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How social media is lived: Allegory of the Cave in the 21st century

I was not a regular on social media. Which means I remember quite well my first interactions with this digital world. Before starting to post on a regular basis when I kicked off my coaching business, I gave this approach a lot of thought. What is the purpose? What is my message? How do I wish to influence others? Who am I writing to?

One action that help me answer all these questions was to start following a couple of experts in the area of coaching and personal development. They inspired me to find my voice. In other words, this is what I have learned: Who you follow is as much as important as the content you publish.

Social media may have started with a couple of nice pictures, but it is way more than that. What people write about, what they share about themselves, and others has an impact. Not always a positive one.

I see many people obsessed by social media. They spend a great amount of their day scrolling down on their phones, hypnotized by the images they watch and the words they read or hear. This overload of information is dumped on the brain, often without any self-reflection nor emotional context. First perceptions and feelings are internalized, self-limiting beliefs are crystalized, and whatever has been captured becomes now the one and only truth.

If I follow a cool mom on Instagram whose looks are always amazing while she bakes and plays outdoors with her seemingly perfect children, then as a mom how can I compete with this image of perfection when my kids are usually doing a mess and throwing tantrums?

If there is a dream couple posting photos of their travels around the world who are always smiling and look happy and in love, what happens when I compare them with my relationship with my partner with whom I have an argument at least once a day, including about the plans for the next romantic trip that keeps getting postponed?

If I read constantly about that guru who has millions of followers and turned their own business into a billion-dollar company overnight, how does that help me to be inspired to follow my dreams while doing my day job and raising a family?

These are a few scenarios representing a sample of the social media feed of many of us.  Are you comparing your life to these examples? Are these even real? Even if these stories are partly true, they are still just shadows. Shadows of a real life behind the scenes. Could you get the totality of a person only through her shadow?

And if you are still not convinced, think about your life and what you post on your social media. Are you posting photos of yourself when you just woke up? Or in the middle of a fight with your partner? Or when you are yelling with your kids? Or when you are snuggled on the sofa wearing your comfy pajamas and sobbing over a TV drama? Didn’t think so!

Believing in everything that we see and hear sounds much like the prisoners from the Allegory of the Cave who believed that the shadows they saw reflected on the walls represented reality. For them, this underground place was the world they knew and accepted as real. The longer they remained inside the cave, the harder it was to believe in anything else but those shadows as the truth.

In this case, the longer we remain chained to these ideal of perfection, the harder it will be to distinguish what is reality and what is not. The harder it will become to move from ignorance to enlightenment.

Social media should not be about you ending up feeling miserable, alone and devalued. But rather being inspired, empowered and confident. Take a hard look to those you follow and find your people. Search for people who inspire you and make you want to be the best version of yourself. Let the shadows lighten the way out of that cave and feel the warmth of the light outside. This is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself before the year ends.




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