12 years ago, no one knew you by your IG handle. We had to express our thoughts in sentences with over 150 characters. The phrase "trending audio" was referring to the Top 100 Billboard charts. Yet here we are today. Where four main digital platforms control the syncopation of our entire reality.
I spent 48 hours with every app deleted on my phone. And despite entering it feeling as if I'd be overcome by FOMO, I realized a deeper truth. It was in disconnecting that I understood I had no idea what I have actually been missing.
To feel, think, reflect, and just be. And in that silence, I connected back with the deeper fears I've been running away from. The fears I continue to battle with because I fall into the pressure these platforms exert. Post x times a day, use trending sounds, create meaning, brand yourself, what value are you giving to your audience?, What does your following count say about you?, How many likes did that post get?, You're not doing enough of x, You've got to do y for success. Message after message, splitting my attention and feelings into 1,000 directions.
The past 12 years of my life, I've let these four platforms dictate how I show up in the world. I've lost nights of sleep berating myself for performance, wondering how to do "the next big thing". I've lost touch with gratitude consuming and coveting what I see on other profiles. The worst.. I sacrificed parts of myself to try to fit into what is the prescribed way to reach success. I've developed this skewed reality that I have a responsibility to show up and carry my audience. Which now anchors me in feeling like it is my absolute duty to put others above myself. To stop paying attention to the signs of burnout, so I can maintain "good standing".
Here's a radical question I've never been confident enough to say until now:
What do I even have to prove to anyone? What did I ever have to prove from the start?
None of us have to "prove" anything. I am still WHO I am when I'm not logged in. My character, personality, talents, passions, and gifts. Allll of those things still exist within me whether I show them on Instagram or not. And I've struggled for a long time with the feeling " If I don't show up and do what everyone else is doing, I'm not enough". And I'm done.
I would rather show up a portion of the time with work that is meaningful and authentic to who I am than feel pressured into creating for the sake of creating. I must say I do love the beautiful parts of social media. I've made connections and forged friendships through the ability to share in these spaces. I understand their value from a business perspective too. My entire professional career is married to them. However, I'd be lying if I didn't say it's necessary to step away from time to time. Because before we were ever our profiles, we were people. We talked to friends on the phone. We didn't feel disappointed if our phone died during a night out. We didn't have thousands of "friends" to cater to.
We were actually present.
I need to feel present again for a little while. I need to remember what it's like to stop asking for outside opinions on decisions I should make for myself. Time to reconnect with some old passions that don't require being shown for the world to see. Or break the habit of my fingers naturally scrolling. I need to truly understand that if I never had another brand partnership, photo shoot, or business launch again, I will still be a neat person. I am more than "@shelbywilburn_". I am simply Shelby. My output is not my worth.
Our potential is not rooted in our digital identity.
And if these platforms have made you lose sight of that lately, I encourage you to take a step back for a bit. Reclaim your confidence when it's not rooted in 100+ likes. Believe in your business when you're not getting tagged in shoutout posts. Stop equating the power of your potential to how much you create in a month's time. Remember the little things that are equally (if not more special) that still exist outside of the digital realm. And most importantly, recognize social media is a tool, not a lifeline.
You existed before it and you can still exist without it.
You'll see less of me for a while, and have less interaction, but know that I'm still rooting for you. It's time to prioritize myself for a while. If you need to do the same, I hope you can find peace in doing it too.