empathy

When Do You Know You’re ’Adult Enough’?

Artwork by  Beth Hoeckel

Artwork by Beth Hoeckel

Those of us in our twenties are under immense pressure to be grown up and make our parents proud. Today, however, the level of success is more and more being measured not by the satisfaction we feel or the goals we accomplish, but instead by the recognition we obtain from social media.

And it’s not just us. In the form of a click, the entire millenial generation has developed an innate need to hear other people say our achievements are valid.

I have this theory that the more people post online about their relationship, the higher the possibility the relationship will fail.

Over the past years, I’ve observed that couples usually spam our newsfeeds with lovey-dovey posts not because they are blissfully jubilant, but because they might be insecure about their relationship.

If you are content with your relationship, would you need to post about how much you love your girlfriend so often? Would you need to publish photos of you kissing and cuddling and going on a date almost everyday? Would you need to announce how your love life is swell to anyone who will listen? If so, who are you trying to convince your relationship is going strong? Us? Or yourselves?

The same train of thought applies to our online habits.

We are ecstatic to share positive news to the world. We log online to post, blog, and tweet about it because if it’s not online, it’s not real and it didn’t happen. A few days or weeks of riding on digital cloud 9, we see one of our friends status update on their new promotion. Then we see another friend get engaged. And another on an exotic vacation abroad.

Suddenly, our promotion doesn’t feel so significant. Our date with our partner doesn’t seem so romantic. Our simple joy in reading a book on our day-off doesn’t sound so cozy. This unsaid competition has gotten so intense that when some people go shopping or grab coffee, they’ll upload photos of every single purchase.

Why must we continuously one-up each other?

Why do we feel the need to prove, via social media, that our achievement is just as good as theirs? That our success is authentic and tangible?

The more you post online about your life, the more you are trying to prove to yourself that your success is real. It’s not about showing others that you’ve got it figured out. It’s about making yourself feel secure based on how the world applauds you.

Research shows the same parts of the brain are stimulated when we take or crave drugs and when we feed our addiction to technology and search for the online-gratification which comes with it. Have you tried disconnecting from the internet for a few days or weeks? Most likely you encountered the same symptoms as junkies, alcoholics, or smokers going through withdrawal – isolation, tension, and irritability. Were you tempted to sneak a quick peek at your notifications?

Recommended reading: Why #RelationshipGoals shouldn’t be a goal. 

Pause. Examine your inner-self.

Are you happy?

If yes, are you happy because your soul is happy?

Or are you happy because people online make you happy by giving your profile photo 300 likes?

Social media has evolved in a way which affects our psychology. This is no longer a cheesy, romanticized ’believe in yourself!’ spiel. This issue is affecting is unhealthily.

For us to really feel success, that success must also be corroborated by the world’s opinion. You can not be fully successful unless your Friends List and followers authorize it. Thus, comes the self-doubt, insecurity, depression when we don’t have ’enough.’

Ladies and gentlemen, no matter what your age – teens, 20s, or 30s –  it will seem like all your friends have life figured out. It will seem like everybody, except you, has everything going for them and you’re still this woman-child or man-child hiding behind high heels or a suit.

It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s normal to feel like this and as far-fetched as it sounds coming from a faceless stranger unable to like your instagram photo, you are doing good. In the colossal dark void of the internet, it’s easy to feel small and insignifcant. This does not mean you are not relevant.

I promise you no one has it together. No matter how popular YouTube stars are, there are still aspects of their personal lives they are unhappy about. No matter how many shares this article gets, ArtParasites writers are still struggling to pay the rent. We simply choose not to post about it.

Social media reputation is carefully crafted. Sometimes, people let you see how they want you to perceive them. No one wants to update their Facebook if they were rejected for a date, or if they sent their 99th resume (yes, I know someone who did this) and still wasn’t hired, or if they can’t afford to help pay their parent’s medical bill. No one is ’living the dream,’ and if they really are, shouldn’t we be glad for them instead of throwing a pity-party?

Close your eyes.

Imagine the homepage of your favorite social media profile. The constant updates from friends and followers, the red notification flashing from a new comment, the endless scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Now, imagine a delete button. A big, giant, delete button hovering in front of your profile, blurring all else in the background.

Click the button.

”I am failing at life.” Delete.

”My boyfriend needs to give me more surprises like other girls’ boyfriends do.” Delete.

”Why aren’t more people liking my post?” Delete.

When someone likes or comments on something you post and you get that familiar sensation of gratification, click delete. When you read a friend’s post and start to doubt yourself, click delete. Hear that satisfying paper-crunching sound effect as your insecurities and self-inflicted psychological stress are wiped-out from your mind and heart.

The substantiality of our lives is not dependent on the attention we gain online, and success is not measured by the number of likes, retweets, or views we get on our social media profiles.

Do not allow your phones or your laptops to live your life for you.

Online fame does not equate to success. If all you managed to do this week is force yourself out of bed and go to work or school while your depression attempts to drag you down, this is still an accomplishment in itself. Even if you didn’t get likes from doing it.

Exist in such a way that you are present and aware of what you are doing, even the tiniest of  triumphs. Enjoy your success and relish in it because you made it happen. You passed that exam, you got that job, you earned your money. You survived and continue to do so despite the weight on your shoulders – your followers did not make that happen.

To quote Caroline Cadwell, ”In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.”

Everyone has different goals and accomplishments. Your happiness is not other people’s happiness. Exorcise the culture of neverending outside validation. The only thumbs-up you need is from you.

Unplug your success. Delete your insecurities.

Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-four year old Filipina surfer sometimes living in Denmark. She is the author of poetry books War Songs and Coffee and Cigarettes. Her work has appeared on places such as Literary Orphans, The Thought Catalog, The Rising Phoenix Review, Hooligan Magazine, Germ Magazine, and more. In her spare time she likes to eat words and drink sunlight.

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