I hadn’t wanted to write about this today but after reading that our Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, went to Jigawa to inspect the tallest flag pole in Nigeria, I decided to practice self-care and not write about Naija this week. Haba! It’s not Naija that will kill me. I admit that it is pompous to think that anyone has it all so together that they could write a manual for life and social media. So, this is not a ‘how-to’ as much as it is a ‘what-I’ve-learned-so-far.’
Try not to compare your insides to other people’s outsides. I’ve borrowed this from the very clever Anne Lamott. On social media, everyone’s life is like the cover of a glossy magazine. And their partners are the best and their holidays are the greatest. On Instagram and Facebook, we see carefully curated photos of people living their best lives. They save the brokenness and the sadness for when the camera is turned off. Do not compare your mottled, matte insides to their glossy outsides. Everyone is carrying a burden, some people are just better at making it seem as if life for them is a never ending party with confetti and glitter. There is no mess. No rowdy guests. No boring DJ. Years ago, a parent at my child’s school posted a really beautiful lovey-dovey photograph of herself and her husband just hours before they’d get into an argument and he’d stab her to death. Apparently, they’d been fighting a lot and the pictures she was posting on Facebook had little to do with the reality of her life. Which brings me to number two.
Do not be distracted by the slick veneers of your friends and family. Check on them, even those whose Instagram photos are the brightest and the prettiest, and whose Facebook status updates are the most inspirational. Call them. Visit them. DM them. Send a WhatsApp text. Touch base just to say hello. If you believe in God, pray for them. Mention them by name. If you don’t believe in God, send them positive vibes. Let them know you’re praying or thinking of them. People like to know that they are in your thoughts just because. It is the best compliment we can give and receive.
Radical self-care is imperative. Look out for yourself. Protect your boundaries on social media and in life. Eat healthy. Take walks. Read. Watch movies. Sing. Play music. Mute conversations that are toxic. Forgive yourself. Be intentional about treating yourself with tenderness. Sometimes, folks are too busy saving the world or chasing money to take time to relax. Some treat their cars better than they treat themselves. Live intentionally both IRL and on social media. Treat your life as if it were a really expensive car that did not belong to you and if you crashed it, you would spend the rest of your natural life—no matter how long you lived—working 24/7 to replace it.
Do not crash into other people’s dramas. Do not swerve into conversations that do not concern you especially on social media where it is easy to forget that not every post is an invitation to engage, and that not every poster is worth our time engaging. Consider why you want to engage and who you want to engage. Social media space is a market square: you’ll find all sorts in it. Folks who just like to be provocative and those who like to learn. Folks who are obnoxious and those who enjoy civil discourse. Folks who like jollof and those who like pasta (yuck!). The village drunk and the Head of the WHO. It’s a free world but unless you’re the sort to intervene in every conversation with every passerby and their dog on the streets of your town, there’s no need to do that on social media streets either. You’ll just elevate your blood pressure for nothing.
You can’t be an expert in everything. No one knows so much that they could never learn anything. It’s okay to just listen and learn when you come across a conversation that you’re interested in but is above your station. Approach life and cyberspace with humility. Be open to having your mind blown and your mind changed. Do not clog your ears with the sound of your own voice.
Remember that you will never be liked by everyone, you’re not money. People will disappoint you. They’ll say unkind things about you. C’est la vie. Be wary of those who slide into your ears or into your DMs to tell you every uncomplimentary thing others have been saying about you, especially if they ask you not to out them as the source. Good friends will tell off your slanderers without even letting you know. They have your back without trying to show you what a good friend they are unless they’re hoping to get something out of it, in which case they may not be as good a friend as they appear to be.
Realize that the road to self-delusion is littered with flatterers. Don’t fall for flattery and do not surround yourself with those who agree with you all the time. Chances are that if you have friends who are like you, that you agree on (almost) everything anyway. However, true friends are able to argue and remain friends.
Be intentional about speaking/writing. Think first. Do not be in a hurry to join the herd, you’re not a cow. Words, spoken or written, are like eggs. Once broken, they can’t be scooped up and put back in the shell. You can be sorry but the damage’s already been done. Handle your words with care.
Practice intentional compassion. IRL and on social media. Be kind to folks. Do not assume the worst of people just because you’ve met “others like them.” Remember, some folks are really just ignorant.
Always tell yourself the truth. Whatever your outside is, whatever pictures you share, to thine own self be true.
Inhale. Exhale. Live.