By Associate Editor Natalie Gates

Space and time are funny things. We’re always trying to get more of them or less of them. Trying to pass the time, skip through it—or grasping onto each second of the day, wishing there were more. Too much space and we get lonely, bored. Not enough and we get claustrophobic, antsy, over-stimulated. It’s a constant push and pull.

But, as you might expect when you reach any “milestone”, I find myself dancing between the two extremes in my head more and more as graduation creeps closer. The options that used to seem like distant dreams become tangible possibilities. What do I really want to do with my time and space?

Here enters something that takes up a lot of our time these days—social media. More than a few friends have recently embarked on (or attempted to embark on) social media cleanses, declaring that it sucks up too much of their time, perhaps even intrudes on their personal space, or creates unwanted space in their personal relationships. It totally makes sense. If I were to take the time to add up the minutes I spend on social media, no matter how little I try to tell myself it is, I would probably find I could save a lot of time if it weren’t in my life. You know this.

But, personally, I still get everything I need done when it needs to be, even with the presence of social media (albeit with stretches of unnecessary distractions). Often, it actually aids me in my work, providing inspiration and research. The real worry that has arisen for me around social media was how I am comparing my time and space to every other person’s time and space.

You’ve likely experienced this too. Seeing dozens, hundreds of friends appearing to have the time of their life each Friday night, endlessly socializing and celebrating. Hoards of people exploring each corner of the world, getting spectacular jobs, impressive achievements, and killer bods.  You’ve probably taken part in “showcasing” your fun experiences or proud accomplishments too—I know I have.

And there’s nothing wrong with this. What is the everyday person’s social media really meant for other than to share what is going on in their life? If you are doing awesome things, and you have a Facebook or Instagram account, why not share it?

I definitely go through phases where a gross pang of jealousy hits when I see someone doing something with their time and space I wish I was. And there are many studies that show depression increases when people spend time on social media because of this. Sometimes it feels more like a slap in the face than a friendly share deserving of a “congrats! :)” 

Pretty twisted, huh?

Eventually, I started to really try and browse through my newsfeeds with eyes for inspiration, instead of jealousy. When I see that person with the sick job, on an amazing trip, or at a crazy party—something that I want for myself—instead of thinking, “It’s not fair, I wish I had that,” I try to think “How can I do that?” And, of course, be genuinely happy for this person (who may or may not be your actual friend) and their accomplishments, as that’s what you would want yourself, right?

I’ve started messaging these people or commenting on their posts more often, asking for the details. “Where is this? How did you find that?” It’s not always easy when it’s someone you’re not close with, or a stranger on a public page, especially if you’re not particularly outgoing among people you don’t know well—more difficult than a passive “like” as you thumb through your news feed. Active searching, communicating, networking—wow, who woulda thunk social media was good for that? It sounds like an obvious discovery, but, it was to me, an important one.

When it comes down to it, we all only have a certain amount of time and space to work with. How you fill your space and spend your time will only matter if you’re doing it for yourself, and not just for Insta. #YOLO #Blessed

Now in her fourth and final year of a political studies major and journalism minor, Natalie has been on The Nav team for about two years. When she’s not brainstorming stories or studying, she’s usually on her yoga mat, going for a hike, listening to Springsteen, or fantasizing about what to cook for dinner.

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