I’m not paid to inspire you

I think the story behind my inspiration for this post is actually more interesting than the post itself. Let me explain. I’m in a group on Facebook that is for women of all ages and statuses that love hiking, nature, and outdoor activities. Recently, I was reading a day’s worth of posts and noticed something that was odd to me. First, I am generally not an active participant in groups, and second, this is the second group I’ve joined in maybe 40 years. I’m trying something new, and so far it has been eye-opening. So, I apologize up front if things like what I’m about to tell you have been going on for ages. Okay, the post was a 30 something female asking if anyone around her area would like to get together and walk with her. The responses to that post are the story here and the inspiration for this blog post. She received, within one hour, close to 350 responses. If I’m being honest most of those responses were made within 20 minutes.

She received responses from women who were not close to her area, not even in the same state; women young and old, married, divorced, single, and every last response (just about) was looking to go walking and wanting to make friends for this reason—“they are all trying to find themselves.” This expression is not new to me, as I said the same thing almost 18 years ago and was, after three long years, successful. However, when I talked about it or wrote about it back then, people called me a hippie. The common question I got was, “isn’t that what hippies did in the 60’s and 70’s?”

Yes, it probably was. I had read that to find oneself, you needed, above all things, peace, quiet, and introspection. Perhaps all these years later, women are finally finding it together. As the weekend progressed, more women responded to the post, and many gave their own reasons as to why they wish to do more “solo” things and/or find themselves by way of group activities etc. With close to 1000 responses and my time quite stretched this weekend, I read approximately 250 of the responses, and at least 90% of them were looking to get away from the internet in general, and social media in particular, and find a way to permanently replace IG and Facebook. The overwhelming majority of responses indicated that there was far too much pressure on women, particularly on Instagram, and the resounding majority felt much of what they read and saw was fake. Women stated that they felt a disconnect with most of those they follow. 

One woman who had built a small business on IG asked, “Do any of you have businesses that are run through IG or Facebook?” From the responses I read, there were very few. Many were hesitant to quit social media for fear of “missing out” or “offending” friends, “losing touch”, or being thought of as a “failure.” Many, when they made their minds up to leave, felt they would be looked at as addicts of social media that had to “quit” it. There were even a few that admitted to saying they were leaving to see if anyone would ask them to stay. Apparently, because it was brought up, I wasn’t aware of it, that people use the statement of “leaving social media” as a way to “look better than” the many who do not. The old “I can because I have better things to do with my life than hang out here.” At the end of the weekend, the woman who had previously asked if anyone ran a business via IG exclaimed, “If I didn’t run a successful business on IG, I definitely wouldn’t be online everyday because I’m certainly not being paid enough to inspire or influence anybody.”

And there it is. If it isn’t your business, then why is it so hard to quit? It’s for all the reasons above and more, isn’t it? But mostly, it’s that you don’t want to become irrelevant or miss out on something. On IG, there are pretty things all the time, and 30 soap operas or more a day that are done in great lighting. The thing is, once you go offline and start doing the things you used to do, you start seeing, feeling, and behaving just like you used to. You start enjoying yourself, your home, and your life just like you used to and stop living in comparison with others. You never want to go back to social media again. The real beauty of it is that you don’t have to because you know “you’re not being paid to inspire others.”

All of these women trying to find themselves have a choice. They can continue to be lost in other people’s lives, or they can make the choice to consume less of it, or they can delete their accounts and get back to living their best-intentioned lives. You can too.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: I write because I’m a writer. If I was being paid, I’d probably have writer’s block all the time. Many people get addicted to other people’s perceptions of them—they lose themselves through the perceptions of others. These same people also believe they are someone else’s inspiration, and they just can’t let go of that feeling. It’s like a high. Just know that soon after you go, your IG friends will find other friends to inspire them, and you, well, you’ll find yourself.

I’ve got a mountain of magazines and books crying for me to read them and pass them on to friends. I spend very little time on social media, yet I still fall behind in making time for the things I really want to do. So, in May, I am forfeiting all my IG time to read, read, and read some more. 

Until next time, be safe and be well.