While social media is a great communication tool, its usage at an individual level in today’s world has become a breeding ground for dangerously unrealistic expectations. When so much information is being shared without any regulation whatsoever and everyone is practically left to their own devices, the information is bound to be doctored. Hence the saddening online trend online where everyone wants to portray only what is positive and perfect. On the surface we are all happy people, enjoying our career to the maximum, having the most successful romantic and family relationships, making as much money as you can imagine and basically living the best life ever. All the time! Despite well knowing that this kind of perfectionism is unattainable and refraining from being affected by it, unsuspectingly, feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy can creep up on even the best of us, though we may not admit it. Especially where our professional success is concerned.
As a young entrepreneur just starting out, I once had a spell of insecurity in the face of all the social media ‘achievements’ that surrounded me. Regular updates and pictures of everyday people (not the well known affluent in the society, but people I even knew personally) seemingly at the height of their success, featuring frequent travel, opulent living and others seemingly on vacation every day of the year, would leave me wondering a lot about what success meant to various people and question my own interpretation too. Is it wealth, fame and recognition? Does it matter what I do to succeed, as long as my success is documented and recognized? Are people faking success to elevate their social media status or what time do they work? Having been raised to value achievement, to set life-changing goals and have pride in my work, it was becoming difficult to determine if these were truly the keys to success. But once I was able to step back and critique the whole social media shenanigans I discovered there were lessons to be learned.
Choose the right role models
One day I made a conscious decision to clean up my timeline. I chose to only follow updates of people who I felt were in a place I wanted to be, having taken a route that I wanted to emulate. It is not wise to completely shut out social media because there’s a wealth of information within your reach that can be of benefit. Instead, carefully filter what you let through. In fact, a lot we learn from role models or people we find inspiring is through their stories, mostly shared online. Therefore, it is crucial to choose online role models, but based on personal standards. If you pride yourself in having a high regard for hard work and understand that success is not overnight, let that resonate with the people you choose to influence you. We are living in a superficial online world that is showing us only the results and rarely the process. The quest to portray perfection has people giving the illusion of a carefree expensive lifestyle but not once showing actual work or means that’s enabling it. And who doesn’t want a person so successful to be their role model, you may ask? But it is time to think about your real-life journey, even as other people are documenting their success. Michelle Obama once said, ‘We learned about honesty and integrity, that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules, and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.’ Luckily there are many hardworking people in the world doing great things fair and square and documenting their journey on social media that can impact us positively. If we choose consciously, we can change the narrative. We can focus on information that teaches and inspires us to do better, and stay away from pointless bravado. Like it was once said, in a world full of mediocrity, be exceptional.
What’s on social media is not the whole story
Unfortunately, allowing influence from the wrong crowd has now bred a self-entitled generation that believes all the good stuff should fall on their lap because they deserve it. Becoming an overnight success is the goal and when it doesn’t happen people are getting depressed. Because social media is always showing us how easy it is to be “rich and famous”, everyone is now looking for an easy way out. However, we often forget that this is not the whole story. When we aren’t shown the work behind the glory how do we learn its value? What if, as in The Bling Ring, the work turns out to be illegal? What if as it has happened before, your online role model turns out to be a thief, a corrupt individual, a drug or sex trafficker, and their whole seemingly great life is a façade under which lies a web of deceit and illegal activity? They also could have mega-rich parents, while yours could only sacrifice as much to get you through school so you would become a legit success. Or they could have gone through hell to be where they are, but you only see what they choose to show you. Think about it.
Remember hard work is still a thing
Ambition and hard work go hand in hand. Plain good old work ethic, dedication, effort and basically, shunning laziness. So, putting up a successful front isn’t synonymous with actually putting in the work, and the likes and followers don’t translate to achievement. Seeing other people’s seemingly instantaneous success has corroded our patience and perseverance levels to the point that the millennial generation is being labeled lazy. But I think we have just been misled. For instance, a story of a girl who created a gofundme account to buy a car may shock us but I blame it on believing the social media hype that teaches us to seek instant gratification. We have seen many people who actually find it okay to ask others to fund their lifestyle, because you know, it is easier than working for it. Maddening, but also sad.
Pursue real-life excellence and seek to change your world
Unlike perfection, excellence is real and achievable. If you work towards being the best you can be, sharpening your skills everyday, maximizing your talent and potential, you will excel. I would love to see young people seek a path of excellence, doing something that warms their heart, nourishes their soul and makes a difference in their world. Whether as a career person or an entrepreneur, think; is my life’s work worth something to someone other than myself? Am I getting to where I want to be in a way the inspires the next generation? As we work hard, let’s be smart enough to not seek to portray a perfect life but instead focus on real-life excellence. Only then will true success find us.
We would do ourselves and our society great justice if for a moment, we focused on building ourselves from the inside, so we can actually be successful not just look it. Success that doesn’t just look good on paper (or online) but is real can be used to impact the world around us. While it is okay to focus on making money (because we all need it), let’s also claim our place in this world by making a difference. Wealth is great but remember the value you add to other people’s lives is your legacy. So feel great about your work and seek to influence in the right way. Teach, guide and inspire someone, consequently changing their life. This is how you will change the world.