What Are We Trying to Prove? The Emotional Toll of Social Media

Sidra Rubin Montreal stylist

I’m finding myself in a free fall, a downward spiral into the depths of self hate, self doubt and general malaise. I’m working at climbing out of it, but boy, it’s a long way up.

It started to take its toll last summer while on vacation with my family at our usual spot in Mexico, we were at our favourite beach, I thought to myself, let me take some photos…some selfies if you will, on the beach so I have them for future blog ideas/Instagram posts. So I stood there by myself trying to get a cute angle, snap after snap. Let me put it to you this way, have you ever seen the meme of a woman tanning in a bikini with a side by side of animal and the caption is “how I think I look/how I really look”. That’s where I will leave you with that.

My Instagram feed is overwhelmed with images of not only professional bloggers or celebs, but regular girls, who I know, that take said beach pictures and look like said beautiful woman. I look like a greasy maniac with horrible hair and a mild sun rash. I try, and I really want it, but the beach look is just not my go to. I’m more of a full face of makeup, professional blow out, fully clothed kind of look, and even then I hate the picture. More on that later.

beach selfie: Wise Women Canada

So I continue to follow these perfect specimens. I like their pictures, I make their recipes, I sometimes comment and I follow their every move on their Instagram stories. And then, sometimes after a brief blackout of getting sucked into the vortex of Insta stories, I ask myself, why? Why did I try, or even think I could capture a decent picture, not only on the beach, but in a bathing suit. A BATHING SUIT?!!! Where was I going with that and what on earth was I trying to prove? Well, I put those pictures away, until now (because it took me this long to put this blog together), to find my point.

In early fall, when us Montrealers got the beautiful gift of Indian summer, we took our kids to Abraska. If you are unfamiliar, this is basically a place that consists of zip lining (death traps) courses that start out at the lowest level and as you move on, the trees get taller and taller. My kids were pumped and my husband signed us up as a family. If you don’t know me, or haven’t figured me out just yet…these types of activities are not my jam. In fact, I stay far away from these sorts of things (including mountain races, mud crawling and other psychotic activities) I hesitated but thought, hell, I’m in decent shape, how hard can this be, it’s a family activity. On the first and lowest obstacle I’m already sitting there with a lump in my throat. I’m fighting back the tears at this point, not wanting my kids to see my fear because I didn’t want to ruin it for them.

And as I sat there I thought to myself, what am I trying to prove? I don’t care at all if I never do another zipline again. I’m scared.This is not my bucket list, it’s not for “fitspo” or “inspo”  or any sort of Instagramable moment. So I took a deep breath, made it through the zip line and said to my husband through my tears, I’m out. You have to take them through. And I climbed down. I was terrified.

Which brings me to my question. What Are We All Trying To Prove? With the infiltration of social media and instant photos, short videos and channels, we are stuck in this hamster wheel of the constant feed. What used to be the constant feed of news on the bottom ticker on CNN and other news channels has become the constant feed of your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. It’s never ending, and it’s exhausting. Everyone is trying in one way or another to be seen, to be heard, to be original. But how original is any of it really? Those that seem to be “succeeding” at the social media game are all actually doing the exact same thing. Are we all just ok with basically throwing our authenticity out the window? Because health, fit and beautiful sells? The unwritten (but written by so many “Masters”) rules of social media tell us that in order to be a successful blogger or influencer, you have to follow some of these steps: create original content, use up to 30 hashtags, say something personal about yourself, invite people into your life. And on and on. Everyone wants to win at this game, but really, what’s the prize? The most likes, more followers…free stuff??? The art of unboxing your Sephora order?  Is this what we are?

I’m asking a lot of questions. Questions I don’t have the answers to because I myself am guilty for doing all of the above and I can tell you exactly what it’s gotten me. Stress, Low Self Confidence, Body Hatred, and more negative thoughts and feelings. My most recent business venture, that I have since closed, was a ladies fashion and accessories boutique. I started it almost three years ago and I was ready to give it my all. Which I did. But never did I ever anticipate the stress and lost sleep over the one element that I need to have a successful business – Social Media. (In my previous boutique which I started with in 2005, we were barely scratching the surface of all of this. People were still actually shopping in stores.)

The one thing I will stand by, however, is that I was real. I promised real, and I delivered real. I even had some of my best girlfriends pose for pictures because to me, they are real and girls like us were the ones shopping in my store.

I was not equipped with proper lighting, camera skills and Instagram how-to, to turn my posts into sales. So I hired a company to help me. They were lovely and and super helpful and while it allowed me to close my eyes at night, it still wasn’t cutting it. I was getting lost in the sea of fashion Instagram and no matter what I did, my posts were not turning into dollars. I was not “making money in my sleep” as one professional claimed I would. Instead, I felt like I was never good enough. My pictures (the ones of me) were never pretty enough, I was constantly monitoring my posts to make sure I got enough “likes” and enough interaction. Oh and there are tricks. Tricks of the trade that I cannot share but let me tell you, I spent so much time with my head down, swiping and tapping on my phone that I was worried I was going to develop a serious medical condition, and also, what kind of example was I setting for my kids. It was really getting to me. I developed crazy anxiety, started to get extremely stressed and I knew I had to make a change. My therapist always tells me, if something is working, do more of it. If it is not working, do less. Seems simple enough. I know I am not going to blow your minds when I tell you that nothing is simple these days. Nothing.

Art Basel Miami 2018

So here I am, trying to figure it out all. How can I continue to do what I love (fashion) while navigating the one thing that will make or break you in business these days. I follow these girls, posting story after story. These super moms telling me they have it all. Young children, thriving business, thriving social media accounts, great skin, flat stomachs and toned arms. Their insta stories are on a rotation of their impossible daily schedules, stunning selfies, top notch vacations, gym pics, abs, bikinis, advice, health and unboxing free stuff.  ALL. OF. IT. I’m sorry girls, something’s gotta give. I’m not slamming those hardworking boss babes, I’m just trying to figure it out. What this tells me, is that I don’t stand a chance. And I won’t accept it. And while I know that many of the images I see are photoshopped and creatively altered to look perfect, the basis for a lot of them are legit.

I am starting 2018, with self love on my mind. I am so not there but I am working it it and  I won’t give up. I am not going to boycott social media either. I want to find a way to be my regular self, and still have it work.

I don’t have a six pack or an assistant. My kids are not perfect and neither are my photos. But I have value. I have something to offer and I am going to find a way to make you see that.

Even if my bikini picture is just regular (for the record, I blame the makers of the bikinis for not making a normal sized bikini bottom. Don’t get me started on this.) Nobody is going to win a prize for having the sexiest gym selfie. I think we need to give the regular people a chance to shine. I am so average, and that’s ok. I don’t want my feed to be like everyone elses. I want to come up with something authentic and I want that to be enough. Most people want that to be enough but how on earth can we keep up? It is impossible to keep up in a constant popularity contest where nobody even knows each other and there will never really be a winner.

I will continue to remind myself that my Social Media account does not equate my self worth. My photos are of me. Sometimes a few pounds over and sometimes just right. I told one of my best friends that instead of sitting around complaining that we don’t look like X blogger, we have to give ourselves better, realistic goals. Because we are never going to be that girl. My goal is to fall in love with myself and show you that it’s really ok to just be you. I don’t need to be the most fit, the healthiest eater, the best dressed or the most creative (with the supporting images to post about). So when I am ok with just being me, I’ll reach out. Or maybe I will post about it. Follow me @sidrubin on Instagram. It may take a while, but I have a feeling we will get there.

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