Are you happy? On the surface, it always seems there are only two answers to this question, yes or no. But happiness is relative, everyone is different and the question obviously is to be understood in relation to one’s own life, based on their life path and experiences. With this fluid idea of how happiness is defined, I think the answer is not just black and white and there are many shades of grey.
With this little bit of background, I want to share a story about my friend. She was the type of girl that was always happy, no matter when I asked. I looked up to her and was motivated by her persistently positive energy. But then one day, I noticed something had changed. The thing was that she was not happy. I struggled over the idea when I found out, because I was convinced that if she was not, then how could anyone? She had everything the typical idea of happiness was: a family, friends, a good job, financially stable, she was young and beautiful. Her life was seemingly balanced. When I sat down with her, I wanted to understand what had changed. So I asked her, “how did you get to this point? What had changed? Then she told me, and the answer wasn’t what I expected. She felt that she had just been going through the motions for the past 6 years and couldn’t even point out any particular events one would typically describe as “happy.” This she said, is because she did not truly live in the moment and was living life behind the phone in her camera. At first, this seemed to be a shocking answer, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this is something we all experience to some degree today. Are we actually taking in experiences for the sake of enjoyment? Or simply because it’s going to be a great photo that will get likes on Instagram? Are we so engrained in obtaining validation and acknowledgement from the outside world that we have lost sight of what gives us genuine life fulfillment? It made me wonder. We are surrounded by social media feeding our innermost insecurities and aspirations:
"How can you be perfect," "How to lose 15 pounds in 3 days,” "10 ways to get rich quickly,” "How to get thousands of followers on Instagram"
… and the list can go on forever. This fills our everyday newsfeeds. And the answers to these questions are well, to put it lightly, misleading and pushing us further from reality. In today’s society, false hopes often replace true potential. Something as simple as an Instagram filter changes reality and expectation. That person you follow and look up to, may not even really be the way you see them. They are a misrepresentation of a false hope. Let’s be honest, you’re not actually sleeping in that selfie you’re taking of yourself, #Asleep. It’s a filter, not perfectly done makeup. That breakfast with the heart shaped froth on top of your coffee, is not how you eat every day. This has simply just become today’s “reality.” How much time out of our day, our year do we spend being fed this reality? Let’s say we count only one hour in a day spent browsing through social media. That comes out to almost 22,000 minutes, or more staggeringly,
15 days per year.
And let’s be honest, I think most of us can say we spend more than an hour... So coming back to the thought about my friend and her feeling of not living in the moment, what exactly does this mean? And I think the answer comes down to time. By spending so much time hidden behind our phones, we lose appreciation for the time and the experience we should be having, disconnected from the phone. Time is a precious thing that we’ve just simply come to take for granted. To put into perspective (in grave manner perhaps, but it illustrates the point): Have you ever lost a relative or a beloved pet? If you could get back 15 days with them, would you want that? What would that time mean to you? Now think of how much time we spend diving into our false realities hidden within our phones. That extra time you could’ve spent with your dog? That was spent checking Instagram. What about the holiday you spent with your family, sitting on your phone texting, rather than spending time with relatives you may not have much more time with? Those opportunities we miss because we prioritize what’s in our phone over the genuine true moments of living may be the reason some of us, like my friend, feels we are missing out on life. It’s time we will never get back. But more than just the time spent indulging in social media, is the way it affects us internally. Seeing this unrealistic reality, we obtain unrealistic and largely unobtainable goals. How does seeing a perfectly shaped Instagram model affect your psyche? Imagine the amount of effort it would take to obtain these filtered goals? The training time, diet, makeup, hair, all perfect. How does seeing this every day affect your thoughts about yourself? The attempt of obtaining and never reaching these unrealistic goals causes stress and even the feeling of failure. Unfortunately, this isn’t even the worst part of it! Do you think having a perfect body is what defines happiness? Even if you achieve those physical goals, it is not the source of true happiness, just the accomplishment of becoming social media’s definition of being beautiful. So what do I see this insecurity built by social media doing to people? I see people who may be struggling in their personal lives, having relationship issues, problems at work, whatever it is, who complain about it and say they are upset. However, just minutes later post a smiling selfie talking about how great life is. So the question is why? Is this something that person is doing to self-motivate? Or is it that they’re looking for validation from other people? In most instances, I’d say it is validation. This is what we’ve come to in the age of social media. That people find comfort more quickly in getting a like or a positive comment, rather than addressing what is actually wrong and identifying that issue. My friend, by not being satisfied with herself and her life and not looking for validation or wanting anyone to believe there was a hidden reason, decided not to share a photo, she did not post. What’s important about this story you might ask? Or who is this friend whose story I’m sharing? Well, it’s me, or it’s you. It’s all of us who are dealing with insecurities driven by the expectations set by the unattainable standards social media creates. Personally, I have avoided many aspects of social media over the past few years, including not even maintaining a personal Facebook page. I have always felt that those I’m meant to keep in touch with, I’ll keep in touch with and a website like Facebook isn’t going to change that. However, my business Facebook page started very simply, with a few photos, no filters, no stories, just my brand. By posting what was genuinely something I was passionate about, I had no fear of social media’s high expectations. I believed in my brand and now, all of these years later, I have 7 collections, new ones developing and an ever growing brand that I can tell my customers genuinely appreciate. The moral of this story is that you should believe in yourself and believe in what you are passionate about. Don’t let the fears of social media hold you back from showing what is important to you, regardless of what you think the perceived reception of your posts or comments may be. Overcoming my fears helped me develop a rapidly growing brand that every day I wonder to myself, how did I even get here? What’s next? This story of the Petrity brand has still just begun and I look forward to sharing it with you each step of the way. (Next post coming soon...)