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Can "Fitting In" Stunt Your Growth?



Introduction


There are various kinds of external pressures in modern society that try to set limits on who to be, how to act, and what to pursue in life. From family to friends, and community to social media, judgement lurks around every corner. Social media in particular can produce so much judgement and distraction that it leads you off course… but it also has the potential to serve us along the way. How exactly social platforms impact your journey is largely based on how you choose to use it and how much you let it influence you.


Unrealistic Standards


Family members can be some of the first people that make you feel as if there are certain standards you should meet in life. Whether it be in regards to your religion, political views, relationships, career choices, or diet… there is always at least one family member who will voice their opinion on how they think you should be navigating things. The expectations that family members have for your future can make you feel pressured, judged, misunderstood, and many more uncomfortable emotions. While our closest family may be the first place we are exposed to rigid standards in life, it is certainly not the last.


Within local communities there can be certain pressures and expectations that can sway people away from sharing their true opinions or identity. The age of social media has also added layers to the idea of “community”, and opened up the opportunity for people across the globe to give unwanted advice based on your online presence. Some people feel so much pressure from outside sources that they end up settling in a career or life path that doesn’t align with their true calling, leaving them unfulfilled and unhappy. 


How Social Media Can Distract from Your Journey


Procrastination is one of the most common downsides of using social media, because who isn’t vulnerable to getting sucked into cute animal videos and mouth watering cooking tutorials? However, all the time spent dreaming about and longing for things on the other side of the screen is time wasted if it isn’t serving your life purpose or wellbeing. Of course, we are all going to have moments where there is nothing we want more than to binge Netflix or catch up on the Facebook timeline, but when scrolling on twitter keeps you up until 2am regularly you have to start drawing a line for your own wellbeing. 



Social media specifically has added so many factors to conversations about mental health, self esteem, and body image. In an article about the direct influence of social media on mental health, it was stated that “social comparisons, a need for external validation, and a fear of missing out and exclusion may affect adolescents more than older adults due to the fact that they are in a critical developmental period where self-esteem and self-worth can be particularly influenced by peers and social media.” [1] Platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter provide a space where users can present their lives in an unrealistic manner, choosing to only show positive moments or mask certain parts of their identity. This can prove to be very dangerous when younger individuals are constantly watching heavily filtered clips of influencers and their expensive lifestyles. 



How Social Media Can Add to Your Journey


Nevertheless, critics of social media can’t deny that there are some productive uses for it. One of the most productive ways to use social media is as a tool in your business ventures. Social platforms give you the ability to broadcast your passions and services to members of your target audiences across the whole world. This can potentially grow a business venture much more quickly than locating a target audience within one city or state through grassroots marketing tactics. Sree Sreenivasan from the New York Times said that the four most important things you can do with social media are discovering new ideas, connecting deeply with your audience, bringing attention to your work, and enhancing your brand. [2]



Aside from unique networking and marketing opportunities, many social media platforms are also great tools for exploring and learning more about your passions. For example, I have found endless recipes on Pinterest that have inspired some of my greatest work in the kitchen. There is nothing wrong with using the work of like minded individuals to spark some new ideas of your own. Between search engines and social media, you should never run out of new sources for inspiration. In the same way, your content could serve as inspiration for others. When social media is strictly used as an entrepreneurial tool and creative outlet, there are no limits to how it can add to your journey of growth.



How To Accept Constructive Criticism While Releasing Harsh Expectations


One fear that held me back from being completely open through social media in the past was the idea of increasing the amount of criticism I was exposed to. I truly wasn’t sure if I could handle judgement from strangers on top of the expectations from my family and community. The truth is, you have to be able to mentally filter all the feedback you receive… keeping the constructive criticism close because those are lessons to be learned, but understanding that when feedback crosses the line into unnecessary negativity, it is time to let it go. That doesn’t mean we shouldn't feel those emotions before releasing them, but our social media platforms should not be used as weapons in moments of defensiveness. 



The way I have chosen to handle the unnecessary negative feedback and hate is what I like to call the duck method. When I was a child my mom would tell me to let the things people say that make me feel sad just roll off my back like water off of a duck. Like most things in life, a balance is necessary. Using the duck method to filter out hate which is most likely misdirected anyway was my first step towards breaking free from external expectations. The less we care about judgement, external validation, and comments from trolls, the easier it becomes to maintain your creative individuality in your online presence or business ventures. 


Conclusion


We should not let social media or influencers make us feel pressured to live or act a certain way. Those choices are personal and should accurately represent who you are at your core, while still respecting the individuality of others. There is a fine line between using social media as a tool and allowing it to become a distraction. Instead of letting it mold you into a copy of someone you are not, I invite you to prioritize your personal growth and journey so that you don’t compromise any part of your identity in hopes of finding acceptance. 




Citations:


  1. Magner, Melissa, "Social Media’s Effect on Mental Health: How America’s Youth are More Vulnerable to its Negative Implications" (2018). Advanced Writing: Pop Culture Intersections. 20. https://scholarcommons.scu.edu/engl_176/20

  2.  Sreenivasan, Sree. “How to Use Social Media in Your Career.” The New York Times, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/guides/business/social-media-for-career-and-business


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