11/15/2017 Live, Self-Help, Thrive

Social Media – The True Cost & Value

Before I get into this, I want to say something. YOU ARE LOVED. I know sometimes it may not feel that way, but it is true. Not only are you loved, but you have immense value to this world. And, you’re really cool. Seriously.

7 weeks. I went 7 weeks without a single Instagram post. Hardly anything on Facebook over the same amount of time. Twitter? Forget it. I’ve been opening my Instagram for the last few weeks, somewhat scrolling through my feed, blankly staring at my profile, pondering ‘what will I post, when will I post, if I post? What am I doing right now that is interesting, that people will like?’ Because, honestly, my desk job is quite boring (as far as Instagram is concerned). And I haven’t wanted to do much since I got back from the-trip-that-I-can’t-tell-you-about-for-a-few-more-months…I’ve been inside mostly. Or working on the house that my husband and I are building and helping my mom recover from knee replacement surgery. And working. And trying to get my website into a functional state, and trying to write my bio to appropriately reflect where I am (who I am?) at this stage in my life. And none of it is interesting in photographical form.  I could post an old photo, but what’s the point of that? That’s simply me trying to sell you on some part of me, which is only A PART of me, but not who I wholly am. But who am I wholly? Who are you? And who cares? I do.

The value of social media is something I’ve always debated. There is value and power there, but is it a value and a power that aligns with what I want in life? Does is support me and my loved ones in a compelling way? As I’ve taken a step back from social media, its “importance” has become more vivid. It is folded into our daily lives in a truly incomprehensible way. It is seemingly necessary. But why? It also became apparent, in my 30 days without a phone, that social media’s primary purpose is selling other people on something. Yes, even you are trying to sell someone on something. Yes, even me. If you’re not selling something, whether it be a product, an opinion, or a value, your post feels meaningless. But is it? At the very least, it doesn’t feel impactful. And if it isn’t impactful, who’s liking it?

If people will only “like” the most interesting and exciting parts of our lives, if we are constantly filtering our posts to show only those aspects of our lives, we are reinforcing some TERRIBLE patterns. We are reinforcing that we are only valuable if we are interesting, if we are fighting for some just cause, if we are daring, and bold, and beautiful, and edgily strong, and outspoken, and kind. But fuck that. WE ARE ALL VALUABLE. Even when the most interesting thing you do all day is add cream to your god damn coffee, YOU ARE VALUABLE. Hell, maybe you don’t even drink coffee. Guess what? STILL VALUABLE!

I’ve heard the argument that social media is a great way to connect people, to spread the word about (ahem, sell) a great cause, to make people aware of differing perspectives, to tear down barriers, to share, because as you know, there’s strength in numbers. But I’m just not so sure. After a month without a phone, I realized that there is more power in connecting with people around you. There is more power in connecting with a stranger, because they, most likely, will have a different perspective than you; at least more so than what shows up in your Facebook feed comprised of your friends or however their algorithm decides to show you information…

But I have returned. And why? I guess now I’m ironically trying to sell you on the perils of social media by using social media…such a hypocrite. Sadly, one of the first substantial things that I learned since returning to social media, is that one of my dear friends took her own life. I knew she was fighting an inner battle, had been through some rough patches, but from everything I saw on social media, she was winning that battle. Smiles, horses, dogs, bikes, friends, travels. These were the highlights in her reel. And no matter how many likes she got on these posts, no matter how many words of support and encouragement and love, it wasn’t enough. Suicide happened before the advent of social media, but the dichotomy that exists between what is inside and what is outside is far more transparent now. Not to mention there are scholarly articles written about the link between extended social media use and depression. Even more so than simply time spent online. We seem to be poisoning ourselves.

So, if there is one thing that I’m trying to sell, that I want to sell, it is this: please think about how you connect with people. Think about who you’re connecting with and how, think about the time you spend on social media and the true value behind the interactions you’re having, think about how you feel when scrolling through your feed. Does it bring you immense joy? Okay, then proceed. Does it make you feel down about where you are in life? Do feelings of envy or jealousy arise? Does it happen after seeing a specific person’s posts or when looking at most of your feed? Do you get stressed out thinking about what photo to “share?” Then maybe some changes are needed. Please, I beg you, unfollow someone if you experience negative feelings every time you see their posts. Even if they’re family, or a supposed close friend. If you want to punch in me in the face after you see my posts, then please, unfollow me! It’s not worth it.

Beyond how social media makes you feel, ask yourself how you feel in your own life, with your real friends who you see in physical form. Perhaps you don’t spend much time socializing with people in person. How does that make you feel? Content and happy? Excellent. Lonely and sad? Maybe this is an area that needs some work. Reach out to someone. Express how you’re feeling. Ask for someone’s time. We are all busy, but we all have time for a friend in need. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that we’re all in this juggling match called life, trying not to drop any balls, and prioritizing based on fragments of information. We don’t have the whole picture. Until someone says, ‘I’m feeling down and could really use some quality time with you,’ it may not make the cut. And instead of putting the onus on the hurting, try to reach out to someone today. A friend whom you may not have spoken to in a while. Let them know they’re loved. In Tricia’s words “be kind.”

It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.

― Mother Teresa 


17 responses to “Social Media – The True Cost & Value”

  1. Anna says:

    Always with opinions wise beyond your years Jen. Thanks for sharing this. Beautifully written

    • jenhudak says:

      Thank you, Anna! Planning a trip to Whistler this winter and hope to see. I’ve been very proud watching you transition into other realms of this sport and continuing to pursue your dreams. Thanks for being you. xo

      • Corey K says:

        I must concur with Anna’s comment about your “wise” truths. Your sporting talents are amazing BUT you always impress me most with your spilling heart! I too struggle with this whole “unsocial media” thing where we don’t really connect truthfully but electronically. I could drop it at anytime, but with some desire of hope would like to think I can influence people for the better with my images and short commentaries. Even recently, I have considered “who would really miss me electronically if I quit social media”. I don’t think any one of my measly 694 followers would lift a finger to see how I was or if anything was wrong! I miss the days of walking over to a friends house to see if they were home………………… Today Jen, you have influenced me to learn how to truly connect with those closest to my heart. Thank you girl.

        • jenhudak says:

          Thank you, Corey. And thank you for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to getting out into the mountains with you to create some impactful imagery this winter and to forge more meaningful relationships in person. All the best.

  2. Marti Peterson says:

    Lovely, Jen.
    I sympathize with your loss and your need to re-examine social media and priorities.
    Today, I am reaching out to our Mountain Rescue Team to see about giving out free auto-block sets to rock climbers. Actually, I don’t think and auto-block would have helped John, but it might help someone else, and that is good enough. Unfortunately, this has my mind re-living the accident.
    Social media eats up a lot of time, for very little benefit. Yet, it is the only way I will hear from some friends. One has to weigh the pros and cons.
    When you can, reach out with real hugs, and real smiles, and real voice.
    Please share my love with Cathy. Hope her recovery is going well.

  3. Julie says:

    You have put to words all the mixed emotions I have about social media, especially this week. It is such an influential force (for the good and the bad), and I feel it’s taken the place of true connection. So well written and thank you.

  4. Stacey says:

    Thank you for this. I was one of Tricia’s 1300± friends on Facebook. I met her once. She was my coach at a VIDA weekend clinic. I was immediately drawn to her enthusiasm, compassion, skill, patience, and smile. We didn’t become friends “in real life” after that, but I had continued to follow her posts. I knew she was struggling and also saw that maybe she was coming out of it. Of course, I didn’t know the depths of her pain. When I saw her post and the threads following her suicide, I felt so helpless. So sad and disconnected. Social media seems to encourage this level of “acquaintance” that is not real intimacy. It’s a facade that is revealed as soon as real intimacy and friendship is needed. I’ve been trying to comprehend all the emotions that Tricia’s death has brought up for me. The loudest one right now is disconnectedness. I know that reducing my time and participation in social media will help me stay connected and this horribly sad event has made that even more urgent. So, thank you again for writing this. I wanted to share how I was feeling but didn’t know where to do it without imposing upon those who are feeling the much sharper pain and grief of losing a close friend.

    • jenhudak says:

      You are welcome. Thank you for sharing your connection to Tricia. I’m glad that you felt comfortable writing your thoughts here. A person’s death can impact us all in different ways, but we all need honest expression. Tricia was a gift to this world and to all those whose lives she touched. We can honor her by forging deep personal connections with people we encounter. #BeKind

  5. Bri says:

    Thank you. xoxo

  6. norbert says:

    i don’t agree with every word or all the views of yours. but—you know what?—the world needs women like you. more than ever. you should not only be on top of winner’s podiums or glossy sport magazine’s covers (…) but on top of nations, corporations, states. i’m sure that will be the new normal one day. not least with the help of social-media links on blogs like this one. thank you very much for spreading the word.

  7. Shannon Casson says:

    Thanks Jen! Great read and so thought-provoking. I took a break from social media awhile ago and it felt great. It can have such value and purpose at times but other moments, I find myself asking “Why?” Not to mention the obvious time suck and rabbit hole it can become. I personally miss the days when friends would pick up the phone and call each other instead of 25 text exchanges. I wish I could have joined in Denver today for Tricia’s ride. Let’s talk when you get back to organize some bike festivities in her memory. I definitely see tutu’s in the future! Thanks for always putting yourself out there and sharing, even if it is on social media. Ha!

  8. Eric Hockman says:

    Hey Jen,

    We’ve never met, but this story resonated on many levels. Even the comments about friends lifting a finger to check in once the posting stops hit home. Reading this post felt like I was reading my thoughts and feelings written by a stranger, which is refreshing to see that it’s a lot of people going through the same process. Ultimately, focusing on the in person bonds and connections outside of social media will always be the most rewarding in the end. I truly appreciated this post and hope to cross paths at some point. Seems possible with the cycling community being a pretty knit one and a number of mutual friends. All the best and thanks for the beautifully written story.

  9. Jo Rolls says:

    Jen- Thanks so much for your thoughts here and it was great to see you at Lori’s wedding celebration. Here is the article I told you about- looking at smartphone/social media use and anxiety/depression in teens. I’m sure that it affects us as adults too. Especially with how negative the world feels right now, I do just keep coming back to that concept of being kind.

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