Chase the Purpose, Not the Followers: How Social Media Broke my Mind and Self-Esteem During Quarantine

In June of 2020, after three months of being inside due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, I reached my breaking point with social media. You would think that as a media scholar, educator, content creator, and fiction writer, I would understand the construction behind these narratives and their implication and potential negative consequences on its consumers. At last, I, too, fell victim to the pressures and unrealistic expectations proposed by influencers, celebrities, and content creators of what we should be doing while quarantined. During this time, creators, advertisers, and pretty much everyone with a camera took to social media to cash in on all the eyes watching. I was bombarded by “inspirational” posts saying, “This is the perfect time to create and get noticed,” “increase your followers and subscribers,” “people are hungry for content.” I felt the pressure to produce and post more frequently while keeping up with trending topics and video styles.  

Between the streaming networks, YouTubers I follow, free online workshops, creative meetings on Zoom, and my social media feed, I couldn’t keep up! Most importantly and most damaging, I felt that I couldn’t compete with the “perfect” Instagram models and influencers that, even with the pandemic and subsequent Black Lives Matters protests, managed to stay thin, happy, and consistently creating and posting for all to enjoy. I called my friend and ranted, “What am I doing wrong?” “Is it all about being skinny and pretty”? “Why is my work , that I spent hours researching, shooting, and editing overshadowed by photoshopped bodies and videos of young women in provocative poses?” I spent hours researching Instagram and YouTube “tips and tricks” and how people were able to monetize their content, with all eyes on screens.

I went on a dark rabbit hole inside YouTube. There I not only learned about buying followers, the editing software that created unbelievable bodies, and of course, the lengths sometimes even life-threatening, some creators have taken to stay relevant, make money, and entertain the world. I needed a serious break! 

That’s when I saw an interview with Jonathan Hait (Coddling of the American Mind), where he concluded that even though television and video games do affect our mental health, social media is the worst of all. That right there is powerful! I proceeded to deactivate my account and start my mornings with a personal, empowering mantra to help me build back my self-esteem and focus on achievable goals. 

While on YouTube, I did find a TED EX conversation with Adam Leipzig, who gave a formula that will help you find your purpose. I was glad that I was able to complete the method reasonably quickly. I’ve always known what my goal is, and all I needed it was a reminder. Remembering my purpose was the key to returning to social media with new energy and vigor. Why was I jealous of these models/influencers? They are just fulfilling THEIR purpose. They are not my competition; they are just another form of media/entertainment that exists alongside mine. Some will find and follow their content, and others will do the same for mine. My passion in life is not to be a famous Youtuber or Instagram influencer. For me, these are merely a byproduct to my more substantial actions. My purpose is to create impactful, creative, and empowering stories that inspire others!

When scrolling through Instagram and other social media, try not to compare, remember your purpose, and become inspired by those who are in a similar field who have achieved it.

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