint over here, but I am working a little harder each day to throw a couple extra compliments around if I get the opportunity. It’s not going to solve anyone’s life problems, but at least it might give a friend (or stranger) a quick smile and some extra confidence during what might just be a pretty rough day.

In the words of the previously mentioned Ellen DeGeneres,

I THINK WE NEED MORE LOVE IN THE WORLD. WE NEED MORE KINDNESS, MORE COMPASSION, MORE JOY, MORE LAUGHTER. I DEFINITELY WANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO THAT.”

-Rachel