Instagram culture. Stranger envy. The ever-dreaded social media FOMO. The rise of sharing apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, has come with an uptick in commentary on whether or not social media affects our lives in negative ways. And the evidence strongly points to, well, yes. The perfectly curated images we are inundated with all over social media — of far-flung travels, perfectly color coordinated homes, exciting careers and harmonious romantic relationships — can affect our well-being, leading us to believe that our own lives are far inferior from others'.
And if you're anything like me, you've probably fallen into that trap, too. I can't count how many times I've scrolled through my Instagram to see a perfectly coiffed "influencer" working in her chic home office while I'm writing at my kitchen table in a bathrobe. It can make you totally question your life choices when your job is not conducive to luxurious world travel, your partner is not open to taking perfectly posed photos with you every second of the day, and you can't get an aesthetically pleasing gallery wall up in your living room no matter how hard you try. So when people ask, "What do you want to do with your life?" or even a simple, "What are you up to these days?" it can result in a full blown existential crisis.
But ever since I read One Day by David Nicholls, I've taken a different approach to making a meaningful life, and it's one that is far more attainable and definitely stress reducing.
One Day follows the lives of Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley over 20 years, through snapshots of their relationship that occur on the same day — July 15th— of each year. They meet in 1988, just after they've graduated from college, and readers see them through countless fights, too many hopes and missed opportunities, and plenty of laughter and tears as they strike out on their own and figure out who they are and want to be. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.
And as the book reaches its climax, readers are treated to an internal dialogue from Emma, when she makes an important realization about what living life to the fullest truly means to her. The quote begins, "'What are you going to do with your life?'" Then it continues:
"'Live each day as if it's your last', that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to be good and courageous and bold and to make difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance. That was her general theory, even if she hadn't made a very good start at it."
Thanks to this quote, I approach life, and social media, in a whole new way. Because our moments are not only meaningful when they're Instagram worthy. If you've been struggling with the social media rat race, take a step back and think about what you truly want the legacy of your days to be. I'm pretty sure that having 20,000 likes on a vacation photo won't be part of it. It's time we got back to the original intent of social media: to share our lives with others, in all of their messy, wonderful, complicated, exciting, courageous glory — filters be damned.