I’ve always had a difficult relationship with Instagram. Not only because I waste hours of my life scrolling without intent or awareness, but, because it fuels comparison. Comparison is my and perhaps collectively, our biggest enemy. It makes us think that we are not adequate, that we do not have enough or indeed we have too much. It makes us question what we all know inside that we are special, individual and beautiful in our own right. It puts a number on appraisal, not only are we comparing our amount of likes to our own pictures, but to everyone else’s. It gives FOMO gravity and provides a filter through which life looks a little more plumped, tanned and glowy.
When quarantine first began, I was excited by the content that was being created on social media. The motive seemed to shift. No longer posting for ourselves, our own ego’s or professions, but for others who are in need of extra stimulation. It seemed that creativity poured back into the timeline, with songs, dancing, baking and humour carrying the tiktoks which filled the feed. We are at risk however, of losing this agenda. The portrayal online that not only do you intend to, but you will, use this time to achieve greatness; a new skill, a language, a personal best, write a novel or discover a six pack, can be detrimental. Of course, all of those things are great aspirations, and we should challenge ourselves and occupy our minds, but it seems to me that this mentality may be missing the point.
Believe what you will about how or why this has swept over our planet, but you will struggle to ignore the fact that it has forced us to put the fast-forward button on pause. We have had to slow down completely, which for so many has been a devastating blow to their businesses, their income and their way of life. And though all of that is difficult and an undeniable challenge, the silver lining has to be the opportunity to take stock of what is important. To create your own timeline and priorities which do not reflect that of your employment, your busy social schedule or the pressure to match-up to your peers. Rather, this is a time to let go of all of those things, the feeling that if you don’t have something to show for your time, you must have achieved nothing at all. On the contrary, at the moment, putting on a bra in the morning feels like a great achievement. Or checking on my relatives, cleaning a room of the house for my Mum, or simply completing a chunk of a university essay; all because it’s of my own accord. This bar set by a specific group of people on social media, is not your bar to reach. Power to you, if your Strava run says that you’re a few seconds off Mo Farah and if you’ve managed to learn Italian. Equally, power to you if you cooked a meal for yourself, finished a book or spent quality time with those that you love. Power to YOU.
In this time of connectivity, we must use our virtual platforms caringly, show the good with the bad, the highs with the lows. I’m of the opinion, that if I spent this entire period of time just dreaming, thinking about what could be and the way in which my life would look if it resembled my wildest dreams – that’s enough. Because I’m excited. Aren’t you excited? Aren’t you feeling a little like a horse held at the starting line, just waiting to bolt? The love you have for your family and friends will have undeniably strengthened in this time. You’ve potentially realised who the good ones are, and you’ll squeeze them that little bit tighter, spend just a little bit longer. Perhaps you’ve realised that the thing you thought you couldn’t do without, has been quite easy to let go of. Maybe you’ve realised that you don’t need to work 8-8 to be productive. Maybe exercise has become something that you need, rather than something that you do to lose weight. All of these things, and so much more, are just tiny revelations but they are happening so that when this is all over, you don’t just retreat. You don’t go back to making no effort and not writing quizzes. I expect games at every dinner party I go to from now on. I know, I know, but we won’t have the time. Won’t we? Isn’t time just a concept created to benefit someone other than you? Make time.
When you leave the office, leave the office. When you sit with someone for coffee, sit with that person and that person only. Don’t have a separate to do list for your ‘when I have time’ and ‘urgent’ – you make your own list and decide what you think is urgent. If sitting down and painting like you did in quarantine is urgent to you, then it’s urgent to you. I know, I know, the world doesn’t work like that. But maybe it could? Maybe there’s a way of changing how we view productivity. Perhaps we can start utilising what we have learnt. We’ve all noticed how easy it is to work from home. We’ve all noticed how much you can get done in a day when you have the freedom to dictate your own working pattern. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but change can be made. If we told Marilyn Monroe that Weinstein existed and would eventually be sentenced to prison she’d say: ‘You’re crazy, they’re all like that’.
Let’s cut the excessive ‘productivity’ chat, the casual fat shaming and the comparative scrolling. This time is your time, without influence or control. Your time to realise who and what is important to you. Who you have been and who you want to be. Because when those doors open, and you’re finally free to roam and seek and make decisions on where you go and what you want to see, are you really just going to retreat back to exactly how you were before? Maybe you will, and that’s ok, but I bet there’s something you could change, even if it’s the awareness that comparison gets you nowhere and that you are the star of your own goddam life.
You make the decisions. You make the changes.
Go get em’ tiger.