I have no idea what the internet thinks about me, but I’m starting to take subtle hints. I get ads upon ads for “empowerment coaches” and “hormonal weight loss”. Month long yoga retreats in Bali, how to earn six figures in 4 hours a week. This is what social media thinks of me. The internet gods have decided I need to see every human being that has curated their life into a vision board. I see these recommended posts for weight loss, get rich quick gigs and life coaches all promising a better, brighter future. I scroll on to the next tiny image, my hamster brain already moving on to the next. I roll my eyes at most of them, but somewhere, deep in there, waaaaaaayyyyyy in the back, where the cobwebs are, a little seed gets planted. A tiny seed of discontent. The discontent seed thrives in dark places, doing its best growth in the messiest parts of your brain (right next to your vault of reality TV memories I think). Its nutrition is self-doubt, its water is the cultural push for more. It loves that shit. It eats it up. It grows and grows inch by inch, silently spreading without notice.
I mindlessly scroll on, consumed by the pretty pictures, not even realizing what’s happening. But somewhere, my whole self is shifting and changing into something I don’t even recognize. Tiny notifications light up my ego. I’m not alone. People see me don’t they? At least that’s what it feels like.
I click on a link for some sort of hormone balancing supplement (if you’re 25 and reading this, don’t worry….you’ll get these ads one day too), and run through the list of things it’s going to miraculously help me with. I DO want more energy, I DO want to lose 15 pounds. How did they know?? If I just had this, everything would be better. I would feel fulfilled. The roots of my discontent plant just inched into my heart. I scroll on to a short video of a girl dancing in a bikini on an idyllic beach. She talks about how she ditched her 9-5 and now travels the world and lives on “her own schedule”. She tells me to click the link and take her course so I can do it too! I love my job. I think. But maybe I don’t? I don’t really like the beach, but she seems so excited all the time. Maybe I should want that too? Discontent seed continues its path, wrapping one vine around the side of my lungs, making it just a tiny little bit harder to breathe. So tiny, I don’t even notice.
Now, I’m in a deep hole, scrolling on to a post by an old acquaintance who has recently started posting self-help videos sharing that we all need to learn to hustle harder, and put our heads down and work more to reap the rewards of life. The word grind gets said about 13 times. It’s a lot, but I start wondering if maybe I’m not working hard enough. Maybe everyone is too soft nowadays. The vine is now wrapped around both lungs, and the breath gets more shallow.
And then, my sweet dog pushes his head on me and looks toward his leash. He startles me back to the room I’m in, the present moment. He wants to go for a walk, which he basically always wants to do, so this isn’t anything new. My first inclination is to pat his head and return back to the feed in front of me, to see another tiny picture, or watch another video over someone blissfully happy making adorable lunches for their children, or making it in to buy those concert tickets I waited three hours for and never got. But something in my gut pushes me to put my phone down on the table. I blink out of my daze and step outside with him. I start walking and notice a tiny, almost noticeable shift in my breath. The vine retreats off my lungs. I look around and notice a group of women running together, chatting happily. Their laughter makes me smile. One of them smiles and says hello as she passes me. The vine is pissed now, and fighting hard to stay attached to my heart, but there’s nothing to help it grow, so it can’t hold on.
My dog has no boundaries, so he runs up to a man sitting on a bench to say hello. We chat about my ill-behaved dog and how much joy he brings me. The man wishes me a good day. My heart warms a bit, and this pushes the vine way back. This little spark of human connection and kindness is the opposite of what that vine needs. It’s withering.
I continue on, looking around at the trees, noticing the leaves changing color and falling onto the ground. It’s pretty magical, if you stop and think about it. Life carries on all around us, creating this beauty in unexpected places. I have it pretty good, I think. My life is simple, but here I am on a beautiful walk, noticing stuff that I might not have noticed. I feel a little burst of gratitude for this little moment. And the vine is now just a tiny little dead seed. Just like that. Just from noticing beauty and kindness and being grateful for it. Gone.
This is how it happens. We don’t even notice it. I’m not here to say social media is terrible. Obviously I don’t think that. I used social media to share this post with you, so the irony is not lost on me. It can be a really great thing to connect us to things that can make our lives easier, or inspire us. We can find amazing events to connect us to our community. We can be inspired to take up a new hobby. But I also deeply believe that we can lose ourselves in the curated images that someone else is choosing to put in front of us. We can allow this very easily to shift our belief about ourselves and our lives. We can lose sight of what is real now in the pursuit of what we want in the future.
I don’t have a grandiose life. I don’t drive an expensive car, or live in a mansion. I don’t really even want any of that if I go deep down into my heart. But it’s easy to get swept away by pretty pictures. It’s easy to see these things and notice the things lacking in your life. It’s easy to look down at your soft belly and wish it away; to forget the people and experiences that got you here. The babies born, the hardship overcome, the laughter and wine with friends. What’s not easy is pulling yourself out of this to look around and notice what is right in your life. What is good, beautiful and joyful.
Today, I beg you to put down the curated feed for just a tiny bit and look around at the real world. Notice the lady holding the door for you at the store so you can get in with your little ones. Notice the crisp air, and the softness of your sweatshirt against your skin. Actually fully listen to your partner when they talk about their day. And in that moment, remember that this is what life is about. Tiny little moments that add up to a big huge life.