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You know that feeling. You’re scrolling through your feed on Instagram and suddenly, your self-worth begins to fall to the floor in shambles. You look up from the screen and your home looks more pathetic than ever. You hover over liking a photo of an adorable baby, and your sweet adorable baby . . . well, she needs a diaper change.
We all know that social media, by its own limitations, is just a snapshot of another person’s life. Even if that person is trying to be super honest and takes pictures of their dish-covered kitchen counter, we still don’t see the whole picture. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about carefully styled Instagram feeds and blog posts that seem too perfect to be true, and though they probably are too perfect to be true, the truth of the matter is each of us as the ability to choose our own internet.
This is something I’ve been working on for the past few years, especially after having my daughter, and so I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts about finding more joy, creativity, and contentment in this fairly simple process of laying down my own parameters.
This hasn’t been an easy process for me—I love to learn and am always interested in seeing what’s going on in the world. I love to see the creativity of others, and since it is literally at my fingertips these days, I can easily be sucked into the vortex. But with that said, I’m learning that it makes for a much more healthy inner me when I gently say, “No” to myself and step aside from the constant onslaught of information.
Before I get into contentment, joy, and creativity, let me define this little “choose your internet” phrase. At its very basic level, it means that you and I get to choose who shows up in our feeds. We don’t have to follow everyone. And we also don’t have to check our accounts every five minutes, or (gasp!) every day. (They’ll be there when you go back to them, promise.)
Let’s start with contentment
Before I had my daughter, there were several bloggers who I followed regularly. I loved their writing and creativity and was endlessly inspired by them. Well, it just so happened that we were all due with our first kids around the same time. I, in my naivete, truly believed (oh, bless my heart!) my life would be exactly the same except I wouldn’t have to go to work AND I’d have a cutie-pie to carry around. Basically, I thought this new motherhood thing would be fairly easy.
This thought process continued as two of these sweet ladies had their daughters, and continued to blog and chronicle each moment. They wrote about tucking their newborns in, and then getting back to the quilt they were making. Or kissing their sweet newborn and then relaxing on the back porch with a glass of wine and a good book. I read this and believed.
But alas, it was not to be. I did not have a sleep-through-the-night newborn. And then I couldn’t sleep when she was sleeping. Ironically, during this time of sleep-deprived survival, I was often lured back into checking my favorite blogger’s feeds. You know, just to check in.
And it was during one of these blurry-eyed check ins that I just lost it. I could not keep up. Even in my mind, I couldn’t keep up with the ideal I had created from reading these blogs. I still thought they were nice women, and they were unbelievably talented, but for my own brain and contentment, I had to stop reading their blogs.
But isn’t that a bit extreme?
Um, yes, it was. But this is my whole point. I was in a place of vulnerability; the last thing I needed was to feed myself lies that I was terrible at being a mom because I had not hand-stitched matching nursery animals for my newborn. What I needed to do was be present with my daughter, and turning off the constant barrage of what I felt I should do meant I could concentrate on what I could do.
Are there accounts that you love but that kind of bring you down because of where you are in life right now? It’s okay to unfollow. You can always check in later down the road. Really, it’s okay!
Finding joy in the little things
Curating the content you consume has another effect and that is you start doing this thing called living in the moment. I started a gratitude journal before my daughter was born, and in that first year I filled it up with so many things I would not have noticed had I been busy scrolling through my Instagram feed (or Facebook, et al.)
I remember putting a blanket on our living room floor and laying on it with her, watching the early morning sunlight dance across the floor to us. I noticed things I had never seen before as we slowly walked through our neighborhood, her little body curled up in the Moby wrap and warm as toast against mine.
When we choose what we read and watch, often we find that we can also take breaks from it. We can step away and breath deep into the life that we are actually living. And what became really important to me at that point was realizing I didn’t have to have the perfectly staged photographs to make memories. Those blurry photos of baby’s first smiles still count. And they’re still precious.
As you’re going through your day, see if you can take a moment here and there to let where you are and who you’re becoming sink in. You can enjoy a meal with friends without chronicling it for the world, you can call your husband and tell him you love him without social media, you can eat an incredibly delicious meal and enjoy it without taking a picture . . . right? ;)
This is where creativity comes in
I’ve talked about this idea of consuming less in order to create more here on the blog, but I think the kind of media we are reading and looking through also has an effect on how we are or are not creating. Obviously, if the vast majority of our time is spent scrolling through images of what other people are making, we’re not going to be producing much of anything. But have you considered how you might be self-sabotaging when you endlessly look at people’s creations that are in the same field as your’s?
Many artists and creatives actually recommend steering clear of those who are currently in your own industry and finding inspiration elsewhere. I love how artist Carla Sonheim has an exercise in her Drawing Lab book where she goes to the library, picks up five random books, and takes an hour or two to sketch from them. Those sketches are not usually an exact representation, but a gathering of different motives, ideas, and color combinations.
By taking the time to make rather than take in all the time, we are stretching ourselves. And I’d venture to guess we’re becoming more of who we actually want to be. I’m sure none of us have the goal of having all of our favorite bloggers’ home decoration ideas memorized. The reason we even read this info is (usually) because we’d like to try out those ideas for ourselves. Choosing our own internet frees us to become the doers, the makers, the creative people.
Take a minute to consider how your media-consumption affects you and your work. Sometimes stepping back from a few accounts really helps.
Remember that choosing your internet is a personal choice for where you are right now. I’m not as affected by my aforementioned awesome blogger ladies as I was when I had a newborn. Don’t second guess yourself when you have to step back from certain sites. This is your internet. Make it a place that encourages your creativity and makes your day shine a little brighter.
*I’m pretty sure I first heard the phrase, “Choose Your Internet” from Tara Swiger, who I heard talking about this subject on Periscope one afternoon. Robin from The Balanced Life also has mentioned this concept before on her Instagram account. That said, this is a practice I’ve been doing for some time now for all of the above mentioned reasons! :)