Before I kick off the second installment of my new series, Breaking the Block, I want to extend a sincere “Thank you!” to everyone who has read Part I, left comments, and emailed me directly. Admittedly, I felt a few moments of panic shortly after pressing the Publish button for Part I. It’s never fun to lay out the very real problems you’re experiencing for the world to read. However, I’ve always prided myself on being candid with my readers and I felt that, by sharing the creative hindrances that I’m experiencing, I could let others who may be suffering similar issues know that they’re not alone. If me sharing some of my most personal creative problems helps even one person feel less alone with theirs, then the effort is totally worth it. You’re not alone. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, on any other entry in this series, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s grow together.
The Trap of Sugar-coated Content
The advent and exponential growth of social media networks have had an impact on modern civilization in more profound ways than just about anything else in our history. It’s right up there with the invention of the Gutenberg printing press. Today, we can share virtually anything that pops up in our minds or that we see with our eyes with the entire world. In some cases, this freedom has brought about seismic changes in global societies. People can share breaking events literally as they unfold. This technology has given megaphones to those who used to be voiceless.
In other cases, social media has accelerated a sense of crushing isolation and self-loathing. I find the latter to be especially true with image-centric social networks, most notably Instagram. Just scrolling through my feed brings about a tightness in my chest as I see post after post of delicately manicured and curated moments that portray people living seemingly amazing, adventure-rich lives every second of every day. I then click on some of these people’s profiles and see follower counts in the hundreds of thousands or millions. I see them partnering with powerful companies and getting paid to share sponsored posts (even though almost every one of them fails to disclose the #sponsored #ad nature of the post).
As someone who has spent years on the business-side of the photography industry, I understand the necessity of sharing only painfully beautiful and perfect photos. The goal is that those manicured moments will translate into hundreds, or thousands, of people jamming the Like/Heart button or leave comments. Savvy business-minded photographers can leverage those stats into revenue-generating projects with companies. Or they can use it to promote workshops, branded merchandise, or some other products. Or, in many cases, they simply use this virtual attention stimulation to jock their egos and validate their worth as artists. Your photos must not be that good if you only received a handful of likes on them, right?
The trap that I have fallen into is comparing myself to these photographers. What’s worse is that this is a bottomless trap because, with each new photo that is shared, with its corresponding thousands of engagement datapoints, the well further deepens. Eventually, my mind conflates the success of their posts with real-life success, which almost always lacks a 1:1 correlation. What I’ve found most disappointing, especially when it comes to those “influencer” photographers who I know personally, is just how much of a facade is put in place between the self-righteous persona they pretend to be and who they are in person. That realization, more than any other, has emboldened me to make hard decisions over whom I allow to get close, which leads me to the next part of this post.
Fewer friends. More confidants.
The older I get, the more I realize the importance of having the right people in my life. There are no rigid factors as to what constitutes the right people. There is no minimum or maximum age. Gender is irrelevant, as are profession or vocation. In fact, one of the easiest ways to determine who the right people are is to take stock of who interacts with you and how they do so when you’re at a particularly low point in your life. Those that reach out and express genuine care are the ones you typically want to align with. Those who are doing great things and go to lengths to help you achieve those great things within yourself are the ones you typically want to align with. It’s easy to be a good friend to someone when they’re doing well and everything is peachy. It’s an entirely different role to take on when that person is in anguish. That is the line that separates a friend from a confidant.
Recently, comedian Kevin Hart shared a wonderful cluster of Stories on his Instagram profile. Because of the ephemeral nature of Instagram Stories, and the inability to externally link to them, I recorded these stories and want to share them. His message in these stories resonates perfectly with this particular section.
I wholeheartedly appreciate and agree with what Kevin is saying. Life is too short to allow in anyone who doesn’t have your absolute best interest at heart. Why allow yourself to associate with people who don’t want to help you achieve what’s best for you? Of course, it goes without saying that this is a two-way road. It’s as incumbent on you to be that same strong and positive influence on your tight cadre of confidants. It only works when the efforts are exerted in both directions.
With all of this being said, I don’t want to misconstrue the importance of focusing on keeping the right people close to you with actively eschewing every other friend altogether. That’s not the case at all. What I’m saying is that there is importance about discerning which people you should invest the bulk of your energy in. For me, drawing that line involves identifying certain characteristics of my friendships or of the friend him/herself.
For instance, you may have a friend who you get along with perfectly fine but they don’t really take much more than a superficial interest in how you’re doing. They’re the ones who usually only reach out when they’re driving from one place or another. These chats usually last as long as the drive takes and never really includes substantial conversation. Or you may have a friend who asks you, “How are things?,” or “How is business is going?” just so they can have the opportunity to answer and show off how much they’re doing. Of all the friends in my life, the ones that I’ve actively worked to keep at a distance are those with wildly inflated egos or that present themselves one way in person and a totally different way online. I have no time in my life to spend on people with inflated ego or hubris.
No one knows you better than you. When I write these posts, I’m mostly writing for myself with the hope that you can use the text as a guideline of sorts. You may very well have a healthy group of friends who provide you with your particular flavor of satisfaction. Or, you may be more of a solitary individual who thrives on your own. If your life situation is healthy and you’re in a good place, then I couldn’t be happier… and I genuinely mean that. This series is partly a self-development mechanism to help me get back to a healthy place and a component to that is taking a closer look at how I approach social media and who I allow closely in my life.
I’d love to hear your approach to these topics and how you’ve found success here. I am sure that I can learn a ton from your experiences, too! So, please leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com. I hope you’ve enjoyed Part II of my Breaking the Block series. Stay tuned for Part III soon!