It's Sunday brunch, at the usual. I'm in great company, in a beautiful part of London. The food is always incredible here and I'm getting some much needed weekly quality time with my partner. But my mind is elsewhere. Somewhere between arranging the napkins for an optimal 'flat lay' and obsessively checking to see whether the 'likes' for my pancakes had made it into triple figures yet, I realised this. I had become an Instagram Wanker.
When did we stop experiencing?
When did a good source of natural light become more important than the ambience? At what point did food styling start mattering more than taste? And it doesn't stop at meal times. Suddenly day-to-day life is all about framing a good shot - except the real world isn't quite good enough because we need to filter the hell out of it before even dreaming of posting it on social media.
We no longer experience life in full five-sense reality and I can't help but feel it's damaging our mental health.
Do any of these feelings sound familiar?
1. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
Social media has created immense pressure to be invited to the right parties, seen at the right restaurants and mingling with the right crowd. And of course to document it. After all, if a girl falls in the club and no one is around to Facebook it, did it really happen? We feel inadequate and left out if we're not invited, or we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion to ensure we're at every event in the calendar. Having fun has somehow taken a back seat to being seen to be having fun.
2. My life is so inferior
Social media would have us believe that everyone is on holiday ALL the time, everyone has a ton of money to spend on designer clothes, everyone has time to go to the gym every day and everyone has incredible hair. Everyone except you that is. We tend to forget that what we're seeing is a carefully curated edit of 'best bits' and that actually, no one has a perfect life. If your job isn't to research and review luxury holidays and designer brands, why would you compare your day to a professional blogger? Similarly, if you're not making money out of selling online recipe books and fitness programs, why would you rate your life against that of a fitness Instagrammer? Those are full time jobs in themselves and trust me, they are not 100% 'best bits'. We're comparing our no-holds-barred documentary to someone else's Hollywood trailer and it's not healthy.
3. Stuck in virtual reality
The digital world can be a thief of creativity. We're constantly confronted with someone else's perspective and someone else's edit, but not spending enough time absorbing the real world to come to our own conclusions. It's impossible to be original if we're only experiencing other people's interpretations. Put your phone away and go to the source. The world is pretty awesome and a hundred times better if you're not seeing it through someone else's filter.
4. Validate me
Whether we admit it or not, social media in many cases is about much more than sharing. We want others to rate our lives, seeking validation through likes, follows and reposts. And if we don't get quite as many as we were expecting, maybe that means we're not good enough. There's nothing wrong with seeking praise, but allowing strangers to dictate your 'worthiness' is an even more slippery slope than relying on validation from your loved ones. Most of us - especially women - are self-deprecating enough as it is, without allowing something so external, so irrelevant, to create feelings of inadequacy.
There are those who have made a business out of their social media following and fair play to them. If Instagram pays your bills then numbers matter and I completely respect the work involved to create beautiful images and amass followers in their thousands. But that's not the majority of us and whilst I think social media is the most incredible sharing tool, both personally and for business, it shouldn't dictate our self worth, it shouldn't take precedence over real life experience and it shouldn't be a source of stress.
So in summary, here are few things I'm going to be doing more of...
1. People watching
There is something quite wonderful about just quietly being somewhere and watching the world go by. Find a cute cafe, taste your coffee rather than Tweet it and take in what's going on around you.
2. Looking up
I live in London - it's a beautiful city. But often I'm so absorbed in my phone that I don't even know quite how I reached my destination (yes, I have been known to almost walk into oncoming traffic. Don't pretend you haven't). So from now on, the phone will stay safely in the depths of my bag and I'm going to watch where I'm going. Not just to avoid angry cyclists, but to look up, to take in the incredible architecture and to experience the vibrancy this city has to offer.
I've recently enforced a tech curfew and you should too. Not only will you sleep better and give your over-screened eyes and brain a rest, but you get a chance to process your day and wind down, better preparing you mentally and physically for tomorrow.
If you're a social media junkie like me, try the above suggestions and just feel what it does for your headspace!
Charli Cohen - trying to post less frequently here.