How do we use social media consciously? And how does social media consumption effect our own health and wellbeing as well as the heath and wellbeing of the country at large? The truth is, social media consumption has both a positive and negative affect on our mindset, relationships, and how we communicate with others.
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Online Shopping and ‘The Dreaded Jumpsuit’
I want to start this discussion by telling you about a jumpsuit. Especially at the beginning of quarantine, I was spending a LOT of time ‘doomscrolling.’ Doomscrolling is endlessly scrolling through Facebook looking for articles to read on the pandemic. Which meant I was also seeing a lot of ads for various things. Including this one ad I saw over and over again for this one black jumpsuit. At the time it was dawning on all of us that the only clothes we’d need in the foreseeable future was leisurewear. And most of my leisurewear is not something you’d leave the house in—stretched out sweatpants and ratty Ts. I was obsessed with all things one piece and loose—caftans, overalls, jumpsuits, all of it. And I kept seeing this ad for a simple black cotton, sleeveless, drawstring jumpsuit.
I could see myself wearing this jumpsuit at the farmer’s market. I mean I could REALLY see it. With my silver Birkenstocks and my What a Cluster trucker hat with a tote bag on my shoulder filled with pastured eggs and fresh picked blueberries. And that’s when you’re done for, when you start envisioning yourself in the item of clothing living your life. Am I right? So I clicked. The first clue that all was not what it seemed when it took over two months to arrive. I emailed the company, and it took over a week for them to write me back. I had plenty of other things to obsess over, so I let it ride. (Turns out it was coming from China which, hey, the vast majority of our consumer goods in the US come from China so that didn’t concern me overly much). When it finally arrived as soon as I got it out of the flimsy plastic envelope I was immediately like, ‘Houston we have a problem.’
Laugh it Off
It’s a jumpsuit, so it’s one piece, right? Well, there was no button or zipper anywhere on this thing. All it had was the neck opening which was slightly larger than crewneck. It wasn’t an actual scoopneck, you know what I’m saying? And so you basically had to dredge this thing up over your hips, your belly, and your boobs to get it on. And even if that were possible the thought of my flesh spilling over that tight neck opening was a) hilarious and b) slightly disturbing and most of all. c) not gonna happen. I mean, I figured if I could just get this thing on once and I liked it, I could get a zipper added to be back of it to enlarge the opening.
But then I started thinking about how I would ever be able to pee when wearing it. Plus, I looked at the arm holes and held the thing up to my chest and from the top of the shoulder to the bottom of the armhole. The opening only reached about ⅔ of the way down the front of my shoulder. That’s when I called my 12 year old daughter in to try it on. Maybe it would fit her. This kid is built like a string bean and she could hardly get it on. We had a good laugh and then I chalked it up to quarantine.
Beware of Facebook Ads
I started wondering if anyone else had had a similar experience so I posted on Facebook. I got 84 comments from folks who reported all the things that they too had bought that were not as advertised. The Wubble Bubble was a popular purchase. A large plastic bag, basically, that you fill with air and then kids can jump on it when they’re on the trampoline.
Someone’s Wubble Bubble popped in a day. Someone else’s never arrived, and they ordered it five years ago! I had totally contemplated buying the Wubble Bubble, I get their allure. Someone else bought a set of 40 gel pens that came with 5 actual gel pens and then 35 gel ink inserts. Many folks also bought clothes that looked amazing in the photos and then when they arrived were horribly mis-sized and made out of material that felt more like paper. One woman bought what she thought was a floral blouse and then when it arrived it actually had a pattern of tropical fish! Another also bought a jumpsuit that, when it arrived, was actually two wholly separate pieces. Although after my experience with an impenetrable actual one piece jumpsuit, I thought maybe two pieces wasn’t such a bad idea.
Which is not to say that all things people bought from Facebook ads have been junk. I got reports of some decent crafting supplies and high-quality magazines for kids and some remote classes that are totally worth it. Like everything in life, shopping from online ads is not 100% good or bad.
Social Media Consumption (The Good)
But our collective misadventures in shopping from social media ads brings up a bigger question. How we can engage with social media in a conscious way? There are some things that Facebook is invaluable for. In the last week, I’ve learned that my best friend from middle school suddenly died. (I seriously don’t know how many months or years it would have taken me to learn this, as we were in touch but only very sporadically). I had a very helpful conversation with other parents at my kids’ schools about re-opening. And I enjoyed that hilarious thread about FB ad purchases gone wrong. Seriously, I laughed harder than I had in weeks.
As a business owner, I think of FB as a kind of a necessary evil to get the word about this podcast out. I had just started a series of ads on Facebook to get word out about my ebook, Calm the Eff Down a 21-Day Challenge to Help you Take Things Down a Notch, when the FB ad boycott began because companies are trying to hit FB where it hurts and get them to stop spreading hate content. And I stopped my ads because the propaganda is real. I believe Facebook is too powerful and too unaccountable for its actions and that no one needs to be as rich and as powerful as Mark Zuckerberg is. Also there’s the factor of a lot of ads on Facebook being total ripoffs if not outright scams, as evidenced by the 84 comments my post elicited. But there aren’t a lot of other alternatives for small businesses to advertise their goods and services.
Social Media Consumption (The Bad)
On the personal side, social media can really eat up your time and cause your self-esteem and just general sense of wellbeing to take a nose dive. And FB in particular has proven that it’s not to be trusted with all the personal information on us it gathers and then sells to other companies. And it perpetuates so much misinformation much of it deliberately designed to sow discord in America which, really, do we need more discord?
I recently read a post from a mentor of mine, Andrea J Lee, whom I interviewed on this podcast on separating your personal outrage from your moral outrage. Andrea talked about Facebook offsets, kind of like carbon offsets. Where you do something to boost people and places doing good in the world to counterbalance the time and money spent on Facebook. I really like that idea. Whether it’s donating to causes you believe in equal amount of your FB ad budget. Or maybe only checking Facebook when you’re standing up so that you naturally limit the time you spend on it and do something for yourself that gets you out of your chair. There have to be ways that we can keep our interactions on social media net positive.
Daily Tiny Assignment
I don’t know the answers here. But, I’m challenging myself and you to take a few minutes today to think about, at the minimum, what you can do to make your social media consumption more discerning. And how you might be able to put something good in to your life or the world, or both, to compensate for the time you spend there. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. If you’ve figured something out about how to offset your social media consumption. Or if you’ve given a platform or multiple platforms up altogether, I’d love to hear about it. Either tweet me @katewhanley or send me an email using the Contact Button down at the bottom of beabetterpersonpodcast.com.
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As I plan out episodes for the rest of the year, I would love to hear what’s getting in the way of you feeling like a better person. Please go to https://tinyurl.com/betterpersonsurvey to take a super short survey that tells me the #1 thing you struggle with when it comes to being better. Your voice matters and what you have to say really influences my thinking so much. I want to make sure I’m making future episodes that really help. And your taking this survey is a crucial pat of that. Thank you in advance!