The Unsocial Reality of ‘Social’ Media

What’s actually social about ‘social’ media?

Sitting behind a screen and flicking through other people’s lives is far from ‘social’, and if you’re anything like me, I feel far from sociable after a fair few scrolls.

Another night of half watching TV whilst numbingly swiping through my Instagram and Facebook feed and I’m wondering why I’m feeling low all curled up in bed on an evening…again.

It’s taken me a long time to realize there is a pattern establishing here, but tonight, as I’m reflecting more on my thoughts and feelings, I’m 99% sure that I’ve seen a skinny girl in an amazing dress and that has triggered my current pit of despair.  Oh yes, there she is. Wow, and another angle.

Either consciously or subconsciously I’ve probably done this more times than I can even remember and I know I’m likely not the only one. You can’t help but compare yourself to these people online. Whether it’s a mate, or a celeb, or simply someone you haven’t seen since school, for some reason we feel the need to follow their life publicised via social media. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising these people for uploading body shots. Hey, who doesn’t enjoy posting the odd selfie? But it is this readily available platform for comparison and self-criticism that enables individuals’ body image and self-esteem to plummet day-in-day-out. It’s a force of habit. I don’t even flick through these ‘stories’ out of interest, (the art of scrolling seems to have become second nature), so why am I letting it impact on my self-esteem and body image so much?

I’ve decided to help myself on my journey of recovery. I’m putting down my phone and I’m banning myself from the torture of scrolling through endless feeds every night. I need to take back control of my emotions and start accepting that if I can’t stop comparing myself to every other girl out there then how am I ever meant to accept myself for who I am. We should embrace individuality and learn to love ourselves for ourselves. I should be able to appreciate other peoples’ attractiveness without feeling threatened. I should be able to walk into a bar, confident with my appearance, without feeling intimidated by every other girl in sight. Stop comparing your ‘likes’ to hers. What the hell does a pixelated number count for anyway? Your thoughts are what makes you, and with the right set of positive ones, you might just start to recognize how amazing you really do look today, and every other day for that matter!

 

 

 

 

 

Amy Whittle
My name is Amy, I'm 22, and I’ve been living with an eating disorder for 9 years. A few months ago I was finally honest about it with my loved ones. I am now on my challenging journey through recovery and have started an online blog to help aid me along the way and hopefully provide some positivity and motivation for others to read who are going through a similar thing.

Be Better, Not Bitter

During my second to last year of college, I had the honor and privilege of attending a service trip to Alabama with the Center for Service in Action at my university. While on the service trip, I had the opportunity to serve the community of Selma, Alabama. I  helped to paint a local school and got to work with a class of adorable, little four-year-olds at a pre-kindergarten school, and boy did those kids steal my heart. I also got to do a training on Kingian non-violent conflict resolution, where we talked about the importance of community and connectedness with others to understand their plight. The service trip was most definitely an enlightening and deeply impactful experience.

While I was in Alabama with my service group, I also had the opportunity to visit some historical locations and museums to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement. After visiting the 16th Street Baptist Church, where in 1963 a bomb exploded and killed four young, African-American girls, we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The Civil Rights Institute showed the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement and was extremely heart-wrenching. I remember towards the end of the self-guided tour when I saw the actual belongings of the young kids who died in the church bombing, I could feel the tears well up in my eyes. One of the museum guides approached me and another girl in my service group and began to talk to us about our reactions to seeing everything in the museum. As soon as I started talking, I just lost it. The girl in my service group was crying as well. We told the guide that we couldn’t understand why people could do these heinous things to other people. It was heartbreaking.

The guide consoled us and told us that it was perfectly alright to feel these emotions. “My sweet girls,” she told us. “Sometimes people do bad things in ignorance. They don’t know any better, but we must teach them. We must teach them love, and that love overpowers everything.”

After hugging us for a while, and helping us move through the emotions, we thanked the guide for comforting and talking with us, and we proceeded to the exit to wait for the rest of our group to finish looking through the various exhibits.

We waited in the gift shop. It was there that I met the most miraculous and amazing woman whom I will never forget for the rest of my life. It was only with her remarkable wisdom that only comes with such age that she taught me the most valuable lesson of life.

We talked to her about what we took away from the museum. She told us how she had lived in Birmingham for nearly her entire life, and told us about her childhood in the city during the Civil Rights Movement.

“I remember sitting on the back of the bus,” she told us. “I remember the protests. I remember the church bombing.”

We had asked her how she coped with all of these horrible things that were happening to her, her family, and the community.

“You see, I learned to put those things behind me. If I dwelled on the horrible things, I could never move on. It would consume me,” she said. “Instead, I made an important choice in my life; I chose to be better, not bitter.”

We asked her what she meant by that, and she elaborated.

“I decided to not let it get to me. I decided to not let those things make me become consumed with hate. I decided that I would let it inform me on how to become a better person, and how to make my community a better place. I decided to rise above it, not stoop to that level.”

Her words just hit my heart with such a force. Be better, not bitter.

This woman had to endure things that no person should ever have to endure, and yet she did not let it make her full of anger and hate. She did not let it get the best of her.

She chose to be better, not bitter.

As we were leaving, I told her that her words impacted me more than she will ever know.

Recently, I had endured a very difficult situation in my life and had become consumed by it. The event evoked some very dark memories from my past that I had worked so hard to suppress, and when it brought on a sort of déjà vu, it really took a toll on me. It filled me with anger, frustration, sadness, and bitterness. I just couldn’t move past it. But then I remembered this wise woman’s words. Be better, not bitter.

So I decided to confront the problem head-on by talking to the person that had caused the hurt. ‘Be better, not bitter,’ I told myself. Through talking, I was able to find resolution and peace. decided that this event would not affect me anymore. I would not let it get the best of me. I would put it behind me, and remain positive moving forward. I would make sure that I only continued to be better, not bitter.

Emily Veith
Emily has her bachelor's degree in Political Science, and has always believed in helping and serving others. She wants to make the world a better place, and aspires to be a politician someday to do just that. She is an old soul who loves Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Glenn Miller. When she isn't writing about imperative news- and political-related, she can be found attempting new recipes, playing her guitar or reading a good mystery book.

As a Person With a Disability, I Am Never ‘Sitting Alone’

I was seated at a circular table in a banquet hall — clad in a dress and a pair of heels, resting my throbbing leg.  My gaze was transfixed behind me, on the throng of partygoers darting around the room, eagerly snapping pictures, clamoring for the best shot of the guest of honor and calling out instructions to various family members.  As I waited to be called up for a picture with the guest of honor, my own eagerness manifested not in my movements, but in my twinkling eyes, my smile and my laugh.

I glanced back at the table — the immaculately-placed floral centerpiece, the cups of nuts and candies adorning each place setting, the smattering of soda cans and pale pink cloth napkins strewn across the off-white tablecloth.

Suddenly, my eyes fell on the seven empty chairs surrounding me.

In that moment, it occurred to me that an outsider’s perception of the situation would likely be flawed.  A stranger would see a slightly aloof, able-bodied young woman sitting alone, and a large family excitedly preoccupied with taking the perfect picture, not a tired, physically disabled young woman with a family who not only understands and respects her but also never questions her need to rest.

It was then that a stark realization struck me: In appearance, I was sitting alone, but as a person with a disability, I am never sitting alone.

I am the only person with a physical disability in my family, but I have been blessed with a family that takes the time to understand and responds to my physical limitations.  My family does not sweep my disability under the rug, denying its existence.  They do not insist on weaving my disability into every conversation, relating it to anything I cannot do well.  My family has developed a firm “middle ground” — acknowledging my disability in a subtle, unobtrusive manner, then helping me if assistance is warranted.  This particular instance was no exception.  My family’s perceived indifference not only demonstrated an understanding of my needs but also illustrated the utmost respect for my personhood.  By proceeding with their vigorous photography and allowing me to rest in the interim, my family quietly acknowledged my disability without allowing it to consume my identity and impede the celebration at hand.

My eyes wandered to the neighboring tables.  A few guests, all at least 50 years my senior, sat scattered around the room, quietly chatting among themselves.  I felt a strange sense of kinship with them; in that moment, my body felt far older than its 21 years of age, and I, like many of them, could not expend any extra energy.

Upon scanning the room, I was immediately reminded of all of the writers and bloggers with cerebral palsy who have candidly expressed that their bodies feel far older than their chronological ages.  I smiled, thankful for the connections I have forged with others in similar situations.  In that moment, I knew that so many others — in my town, in the nation, and throughout the world — would see the absurdity of the situation and laugh with me over the nuances of living with a disability.  Prior to discovering the vast reach of the disability community, I felt a profound sense of isolation, but in engaging with others in the disability community, I have found an unceasing sense of connection and belonging — a lifeline.

As a person with a disability, I am never sitting alone.

Living with a disability can often feel lonely and isolating.  It is easy to wonder if there is anyone in the world who can truly understand the distinct worldview it provides. However, by developing a strong support system of people who understand the disability experience and those who are willing to learn about the challenges those in the disability community face, I have come to realize that none of us is ever sitting alone.  There is always someone sitting with us — listening to us, validating our experiences and working to understand our perspective.  Even when we appear to be sitting alone, there invariably is someone silently helping us, guiding us, and providing us unconditional support and undying love.

I am never sitting alone.

You are never sitting alone.

We are never sitting alone.

We are all at this table together.

 

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

A date with November.

Tonight, I saw her.

She paused… looking for a moment of peace.  Looking around she saw how leaves painted the ground, and how the gray branches reached into their winter poses.

Her breath was taken away by the sunset.

She’s the girl who wants to chase the sky.
 To grab the pieces and connect. She was in love with the sunbeams, clouds, moonlight, raindrops, and stars.

Night falls and frost begins to kiss the ground.

Hello November.

Amy Scott
Amy is on the great adventure of 40 and all that has come with it this year. From Atlantic City, NJ and raised in PA. She is venturing on life being unpredictable! She is one to find the positive. Adventurer and spontaneous travels are her thing. Fan of Alice in Wonderland, Will & Grace but first a mother. Writer. Photographer. One who is fierce, passionate and guilty of being a lover.

Turning Vulnerability Into Beauty

Our greatest triumphs arise out of our greatest struggles.  The struggles that you’ve faced throughout your lives, whether past or present, can be difficult to share, but choosing to open up about the challenges you’ve faced can become a defining moment, a moment of triumph.  My life journey has been marked with struggles, but one of the most profound moments in my life occurred because I chose to remain completely honest and open about one of the most challenging periods in my life.

I stood at the back of the classroom, my slender figure nearly obscuring the poem I had written.  “Come up front” said my professor, gently.  “Share what you’ve written.”  I was nervous, reluctant, afraid.  This poem was the most personal piece I had written in my life.  What would my class think?  Would everyone judge me for writing something that proved I wasn’t always happy?  I slowly removed my poem from the back wall and trudged to the front of the class.

If you were to tell me two years ago, when I was struggling to share a project with my counseling psychology class, that I’d now be openly sharing my life’s challenges with others, I don’t think I would have believed you.  Why not?

The simple answer is that I have a drive for perfection and I used to have an overwhelming desire to avoid exposing any vulnerability.  I have been a perfectionist for years.  I’m constantly striving to achieve, and no one would accuse me of setting my personal standards too low.  Two years ago, however, I realized one of the most detrimental consequences of perfectionism.

I fear showing weakness.  I fear opening up.  I fear letting others in.  I fear vulnerability.

For my counseling psychology class, everyone had to create and present some kind of expressive art project on an assigned topic.  I chose healing as my topic, because I wanted to push myself to speak on something vulnerable.  I drew on one of the most difficult experiences of my time in college as inspiration, and I vowed to listen to my professor, who told us not to censor ourselves.  As the words poured out of my soul and onto the paper, I felt a profound sense of freedom I had never experienced.  I gradually felt lighter and lighter, as if the weight of life was removed from my body.  The day I feared, however, loomed in my mind.  I would actually have to share this.  My thoughts, my feelings, my struggles. 

I longed to hold the struggles and sadness inside, to keep all of my problems ensconced in the serene, protective chambers of my heart.  But I strove to embrace the challenges I’ve faced, to grow as a person, to gain a new perspective on life.  So I shared.  The tremor in my voice dissipated as I realized that my class cared about my words.  They understood.  The class clapped after I finished the poem, and I realized then that I had succeeded in something that was very difficult for me.  Towards the end of class, one of my classmates told me my poem was beautiful.  I was surprised and touched by her words, but in that moment, a powerful thought struck me.  I have the power to turn vulnerability into beauty.

You’ve had times in your life when you’ve felt burdened by the weight of your struggles.  You’ve wondered if others will judge you for what you’ve been through.  However, when you open up and invite people into your world, you will forge powerful connections with them, connections that can never be severed. You will feel the lightness of freedom, the freedom to be yourself.  By embracing the vulnerable parts of your life, you’re embracing your story.  Your story is valuable, and it deserves to be shared.   Sharing your story provides you with the opportunity to encourage and inspire others.  Don’t be afraid to take down the walls you’ve built up, brick by brick.  It won’t happen overnight, and at times it will be difficult, but eventually, you’ll successfully embrace the challenges you’ve faced and gain a new perspective on life.  You’ll disclose personal, seemingly imperfect parts of your life to others, you’ll find understanding and unconditional acceptance in return, and you’ll learn about yourself throughout your life journey.  Most importantly, you’ll turn your vulnerability into beauty.  Always remember that you are powerful.  You have the power to turn vulnerability into beauty.

 

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.