JESSICA ABO is an award-winning journalist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of her debut book , Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media. This enlightening book addresses the relationship between our psychology and technology and how we can take back our happiness IRL (in real life) without falling into the compare-and-despair trap. Jessica helps you push the reset button with bite-sized chapters full of practical insights from experts and psychologists, as well as funny anecdotes and inspiring stories from celebrities.
You can find her empowerment videos on Entrepreneur.com. Currently, Jessica is on a nationwide speaking tour providing the tools executives, employees, and students need to turn their passion into action; and, helping people have a healthier relationship with social media.
Below is a powerful Q and A we conducted with Jessica.
-Jessica, in your best-selling book Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media, can you share briefly why you wrote this book?
While social media can serve as an amazing resource in our lives, I wrote, Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media, to address the connection that needs to shift between our psychology and technology, and hope it inspires people to embrace where they are, and what they have, when it appears everyone has it so much better than they do
It is easy to fall into the compare-and-despair trap when you scroll online and look at someone’s curated highlight reel. Unfiltered is designed to help the reader get to the root of their rut, and is broken up into three sections: career, relationships and community activism. My goal is to help people not only identify what they want to course-correct, but also support them through those changes, and help them discover, or reconnect with, what makes them happy.
-How do we stop allowing social media to control our lives, comparing ourselves to celebrities, models, and influencers?
The best way to prevent social media from controlling our lives is to control the way we use social media. If you’re looking for a sense of belonging, get together with a friend in person or have a chat over FaceTime. If you’re seeking validation, do an activity that is meaningful to you. Maybe you like to workout, create art or music, or try a new recipe – whatever it is, chances are you’ll get more satisfaction from beating a personal record, finishing that screenplay, or eating your delicious meal than you will from staring at your phone, and watching the traction your post is getting. We also have to remind ourselves that celebrities and influencers often have help behind the scenes. Whether they have a personal trainer, stylist, hair and makeup squad, chef, publicist, agent, manger, social media assistant, or all of the above, it’s hard to compare that lifestyle to your life when you haven’t showered, are covered in spit up, have a messy house, loads of laundry to do, and still need to make meals for your kids, pick them up from school, take them to play dates, and other activities before homework, bath time, and bedtime routines.
-Explain briefly the link between our brains and social media and why are we so obsessed with social media?
When I was working on this topic for my book, I called Dr. Larry Rosen, Professor Emeritus and past chair of the Psychology Department at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He explained our obsession with social media can be best explained by The Social Comparison Theory, which says as social animals we compare our status with the status of other animals. We’re wired to want to see what other people are doing and often forget that people are only posting positive aspects of their life.
-Is there a healthy way to be involved with social media, by not allowing it to control us, we control it.
I think you can create a healthy relationship with social media by understanding what role you want social media to play in your life. I always say social media is not the enemy – loneliness is. If you’re standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s and want your social network to cure your boredom, I totally get it. If your apps help you stay connected to the people and causes most important to you that makes sense to me as well. The red flag to be aware of is, if you’re feeling lonely and craving meaningful connections and only turn to your phone to find a sense of belonging or community. You might seek validation in the amount of likes your posts get and that can be a poor reflection of how much people love you and care about you. I think it’s ideal when people use social media to engage with their loved ones around the world, while also seeking opportunities to interact with more people face-to-face. I understand it’s nice to have people “like” and comment on your posts, but nothing beats someone giving you a hug when you really need one.
-Share tips on how you can take initial steps to build a positive happy life.
- Get to the root of your rut. If you find yourself falling into the “compare-and-despair” trap, do a self-audit and ask yourself, “Why does seeing this post make me so upset?” Discovering what is at the root of your rut can help you turn your focus away from what other people are sharing online, and instead, help you reinvest your time and energy into the changes you want to make in your life. Remember that some people in your network are only posting what they want you to see. If you find yourself feeling envious of them, use that information to look at your current status and get to the bottom of what those feelings are trying to tell you. If there is more you can be doing to get what you want, then take the positive steps you need to make those changes. If you’re doing everything you can, then this is a good time to practice gratitude, and patience, and, embrace everything you have to celebrate.
- Set boundaries. Make small changes like: promise yourself that you will not check your phone until after you have brushed your teeth in the morning, or schedule social media time on your calendar, so you don’t waste precious minutes throughout your day.
- Don’t feed your fear of missing out! When I was doing research for my book, I interviewed Dr. Aviva Goldstein, an educator and family counselor who focuses on positive psychology. She suggested turning off all alerts, so you don’t get tempted to pick up your device every time it notifies you that you have a new message. Instead, Dr. Rosen said to consider putting your apps in a folder and moving that folder from your home-screen to the third or fourth screen on your smartphone. This will help you be more mindful of how many times you go onto your social media verticals. If you need more support, put your device on airplane mode.
- Change the way you use social media. If you find you feel empty after spending time on your social media feed, commit to engaging more with the people you follow. For example, the next time you see someone ran a 5K over the weekend, perhaps you’ll take time to comment, and congratulate them opposed to just giving them a thumb’s up. Maybe this exercise will inspire you to call one person who pops up in your feed to say hello and actually hear their voice. Another way to make social media a more positive experience is to follow thought-provoking people whose content adds to your life in some way.
- Live Unfiltered. On that same type of note, I urge others to pay attention to the content we post. We often only post a filtered version of ourselves that rarely includes the raw, vulnerable moments that make us human and who we really are. Instead, I want to encourage people to start getting more real, and ultimately, unfiltered, in the content they post. If we are open in sharing our downs amongst the ups, we can help others going through similar experiences.
You can learn more about Jessica by visiting: https://www.jessicaabo.com/