Our world has changed significantly since the advent of social media. In fact, I once said on a podcast that Film Sprites PR wouldn’t have been possible without things like social media and the ability to work with anyone in the world from my home office. It connects us to like minded individuals, broadens our perspectives, and allows us to grow an audience for our work as creatives, whatever those creative endeavours might be.
But on World Mental Health Day for 2019 I wanted to talk about the downsides of social…because they most certainly DO exist. As you scroll through your Instagram feed featuring your colleagues and friends, it can be very easy to experience FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), comparing yourself to what you see on your screen. It can be so easy to have a Pavlovian response to an alert on your phone and get gratification from likes, re-tweets, or comments, and feel your heart sink when there’s no responses or feedback. In my working life, it’s common for me to look at social media analytics and apply rationality to the statistics I’m seeing, but when it comes to my personal social media? I’ve been terrible with regards to FOMO and comparison. I’m going to not only share with you my personal experience, I’m going to give you the steps I used to help shake the FOMO and ditch comparison. It’s definitely an on-going project- you have to repeat the steps daily to stop yourself from slipping back into comparison mode, but it’s worth it.
Sharing My Story
Earlier this year I had the great privilege of being the Wellington Communications Assistant for this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival. I had a wonderful time, working with some incredible people and being immersed in the world of fantastic cinema. But once the Festival had wrapped up and I had gone back home (I had moved to Wellington temporarily to take up the position), I came home…and hit a low. A very hard low. In the midst of this low, I found myself scrolling through my social media feeds with FOMO growing steadily. Why wasn’t I at a certain point in my career? Why do I feel SO sucky, despite what I’ve managed to achieve this year? It started to get ridiculous, and I started to feel even worse. I also felt unsupported in my endeavours, like no-one was acknowledging the work I had put in over all of these years and that it meant nothing.
I knew I had to do some radical things to change the situation. I had to do things to address the FOMO and comparison. Below are the methods I’ve used to combat FOMO and comparison when using social media.
Take a break: it can be difficult to step away from social media temporarily (especially if you have to use it for work purposes), but a break can do you wonders. I recently took a social media sabbatical after coming back from Wellington and I was amazed at how much it helped my perspective on things. As I use my phone to listen to podcasts (and I’m obsessed with podcasts), in order to make my sabbatical completely effective I deleted all of my social media apps off my phone temporarily. My phone was for texting, listening to music on Spotify, or listening to podcasts.
According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (and cited in this article), participants of a study who limited their social media use to 30 minutes a day for three weeks reported reduced depression, loneliness and less FOMO (I love that FOMO is being studied academically!). As the author of the study, Melissa G. Hunt said, “When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
Can’t take a complete temporary break from social? Stick to a reduced time for social media use for a week.
Everyone’s journey is different: it can be so difficult not to compare your career progress or goals when you see glowing photos on Instagram. But the bottom line is this: everyone’s journey is different. For instance, if you’re a filmmaker and seeing your fellow filmmaking colleagues and acquaintances winning awards or attending events you’d chew your arm off to be at, don’t forget that they may be at a different career point to you. You might be at year five of your journey, and they’re at year ten. Their goals might also be wildly different from yours, so your path will take you to other destinations that you can’t even imagine right now.
For instance, my journey has been an exceptionally unconventional one. Having an entrepreneurial brain meant I didn’t want to wait for an opportunity to come along, so I created the opportunity myself (and hence Film Sprites PR was born). But it’s been a difficult road at times. Anyone who is a freelancer knows how tough things can be, so it was never going to be a fully conventional road. Add in the fact that I was doing film publicity and social media marketing instead of doing publicity and social media marketing for other things, the nature of the market, etc…yeah…it was never going to be smooth sailing. And you know what? That’s okay. I love what I do. I’m passionate about the services I provide. I’ve come a long way and although I haven’t achieved all of my goals yet, I’m aware that it takes time (and I took a weird road instead of the conventional road!).
Catch up with people that don’t live on your screen: social media makes it so easy for us to quickly send a message to friends or family instead of meeting face to face, but sometimes catching up with the people you love offline can be exactly what you need. Schedule a coffee date with a friend, pop over to your mum’s place or schedule a short road trip with your besties. If you think you could do with a hug…ask for one! There’s some serious health benefits to hugging. I can testify to that: I have a friend who is quite possibly the reigning champion of hugs, and even though I used to be resistant to hugging I know how beneficial they can be.
People are icebergs- we only see a fraction of their lives: it’s really important to bear in mind that social media is very much a curated version of our realities; a version that tends to lean towards the positives and not the negatives. We’re basically seeing (and sharing) a ‘highlight reel’. You have no idea what’s been left on the cutting room floor at any given time.
Mindfulness helps: we spend so much of our day automatically responding to stimuli, and that includes our thoughts. Mindfulness and meditation can be a huge help when it comes to those thoughts of FOMO and comparison. There’s lots of resources out there to help, including mindfulness and meditation apps. I fell out of my regular meditation practice when I was working in Wellington (I used to meditate twice a day), but I’ve picked it up again and it really has helped. You may also find Byron Katie’s The Work really beneficial, as it forces you to examine your thoughts.
Write out a ‘have done list’: sometimes we spend so much time looking at the achievements of others that we forget just how much we have achieved ourselves. It’s common to make ‘to do lists’…but what about a ‘have done list’? You can choose to examine all of the things you’ve achieved this year, or look at what you’ve achieved in your creative career- it’s entirely up to you.
For example, I looked at what I had achieved this year: I had written articles for The Big Idea, appeared on Radio New Zealand as a result of that, assisted with the social media marketing for a film which won two awards at SXSW 2019, ran a Social Media Marketing for Filmmakers workshop, worked as Wellington Communications Assistant for the NZ International Film Festival 2019, and most recently a film that Sprites had assisted with crowdfunding in post-production had its debut at the BFI London Film Festival 2019. It’s been a busier year than I gave myself credit for. Once you jot your achievements down, you’ll see the same is true for you.
Replace social media time with more beneficial habits: if you’re doing a social media sabbatical or limiting your social media usage, it gives you time for other things. Been putting off a new exercise regime? The time is now. Get your taxes done, declutter a room, get a health check, or do some goal stalking.
While social media is so beneficial when it comes to assisting with creative careers like filmmaking, music and theatre, it’s important to maintain a balance.