The Polarizing Effect of Social Media {And Why I'm Over It}

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I recently took a little over a month off social media. I didn’t plan it, didn’t post some cute “farewell” picture, I just…left. The first and foremost reason for this was because I was going on a long road trip with my now fiancé, and I just wanted to be. Not photo our days or feel the need to show anyone what we were doing. Just be. Turns out, this was only one of the many reasons I needed this break.

As actors, we’re often told we have to maintain a social media presence for a litany of reasons. Casting may what to see what you look like in real life! Indie films often prefer actors with followers! Maintain your fan base! Fuck it’s exhausting. If you listened to this podcast with manager David Dean, you heard it from the rep's mouth, it’s really not that important.

I do, however, think it’s fun! Posting and checking out others has always been innocently fun for me. I have always been a big Instagram fan, I had it from its inception way back in the day. But lately, I have been finding myself holding my phone with IG open and scrolling, completely mindlessly, having no recollection of even opening the app. It’s like driving home from work and not remembering the drive. I was completely unaware my go-to finger movements on my phone had become so intrinsic. That’s terrifying to me. I spend a lot of money, time, and energy trying to be all “in the moment” and “present” and yet here I am on a daily basis mindlessly scrolling. Gross.

And until I took my break, I hadn’t realized the thing that was the biggest learning lesson in this whole experience: I am polarized by influences on a daily basis. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but let's take for example my biggest follow categories, which are health/fitness, and meals/recipes. I enjoy all these things and have always been passionate about them. Yes, I spoke in this article about my struggles with “diet” and in this one about “fitness”, but I love them nonetheless. I remember this book I made when I was 12. It was a square spiral notebook I filled with cut outs of recipes, meal plans, portion sizes, advice, and workouts of all kinds. I don’t think I ever did them to be honest, but something about participating in the creation of this “book” made me feel healthier. I became obsessed with diet and fitness, not in an unhealthy way, I just loved how it made me feel like I was in a club with other fit-minded people. But I always made it my own, even if it meant making my own “book”. However. I have been, as of late, at a standstill in my own personal health journey. I have done all the types of eating and counting, all the classes and styles of boutique and big box fitness. I know a LOT about this business. And yet, I have found myself staring at an open refrigerator totally confused. Or standing in the middle of the gym floor completely stuck. I have inundated myself with so many messages on a daily basis that I am completely polarized about my own needs and my own body. And the scariest part is, I didn’t even know it until I stopped scrolling for a few weeks.

Until that long break from posting and sharing, I did not realize the impression the habits and choices of other people had been making on me. Some examples include: one IG influencer I love and respect doesn’t eat carbs in the evening…but what about a sweet potato? Does eating a sandwich make me an irresponsible member of the fitness community? Another loves to lift weights a lot…but I have learned my body doesn’t respond in a camera-friendly way to this type of regimen. Do I have to choose health or my job? Some say you need to eat certain macros but only do high intensity cardio…except that I have a history of disordered eating and eating by numbers followed by super intense workouts sends me right back into the bad place. Oh and if you don’t intermittent fast, you’re the biggest idiot there is…but what if you’re not a blogger and you work 3 jobs and have to fit in a workout? Why aren’t you allowed to be fed anymore?!

You see where I am going with this. I have inadvertently absorbed the ideas of others, even though all these ideas are like pieces to completely separate puzzles, and I am trying to make them all fit on a daily basis. Going Whether it’s food and fitness or how you’re supposed to have a photo-friendly house with a meditation cushion ready at all times, this is all total bullshit. I haven’t felt this kind of pressure and comparison since…oh, I dunno…the last network callback waiting room I was in?

Only by going without these influences for a few weeks did I realize a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I report to no one but myself, I alone know exactly what I need. Once it clicked that this was intertwined with my lack of social scrolling, I had to make a game plan to stop this nonsense. Our day to day lives (especially for my actors out there) are already full of “you should be” and “have you tried”. And always too much comparison.

So here’s what I plan to do. As I normalize after my “mental health social media vacation”, I’m going to put a lot of accounts on mute. And unfollow some others. And most importantly, be very aware of when I am choosing to ingest other people’s ideas. I have implemented Buffer (a socials posting app) to help keep me from scrolling, and have set a plan of sorts in place as my go-to intention when I want to open the app out of boredom: I text someone instead. I sounds so simple, I know. But this has already led to some very happy moments and even a planned trip. So much better than knowing what everyone is eating for dinner tonight. Everyone has a right to try on a new lifestyle, habit, or idea and share the (edited) photo of them doing it! Just don’t expect me to follow along.