A few years ago I wrote an article for the Elephant Journal on the reality of and our reliance on social media and how damaging it can be.
I want to talk about that again and be as open, honest and raw as I can be, because I feel like it’s something that’s currently really lacking in today’s modern world that is so incredibly and intoxicatingly caught up in social media likes, comments and followers that we’re so close to losing sight of reality; if we haven’t already.
You may know that I recently travelled back to South Africa to document vulture conservation and the dire situation that these vulnerable birds are currently facing. I posted on my Instagram stories as much as I could about the experiences I was having, what I was getting to witness, and the beautiful birds that I was able to spend precious time with and get to know. And from the outset it looks incredible. And it really is. But, you know, it’s not all like that.
The reality of the situation is, it’s tough. It’s really bloody tough. Not only are you getting an insight into the incredibly challenging situation that is nature conservation at this time in the world, but you’re also having to battle new environments, new people, new situations, and new practices that you aren’t always comfortable with.
You miss your comforts, you miss your freedom and you miss your familiarity. There have been so many times that I’ve been super homesick, lonely, frustrated and truly upset. Numerous times that I’ve cried myself to sleep and felt so hopeless at today’s world. Spending so many days and nights angry at the world and the people. Working so hard to save one vulture chick’s precious life that has barely begun, to wake up the next morning to the news that 537 vultures have been killed in the worst mass poisoning to date, all so that the poaching of 3 elephants isn’t discovered. And you can try so hard not to, but you really do question what the point is. Life is hard enough battling day-to-day stresses, and when you finally feel like you’re helping and making progress, you find that it may be for nothing because we may soon lose an entire species that is already endangered.
So you find yourself asking, is it worth it? Is this constant, tiring and tireless battle worth all of the stress, upset and, frankly, heartbreak amongst everything else that we, as humans, have to go through really worth it?
Sometimes I really doubt it.
But the majority of the time I’m optimistic, no matter how tough it may be. I’m optimistic that the world is finally waking up to the destruction that we’re all causing, I’m optimistic that we’re finally questioning things and not simply accepting them because the statement has come from someone in power, optimistic that we are finally coming to realise that animals are not here for our entertainment and to use and abuse without understanding the destruction that these practices are causing to our planet, and we are finally beginning to take a little responsibility for our actions. And as we all become more enlightened to the situation we have caused, we can only go forwards (you would hope).
So yes our world can seem pretty screwed up at times – actually, a lot of the time. But it is so important to always remain optimistic in times of struggle and battle and heartache, because with every single little decision that we make in our every day lives, and every single choice and action that we take, we are all causing some sort of impact. We must all just decide which impact we want to make, positive or negative. Which world do you want?
So what can you do?
First of all, try to live an authentic life without the constant need for validation and comparison to social media lives. Think about it, do you ever share the tough times of your life, or is social media a place where you only post about the happy and good days?
Things are rarely ever what they truly seem online, and whilst it’s sadly become the world we live in where we’re constantly comparing the worst parts of our lives to the best parts of everyone else’s from the continuously updated stream of online personas, we must always remember to remain grounded and comforted in the thinking that social media updates are never the full picture, despite the fact that they often seem like it. Know that as long as you are true to yourself and your personal goals, whilst trying to do your best for our planet, you are heading in the right direction.
Secondly, NEVER stop asking questions, in fact, question everything. This is one of the main things that I learnt to do on my recent trip. Because it is only by asking questions that we will get answers, and with those answers we can then decide our next actions and be conscious of the next choice that we make. If you screw up and later realise you made the wrong decision, you can simply ensure that next time you make the right one.
And that’s how we learn and how we grow.