I recently reached out to those following The Intentionality Project on Instagram asking if anyone would like to volunteer to participate in an email interview to continue this segment on the topic of social media. I was blown away at the response. The next several entries are going to be interviews with people I have never met before, this is my interview with Matthew Makhoul (@mattmakhoul on Instagram).
How long have you been using social media?
"Way too long! I got Facebook soon after it came out (which means I was probably too young) and was also really into YouTube in high school/college. Instagram took me a few years, I actually got it in 2013 which seems like a long time now but it was 3 years after it began. This will sound cliche, but I honestly never expected it to initiate my love for photography."
How has social media benefitted you, and how has it negatively affected you?
"Social media has definitely brought positive things into my life. I've always been shy and withdrawn in a lot of ways, and social media gave me an outlet to share things that I love to create. The amount of people I've met through Instagram alone is crazy, some of those people being my closest friends and forming relationships that I treasure deeply. It's helped me to break out of my shell, bit by bit, and not be as afraid to show people who I am. As scary as it is, I've had a lot of people tell me they're inspired by what I share and maybe that wouldn't have happened otherwise."
"However, it can also be a pure ego trip. I have found myself in the past curating my day just for a post, or trying too hard to seek validation in the wrong ways just to feel better about my daily struggles. I'm less and less attached to numbers (followers, likes, etc) but I have let that be a motivator before, which made me feel burnt out from creating things that I felt I needed to create (ex: creating what's "popular" rather than what my gut is telling me). I find myself subconsciously scrolling and comparing my moments to everyone else's, and although it's such a common thing now, it's truly something that I feel we should all let go of."
"I've recently tried to filter who I follow, and make sure those people I am inspired by are posting more whole-hearted content rather than just a highlight reel of curated snapshots. There's been a lot of times that instagram is a trigger for self doubt in myself and my abilities to create because there's just so much out there, and it can result in constant noise in a world where authenticity is becoming misinterpreted. A recent battle has been simply detaching from instagram more on a daily basis and focusing more on what I truly want to put out there/express. At the end of the day, it's a great platform, but it's also just an app."
Have you experienced insecurity in your life? If so, in what ways? Has social media helped heal those insecurities, or has it enabled them?
"Insecurity has definitely been a part of my life. Growing up, my interests were different than other kids and that caused self doubt. I was less masculine and more sensitive; less into sports and more into art than other boys were, and that caused a lot of comparison. As society progresses and as I get older, these qualities are something I embrace now. However, social media has for sure brought on a wave of insecurities, especially when it comes to believing in myself as a creative person. I've had a lot of ideas that are put on the back burner because I see someone else doing something similar, and they're owning it. That comparison is 100% still there, and it takes a lot of energy to detach when needed, which is super important. These platforms are so easy to get sucked into. I think we need to be mindful of knowing when enough is enough."
Some studies have been released recently showing that depression and anxiety in teens has been linked to social media use. What is your perspective on why that might be the case?
"It's crazy to me to think about, because I totally believe it. Musicians and artists are getting huge recognition at such a young age now, and I can't imagine being exposed to that all the time growing up. The online world expects you to have a polished persona, a perfect version of yourself in a way and that can be really damaging to anyone's self esteem let alone anyone who is a teen and still actively developing who they are. I really get how it could add a lot of pressure and be a huge distraction."
Why do people love social media so much?
"It's easy to use, it allows for new opportunities, and here's the big one: Anyone can gain an audience. I think the last one is almost like an addiction, because it's such a driving force in some ways and it gives us instant gratification. I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to reach a wide audience or wanting our voice to be more widespread. We may just need to step back and re-evaluate why we are posting online. Is it because we want likes and followers, or because our heart is begging us to create something meaningful and share that experience with others?"
What would life look like if social media didn't exist? How do you think people would react if it suddenly crashed and ceased to exist today?
"Oh wow - I've actually been forcing myself to ask that question lately! People would react in different ways. I guess it would nearly destroy some people because they rely on it so much or even their career depends on it. Others would maybe be a little thrown off, but the next day or week they would dive back into their craft head first.. We would really see how much attachment we have to social media. In the long run, people would be forced to do things the way they were done before, which involves more aspects of one on one connection, totally offline. It's definitely a good exercise to practice and ask ourselves, because it helps shape our pure motives behind what we create. It helps us become more intentional in what we do."