Under the Influence

(help, I’m trapped in the web)  

Freya Wasteneys // Managing Editor 

Mikaela Johnson // Illustrator

Confession: few things irk me more than scrolling through an Instagram feed of bluebird conditions and fresh powder while I’m stuck at home on a Sunday, desperately trying to finish a barrage of assignments. I hate to admit it, but in the final stages of my seemingly endless degree, I am very much not thrilled, inspired or empowered by the joyous mountain photos flooding my social media.  

Mountains. Deep powder. Babes. Badass. Bluebird. Empower. Inspire. Rad.  

At the top of screen, I see the circular glow of icons; stories from accounts I follow. I know certain ones will send me into spirals of negativity. It’s a landmine. Defeated, I tap on them to get it over with—perhaps to punish myself for not getting my assignments done sooner; for being inefficient with my precious, precious time.  

I used to escape into the mountains to lose my sense of time, but now I feel like I am constantly aware of it. I can’t help but feel the impending sense of anxiety attached to fitting it all in and figuring out how to squeeze the most fun out of my day. People constantly have tabs on where they are and what they’ve done, and it can be challenging to separate what we want from what we need. Where once I looked forward to my weekend escape to the mountains, I’ve come to accept that fitting in all my activities has, at times, become just another source of anxiety.  

Look at this pillow line I skied, this mountain I climbed, this glacier I crossed, this project I completed. 

In the past, my time spent outside was a way for me to escape and re-center, but increasingly it’s become another way for me to run away from my problems; another item on my growing to-do list; another should: I should be happy for you, I should support you, I should… do more and be better, kinder, faster, stronger. Inevitably, I end up more stressed out. Turns out spending up to five hours in the car to get my fix is not always the most efficient, effective or responsible way to look after my mental health. Instead, sometimes the best thing I can do is sit diligently at my computer, maybe go for a run, and deal with the negative feelings that sometimes arise. It’s not the most glamorous, but it is, realistically, another necessary form of self-care. It’s also not what people want to hear.  

While social media can work to connect communities, help us share experiences and make the outdoors more accessible, the ability to constantly update others on our lives can blur the lines between what we do for ourselves and what we do for acceptance in our online communities. With the increasing pressure to “get out there,” what was once a privilege and escape is quickly becoming something that we take for granted. As our livelihoods become more and more tied to our ability to market ourselves online, we can lose an integral part of what drew us to such pleasures in the first place. Instead, social media leaches into sacred spaces and germinates discontent; a sense of inadequacy. We combat these feelings through posts that assert that we belong, or by buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have. The more successful we become at curating our lives, the more we seem to lose—wasting time and energy on sharing our exploits rather than savouring moments of escape and appreciating what we have. 

Get out there, live your best life, drop everything, quit your job, find your bliss… And then binge-post, lap up the likes like a spilled drink, and make sure you aren’t left behind.  

We address the ridiculousness of social media addiction in ironic tones, yet few of us abstain. The discussion surrounding our presence on social media is fraught. What’s good for one person is not necessarily what’s good for another, and with every benefit comes something equally problematic. It’s hard to come up with a solution to a problem that can also provide so much value. We can’t control what others do, think, see, and in the end, the onus is on us to decide how we react and participate online—but that’s hard to do when everyone else is wrapped up in it too. Beyond the half-joking proclamations of “doing it for the IG,” having discussions with others about our own roles on social media can be downright uncomfortable.  

In many ways, the outdoors and social media seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum: one is down to earth, the other in the cloud. Ultimately, however, they are increasingly connected, and just another way for us to measure ourselves against each other while seeking validation. We often have a narrow idea of what social media addiction looks like, but it’s harder to recognize when it spills into other areas of our lives and drives our motivations beyond the obvious urge to scroll, post and like. Afterall, it should be easy to manage, right? Simply abstain, influence responsibly, limit yourself to the daily recommended number of posts and most of all, just be better.  

Like any relationship, my tryst with social media undulates through highs and lows, but I’m coming to realize that it can also amplify whatever I’m feeling at the time. Sometimes the more we fixate on the parts of ourselves that we want to fix, the more our perceived imperfections can become a problem and we lose sight of the bigger picture. When I think about the times things seem the most in balance, it’s usually when I’ve somehow managed to forget about social media and have engaged fully in whatever I’m doing: approaching life with curiosity and giving myself the space to be perfectly imperfect. Acceptance is elusive if we can’t give it to ourselves. 

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