As time goes on, it’s become clear to me that nobody has things completely figured out. People fake it. Everyone fakes it. In the age of social media, people have become their own public relations firm. Every day people fire out posts, or modern day press releases, letting everyone know that they’re killing the game. Whether it’s a post about a promotion, a weekend trip to Aruba, or a new puppy, it always seems that the person posting is in full control of their life. If anything, the flood of our “friends” feeds passively causes us to question our own “status.” Don’t mean to air quote the hell outta the last sentence but it’s important to note that friends and status, in this case, are purely abstract concepts in this virtual reality we have created for ourselves. This onslaught of information tucks itself in our subconscious here or there. The more these little tidbits of info store themselves away, the more we as individuals question our own path. It’s almost a form of social masochism that we willfully engage in. That being said, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to gauge where you stand in life. It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t have your life in order by allowing your mind to perpetuate the fantasies that are being sold to you by your own friends.
I think the first step of seeing the forest for the trees is to realize that none of what you see is real. People’s posts are merely marketing ploys and you’re a potential customer. Someone posting a vacation selfie is no different than Windex telling you there’s 20% more in this bottle. It’s a pitch. It looks like a good deal… I’ll buy it. Twenty percent more than what? By the time you ask that question, the Windex is under your kitchen sink. Transaction complete. Scrolling down a social media feed should be visualized as strolling down a city street in a studio backlot. All that you see is a facade and a very convincing one at that. Yes it looks great on screen, but if you try to walk into that corner store to buy some Jawbreakers after the director calls cut, you’ll be a very disappointed person with a pristine jaw. You simply can’t draw parallels from a fabrication to your reality. Recognizing this can snap you out of whatever false reality you bought into.
In horse racing, which I don’t condone, horses wear blinkers. Blinkers, often referred to as blinders, are intended to keep the horse focused on the track ahead, subtracting distractions such as other horses, massive crowds and other visual stimuli. Before social media took over how we operate, most of us had our blinders on. We kept in touch with the people closest to us and relied on performance reports and work gossip to spur our professional tenacity. Then Facebook came along, ripped off our blinders, and we saw everything. We saw too much. Not only did we see what our co workers were up to, we saw what Danielle from 8th grade is doing. All of a sudden our mind put us in a race where our senses are overwhelmed, and our subconscious makes comparisons. Now it’s up to us to curb this intake and decide what’s real.
Even without social media, it’s a false assumption to believe everyone is as rock solid as they appear. Many people are in a perpetual cycle of self improvement. It’s only natural to want to be a better person. Whether physically or emotionally, this want to improve tricks us into perceiving ourselves as not good enough. All of us, except for Tony Robbins, fall into this trap. This means that even the guy who looks like he’s swimming in a pool of happiness and riches, Scrooge McDuck style, still wants to be better. When it comes to self satisfaction, it’s vital to keep focused on what makes you happy, not how happy the next guy is.
In my line of work we joke that your peers are quietly hoping you fail. It was pretty depressing writing that last sentence, but it’s close to truth. When that’s the environment you exist in, it’s important to maintain a sense of self and be plugged into your reality. I recently had dinner with a friend who is a famous comedian with a new TV show. He’s the epitome of professionalism. It was so refreshing to hear how he was handling his success. This is a guy that I imagined would be incredibly prepared for, almost downplaying, his huge network opportunity and all that came with it. Instead I saw a guy asking the same questions I would have asked. Worrying about many of the same things I would be concerned about. He was holding hands with accomplishment and insecurity at the same time. He wasn’t behind a keyboard maintaining an image, he was a friend being a human being.
No one has it all figured out. The answers are not found in an Instagram photo or a Facebook update. The answers are found in real life and within yourself. Not everything is what it seems. We’re not the rapper in the video with champagne, mansions, and yachts. We’re the rapper that left the video shoot and is sleeping at his Mom’s house until this rap thing works out. That’s keeping it real. Do your best to stay in reality and avoid becoming mesmerized by the flash and flare of someone else’s story. Because, as it turns out, you’re doing just fine.
Hair and Teeth Pro-Tip: Deactivate your Facebook account once a year for at least a month. Taking a vacation from useless distracting information will boost your self esteem and productivity. Your account will still be there when you get back and you’ll use it more sparingly upon your return.