Influence & the Responsibility to Do Good
It’s relatively easy to make your life contrived and curated to fit a certain look that doesn’t actually reflect reality.
Earlier this week, I walked through Boston's public garden and passed a group of girls who were obviously helping each other take pictures to share on social media (and most likely, on Instagram).
All three of the girls I passed looked amazing. They dressed impeccably. They struck great poses and subtly included little props and accessories: coffee cups from trendy cafes; shopping bags from Charles Street.
But that's not real life.
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What might be later positioned as casual snaps from an envy-inducing Sunday Funday afternoon on social media were actually a series of set-up, carefully-styled photo shoots that took place on a Tuesday morning.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having fun creating content -- obviously, I create content for a living. And it’s fun; fun to blog, fun to share photos, fun to let others peek into your life when you’re happy and things are good.
(And if you're running a business, creating content becomes essential — not just fun.)
But I wonder if the extent to which we take content creation in our normal, personal lives is a good thing. I wonder if the extent to which we consume it is good for us.
It makes me wonder how much time gets put into constructing the illusion. How much money gets spent on clothes and material things? How much energy gets used to plan and perfect a look?
Is creating a fake life we don't actually live a good use of our our time and our money and our energy?
I'm not saying we should all abandon social media, or that creating beautiful photos is a waste of time if that's what you love to do. But I do want to question the most productive, useful, and valuable way to do that.
And "to question" is key. I don't know the answers, but I wonder about this stuff all the time. I question my own role in it and how I could be someone who creates and shares and uses social media in a way that elevates others...
...and how I could be someone who doesn't get caught in or perpetuate a cycle of focusing on things that don't matter.
My husband, Eric, tells me this all the time (especially when I start comparing myself to other people and feeling like I'm coming up short). If I feel like I don't look good enough or dress more fashionably (or whatever my current gripe is), he always says something along the lines of:
“You're focused on the wrong thing. What would be far more powerful is if you focused on who you are, not what you wear. Focus on how you're being, not how you look. You can make such an impact, but you have to stop putting your energy on what's superficial and dig into what matters.”
He's so right -- and I want to pass that advice on to you if you find yourself, like me, occasionally getting sucked into a useless comparison trap.
My biggest question might be this: Couldn't we be doing so much more good in the world if we snapped our casual, informal selfies to share -- and then moved on to more meaningful pursuits?
If we had fun with social media -- but kept it light instead of letting it take over our lives and lead us to manufacturing our days for maximally shareable content?
It occurs to me that it's a bit of a waste to use "influence" to pull people to things -- material stuff, how we look, what brands we wear, what venues we're seen at -- that don't really matter or provide real happiness in life.
If you have some influence, what if you used it to help people promote change, growth, fulfillment, purpose, and deeply meaningful joy instead?