Beware of what your bubble reflects back to you

Beware of what your bubble reflects back to you

You live in a bubble and you always have, like the rest of us. You have probably contemplated this before and it seems to not be a big deal. You like your peepz and your social bubble feels like a safe space to hang out. Well, it is, but beware! It can also be disorienting and holding you back.

Creating your bubble of like-minded folks

Generaly people like to surround themselves with like-minded people. This way they have the benefits of these contacts, instead of having to deal with people they’re not comfortable with. That makes total sense and has been like this for ages – probably since humans got the option to choose their friends and still survive.

But it is more complicated now. You know social media, right? On there you get to create your own feed through following accounts whose posts and stories you like. So here also we choose the people we like. After all, we generally prefer to see posts of like-minded people, since we mostly use social media for fun, not for work.

There will be exceptions to the rule, like people who use social media for work or research, or deliberately want to broaden their view on life by following very different people. But most people do not do this for leisure.

First of all, you are your friends

They say that you are your friends, or more specifically: you are a combination of your five best friends. Well, this might as well work on Instagram too. At least it’s worth considering.

So, as I already posted on Instagram before:

You are your Instagram feed.

I wasn’t dead serious, but I wasn’t joking either. You are likely to follow people you can relate to, that are like-minded or that have qualities that you would like to develop.

However, socials are different from real life too. This we’ll explore further in this blog post.

Bear in mind the social media culture and algorithms

Before we go on, we need to acknowledge that social media are kind of a weird place to hang out. People behave different online than offline, so their online image and your perception is also different. This is partly due to how it is designed and how the culture came to be.

Another thing is that the platforms meddle with your online world by tweaking your feed. Algorithms register what kinds of posts you interact with and will even learn to feed you more of the posts you like, in the forms of suggested posts and ads. So the users get to decide what they post, but the algorithm influences how many others see the posts and whose posts you get to see. I don’t know how it works, but it works.

This way, you enter an online world that is somehow specifically tailored to your (subconscious) preferences. It may as well be your very own hall of mirrors.

More on how social media work and change your behaviour can be found in my previous post.

How your feed reflects your ideals and not reality

So the social bubble is the same as in real life, but different too. Online you can follow many people that in real life you wouldn’t be friends with for different reasons. For example, you can follow people who in normal life you would regard as ‘too cool’ or ‘too weird’ to approach, but on the socials you can carelessly follow them and interact with them. This way, you can follow many different people you admire for their different qualities.

So you can supplement your pool of actual friends with (other) admirable people. You can follow ‘super stars’ with shared hobbies and interests, people who have mastered some skills or are just very charismatic and successful.

I don’t know about you, but I do this! And if you do this heavily, maybe your feed isn’t so much a representation of who you are right now, but of who you would want to be(come).

Think about that for a second. What kind of people or accounts do you follow and why? What do you like about these people, what do you admire? Why do you like seeing their posts?

We can also keep in mind that (these very admirable) people tend to create a very positive image of themselves online, posting mostly positive things and flattering pictures. I am generalising, but you know it’s true. Everything is polished and carefully crafted. (If it’s not, you’re doing it wrong – you’re not a good marketing machine yet.)

So in this way even one individual’s feed can be more of an expression of who that person wants to be than how she really lives her day-to-day life.

Also noticable is that influencers, or people with a large following on socials, may come accross as your friends, but they really aren’t. You don’t know them in real life, you don’t know how they behave, what is authentic and what isn’t, etcetera. So your influencers aren’t really your friends. (Even though they can be very genuinely friendly! It’s just not the same.)

Your influencers aren’t your friends and you don’t know them in the same way.

So, this all adds to the creation of a feed that isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of how people really live their lives, it’s more likely to be a representation of an ideal picture-perfect life.

And eventually your very own feed may show you your specific ideal(s), because you get to choose carefully who you allow to exhibit there.

And this is great inspiration; as long as you realise that this is what it is instead of normal reality.

On top of what the ‘influencers’ put out there, their posts even allow you to project your own ideals on them like crazy. We don’t have much information, so we fill in the gaps with our own imagination. If you’re like me, you may make people really glamorous in your head! Even though this person may just be really ‘normal’.

Our assumption may be based on some specific thing we know, but not on the whole of the person (which we don’t know). And it is easier to have assumptions about people you don’t know much about and who you don’t even meet in real life. So we can very easily have assumptions about people that carefully craft their online image.

It’s good to keep these mechanisms in mind. If you forget them, you may end up setting the bar really high for yourself, because you compare yourself to images of people that aren’t accurate. This is the first very important lesson of this blog post.

Your bubble may make you lose sight of your own qualities

Another thing with this carefully crafted bubble is that it can make you lose sight of your own unique qualities. At least, this is what I experience.

When you are surrounded by people that are fairly different from you, it is easy to distinguish what makes you stand out from the rest. Clear.

On the other hand, if you surround yourself with like-minded people with similar qualities and interests as you, this may make it harder to see yourself clearly. If all people around you have similar ways of thinking, you may tend to forget that there are millions of people out there who think differently.

This goes already for ‘normal life’, but social media adds an extra layer to it.

My best example is that I am very idealistic. This is such a core value of mine, that all of my friends are rather idealistic too. In addition, the people I follow on Instagram are also idealistic, because I just love ideals! So I deliberately follow people who are putting their ideals into action. And they do this in their very own ways that I find inspiring.

However, for me this almost makes me forget that in the real world, outside of my lovely bubble, the average person is way less idealistic than the average person inside of my bubble!

And this is quite a clear example. Many other qualities are way less easy to see, like sensitivity, in the sense of ‘highly sensitive person’ (HSP). Based on my bubble, I could almost start believing that everyone in the world is highly sensitive. Which is not true, as I’m told. 😉

And there are many more qualities that can be hard to see in yourself if the people around you are like you!

So these bubbles can lead to a distorted view of (other) people and that can then also lead to a distorted view of yourself in relation to others. And this isn’t a disaster per se, but it can be disorienting, at least to me.

Because you know, it can be useful to know which of your qualities or interests stand out and what makes you unique as a person.

To me everyone seems to be solving world problems

It is to me at least. If you know me just a little, you know that I am on a big quest to learn who I am and what my role in this world is. Somehow I don’t see so clearly what makes me stand out, thus what my biggest contributions in the world would be.

And now I am thinking that my bubble does not only help me, but also has some negative effects.

So as I wrote, I like following people who are doing their best to make a positive difference in the world, all in their own unique way and in ways that somehow allign with me.

That is great energy, great inspiration. However, it confuses me too!

Picture of a woman in the water and her face just above the surface, eyes closed.

I would love to make a big positive difference in the world, but I haven’t found my one/distinct way to do that yet. I am very broadly interested and there are so many things that I could be doing and I just have a hard time chosing and committing, because I doubt about what fits me best.

And honestly, seeing all these amazing people doing their things in the world and presenting it with (seemingly) great confidence, doesn’t really help. This can make me wonder why I haven’t found my thing to do yet. Why can’t I just focus like them? Should I do someting similar?

It can lead to more questions and self-doubt – even while following plenty of self-care advocates. Because then I could even wonder: should I be a more active self-care advocate?

It also works like this: in my world view everyone is idealistic and is working on solving world problems. It even goes so far that in my very positive world view all problems are already being fixed.

And then, when everyone and everything seems so great to me, what is there left to do? Scrolling on Instagram and watching all these heroines change the world?

This leaves me with more doubt about what would be my contribution, if I’m scrolling through the feed instead of checking in with myself. The answer for me is that I cannot find myself or my thing on there. This makes total sense (and it may be a no-brainer to you!) but for me it is a good reminder. I don’t have to look to others on social media to find myself and what I should be doing.

So, this is a great example in which social media use can lead to a distorted view of reality and can work against you and me.

Dream scrolling: what does it do for you?

It’s funny to notice that I am writing about my positive feed, while others seem to do the oppisite. I just read about doom scrolling being the scrolling through endless posts with bad news. I do not do that and so my mind even read ‘droomscrollen’ instead, which means dream scrolling. That is more like it!

Here’s an improvised definition of dream scrolling with a warning:

Dream scrolling: scrolling through endless social media posts of other idealists of their dreams and how they are bringing these dreams into reality. If you don’t do it carefully, it may leave you confused about who you are and about what should be your own big dream to go after.

This makes total sense to me.

So now I am thinking that there are two scenarios of dream scrolling:

One is that you already have your own big dream to go after. Then, why would you waste time scrolling through others’? You can just do it for fun and/or for interacting and even cooperating with others, all of that. But I suspect that it is not so useful for inspiration because you have that passion and spark inside of you. So this dream scrolling can only distract you from your own path.

The second option is that you are still awaiting your own dream or cause of vision. Then, how can dream scrolling help you learn what is yours to do in this world? This is the group of people that should watch out not to loose itself in the dream feed and the group that I am talking to today.

A possible third option would be that you don’t care about big dreams, in which case dream scrolling wouldn’t have such a big impact on you personally (and you likely won’t do it like I described!). You do your thing, undisturbed by the idealists in the world doing their things.

So if you are in the second group and are awaiting or searching for your dream, please be aware of what this social media feed can do to you and think of how you can use it in your favor. Here I am not offering solutions, but I do want to encourage you to find your own way with it. That is, if it interests you and if you haven’t already! And if you have, please share your findings and ways with me in the comments to get the conversation going.

Awareness is key

To me, this ‘dream scrolling’ is pretty confusing and it can lead me astray from my own path. I would say that awareness of it all is key to not get negatively influenced through comparison to ideals for example. I am also very selective in whom I follow and whom I don’t. If it doesn’t help me anymore, I unfollow. (I’m really harsh.)

I actually think that I would prefer a wholly different layout or mechanism than the ones we know of social media today. I would prefer something that is more quiet, where frequency of posting doesn’t count as much. For example, in the beginning of the year I had a deliberate 10-day break from Instagam and it wat glorious. It helped me get back to myself.

So I would actually prefer something more similar to decent websites, blogs or journalism (what a surprise! 😉 ). And I would want other ways in which we can create communities or the sense of community, outside of the rat race of social media. You may read more about my social media (rants and) wants here.

How about you?

So this was my assessment of today of how I am impacted by the socials!

And I am very curious: how about you? Do you recognize what I am writing about? Or are you cool and content and not bothered at all? I’d be happy to hear about your experience in a comment! Let’s talk about what’s happening underneath so we can connect on a deeper level.

Also, you may like to check out my previous post about social media in which I compare these platforms to parasites (and you yourself to a marketing machine!), if you haven’t already. 🙂

Photos by Ekaterina Belinskaya, Craig Adderley and Egor Kamelev from Pexels

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