The Truth About Social Media

the truth about social media- Jessica LawlorAll throughout the month of May, I participated in my yoga studio’s pose-off challenge. Each day, the owner of the studio posted the pose of the day on social media and participants were challenged to take a picture in the pose and share it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

If you followed along, I shared all of my poses on my Instagram and Twitter accounts.

I was skeptical to join in on the challenge; I’m not brand new to yoga, but I’m still early on in my practice (I started last September). I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do many of the poses or that I’d be embarrassed to share photos of myself doing yoga, especially if my form wasn’t perfect or I wasn’t able to get as deep into poses as other yogis.

But then I remembered two important things:

1. On this blog, I encourage you to get gutsy. I always strive to set an example and do the same thing myself. Participating in this challenge was very gutsy for me and took me way outside my comfort zone.

2. Yoga is about progress, not perfection. It didn’t matter if my poses were perfect. Yoga has never been about perfection. It’s about progress and enhancing your own body, mind and spirit through practice.

Ultimately, these two reasons convinced me to dive headfirst into the challenge, taking a photo each day in May and sharing it with the world.

Many of my pose photos were taken with beautiful backgrounds, either at my yoga studio or in my own backyard and neighborhood. Some of the photos were artsy and interesting; enhanced by filters, collages and rotating and mirrored shots.

I am proud of many of the poses and shots. I think they show a pretty accurate depiction of where I’m currently at in my yoga practice.

But let’s be real. Here’s the truth about social media:

All of the photos I shared each day? They definitely weren’t the first photo taken. Sometimes they weren’t even the second…or third…or fourth photo.

Because on social media, we choose to show the best of the best. We choose the very best shot; the most beautiful images. We want to show the rest of the world that we can do something awesome; that we’re having an amazing day; that we’re having so much fun!

It’s natural and I’m clearly guilty of doing this myself, but sometimes, seeing all of that gorgeously filtered perfection? It can make you feel inferior about yourself and where you are in your own life.

My friend Sara Brink sums it up beautifully: “Don’t you think that we hide behind 140-characters? That we only let others view the bright moments of our days, and we swallow the dark and gloomy times to make it appear that we’ve got it all together? That we curate the beautiful things and hide away the nitty gritty, real things that make us so utterly human?”

A New York Times piece laments the “agony of Instagram” writing, “It’s not unusual to scroll through one’s Instagram feed and feel suffocated by fabulousness.”

So, here’s what you DIDN’T see throughout the challenge- the yoga bloopers, if you will. My moments of frustration, of falling on my face, of not having perfect form- but most of all, the moments of being human.

I share these photos with you as a reminder that we are all human- that we should constantly be striving for progress, not perfection, in whatever we do whether that’s yoga or something completely different.

Take a look…the pictures on the left represent some of the “bloopers” and unedited/unfiltered versions of some of the challenge’s poses. The photos on the right represent what I actually posted to Instagram- the edited and filtered versions, the best of the best of the photos taken for each shot.

before and after editing yoga shots- Jessica Lawlor

From left to right: I attempted a shoulder stand on two different days and still haven’t quite achieved it, but one day, I’ll get there! I’m barely touching my toes in the first version of the top right, but was able to gather the strength to hold it for a few seconds in the posted version. Whoops! Not quite ready for my reverse plank in the bottom left. Andddd, there I am holding the wall and trying to gain balance before going into tree pose on the bottom right.

before and after editing yoga shots- Jessica Lawlor

From left to right: I thought it would be cool to attempt side crow (a pose I’m not quite there with yet) outside Eastern State Penitentiary. Not my brightest idea when I almost faceplanted on the dirty sidewalk! Instead I did a regular crow inside the prison and it made for a pretty cool shot. I thought my Skandasana (top right) would be awesome with my shadow in the shot, but instead I have a lovely view of my neighbor’s trash cans and recycling bins. On the bottom left, I thought the silhouette look would be artsy, but nope- it’s just hard to see me and my form is way off. And don’t even ask me what I’m doing in the bottom right; clearly, trying to get into a bind and not quite in it yet! Much better on the other side.

before and after editing yoga shots- Jessica Lawlor

From left to right: Whoops, someone is totally not ready to get into Eagle pose! And my wheel was not very wheel-like in my first few attempts. I thought the bottom left photo would be pretty cool from the back, but instead I just feel totally awkward (although I LOVE the way the final version came out). And finally, my pup Buddy makes his appearance (downward dog with a dog!) but it’s not the best shot. I ended up retaking it outside on different day.

A Few More Social Media Truths and Fun Facts From The Challenge

working on elephant pose- Jessica Lawlor-There were a couple of poses I couldn’t do, so I did end up skipping three days of the challenge (elephant pose, eight-angle pose and split- maybe one day!). At first, I felt *terrible* about missing a day- I felt like I wasn’t really fully participating in the challenge. But I think an important part of life and yoga is accepting where you are right now- and right now, I can’t do some of those poses; but I’m still practicing and working toward it a little bit every day.

-Here’s more of what you didn’t see: I was DETERMINED to figure out how to do elephant pose and ended up sort of figuring it out (it will take much more practice to actually look good) but I wanted to also make sure I showed what it really looks like to practice a pose. In these photos, I’m completely sweaty and tired after class, just plopped on the living room floor trying to figure out this pose. As you can see, the background isn’t ideal and there are dog toys in the shot- but this is real. This is what it really looks like when I practice yoga at home.

-So many people have asked who took my yoga photos! The answer is various members of my family (my brother and dad had little patience for this particular month of yoga activities, but thanks guys!), my friend Rachel for poses taken during lunch at work and friends at yoga for poses taken at the studio. People have also asked where I’ve taken them- most of the outdoor poses have been taken around my own front and backyard. A couple were taken outside at work and many were taken in the yoga studio. Find beauty everywhere, people!

working on forearm headstand- Jessica Lawlor-An amazing feat that came from the challenge was my absolute determination to nail a forearm headstand and actually being able to do it by the end of the month! I’ve been able to do a tripod headstand for a few months, but for some reason, the thought of having my arms down on the ground scared me to no end; having my hands planted made me feel a little more in control when I got wobbly. After weeks of practicing both at the studio (and mostly in my living room) I am finally able to hold my forearm headstand (photo evidence here)!

-I think my yoga studio is GENIUS for putting together this challenge. Photo challenges aren’t new by any means, but by keeping it inclusive to those who have some connection to the studio, it really fostered a sense of community that I hadn’t really felt before. Through the challenge, I’ve gotten to know other people participating and now when I go to class, I go for more than just my personal practice. The entire experience is more enjoyable because I not only enjoy an amazing class, but I also have new people to chat with before and after class with whom I share a common bond. Plus, from a social media perspective, I’m sure it increased their following on all the platforms they used (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and with nearly 700 photos on the Instagram hashtag #danahotyogaposeoff, I’m sure the amplification of each of those posts helped boost brand awareness to all those following the individuals participating. I know that through the challenge, I got my friend Rachel to participate and she actually ended up purchasing a two week pass to the studio. That= conversion, right there.

working on eagle pose- Jessica Lawlor-Throughout the challenge, I took nearly 500 photos- not all of them are of me…some are photos of friends I took pictures of in their poses, but if we were to break it down- 500 photos, 31 days of May; that’s about 16 photos per day per pose. That sounds about right…some days I was able to get a picture I felt satisfied with in 3-4 shots…other days it took, well, way more than that. Like on this day, when I took literally 50 photos to find an eagle pose I felt comfortable posting. It’s not easy to admit this, but this is me being 100 percent real, and I’m sure many of you can relate.

From this experience, I’ve learned a lot about humility and vulnerability. I have a new respect for those who keep it real on social media and I hope to bring a little more of that vulnerability into my own social media posts moving forward.

What do you think? How do you decide what to post on social media? Would you ever participate in a challenge like this one? Have any other questions about the challenge? Leave them below!

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  • sarafrandina

    Jess – Great post! Love that you shared all of this. So much truth to what you’ve said in terms of social media, but also so much wisdom behind enjoying the journey in developing your yoga practice! I had fun following along – can’t wait to see what’s next for you 🙂

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thank you, Sara! I was excited (and a little nervous) to share this! xoxo

  • I love love LOVE this. Major props for having the guts to write about this and post outtakes. And to even do the challenge! I really enjoyed following along because I keep wanting to try yoga, even though I’m 95% sure I will suck at it, but it just seems so mysterious. Your photos were my intro and it was like “hey, you can do this, and see how strong and beautiful you can look doing it?!” Yep, you definitely looked beautiful and strong all month long. Hope you feel GREAT about yourself! Bloopers be damned. You did this!

    Also, that photo in front of your garage of your backside… HOLY SHOULDER MUSCLES! heyyyy girrrrrrl.

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Yay! I’m SO happy you enjoyed this, Janelle! You know that I always try to keep things real around these parts and I thought the community might like a behind-the-scenes look at what really went down.

      I really think you should give yoga a try! I thought I would suck at it too, but it really is all about practice. You will surprise yourself, I promise!

      And woo! Thanks for the compliment- see, I hadn’t even noticed my shoulder muscles because I was too busy thinking about how awkward I look in the photo. Bad!

      xo

      • I didn’t notice awkward. Although… I’m the queen of awkward so that probably isn’t saying much.

        Any chance you’ll share a roundup of your favorite yoga must-haves? Specifically clothes but other things too (headband, mat, videos or websites or other yoga-loving bloggers, etc)

        • Jessica Lawlor

          That’s a good post idea for the future! Right now, I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to yoga gear. I use a Gaim mat that I’ve had for a year (although I’m thinking of upgrading soon) and I don’t have a yoga towel yet (though I desperately need one for hot yoga). Most of my workout clothes come from Target, Old Navy and TJ Maxx.

          I’m adding this to my blog post idea folder though- thanks love!

  • Hooray! I knew this would be a great post when you talked about the initial idea – and it didn’t let me down!

    Thanks for bringing me in on the #danahotyogaposeoff by innocently asking if I’d take your daily pose photo on our lunch break at work. It led to me trying hot yoga for the first time, and coincidentally finding something new to enjoy and challenge myself with!

    As always, you are an inspiration. 🙂

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Your comment made my day yesterday, Rach! I’m so happy you liked the idea when we chatted about it a few weeks ago and I’m even happier that you loved the post! xoxox

  • I’m happy to see Buddy make his appearance in one of your poses. I miss Buddy. You’re doing great, Jess!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Oh, yes! Of course Buddy had to make an appearance. He’s a yoga aficionado!

  • Sarah

    Obsessed with this post! So amazing. Love when people get real and vulnerable and admit they are not their perfect pictures. THANK YOU <3

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Glad you liked this, Sar! That means a lot to me 🙂 xoxox

  • Love this post! Thanks for sharing your bloopers”” it’s refreshing to see “mishaps” posted when there’s so much “perfection” circling the social media streams. Thank you for including my post and words, as well! 🙂

    • Jessica Lawlor

      My pleasure! As I was writing, I remembered that you had written a post that captured a lot of my thoughts perfectly and I had to go searching back in my Start Your Week Right Sunday posts to find it, but I’m so glad that I did! xo

  • Awesome post Jess! I found it so creative and fun but also admire your ability to “get gutsy” and share your trial run yoga poses. The comparison to social media is genius! Thanks so much for sharing..it’s inspiring!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thank you so much, Alex! I’m so happy you liked the post. I try to keep things real around here and thought it wouldn’t be fair to NOT share the story behind the poses 🙂 Hope all is well! xoxox

  • I love this post! I followed along on your yoga challenge and was truly inspired, but it’s even MORE inspiring to read this post and realize all those pictures didn’t happen in just one take. I think it’s SO easy to forget that, especially in this Instagram world, where everyone is showing their happiest faces/lives/yoga poses. (Let’s not even discuss how many pictures I took on Friday to get that one “perfect” shot for a selfie. HA.)

    I love the honesty and the realness of this post. Way to live out being gutsy!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s definitely super easy to forget how fake social media can be at times. I’m guilty too, but I’m happy this post was able to show my more vulnerable side. xox

  • Absolutely brilliant post! I think it takes dedicated time to really open yourself up through social media. It’s a matter of the community you’ve cultivated and determining your comfort-level with revealing your vulnerabilities and imperfections.

    I’m an advocate of no-holds-barred. I think the more we show and voice our mistakes, the more people will connect with us on an emotional level. I’ll admit, though, my Instagram is a place I only put the best of the best. For me, it’s art. It’s taking the time to create something beautiful and share it with people. With Twitter and Facebook… I’m an open book. It’s much more gritty. I say stupid things, I curse, I reveal blunders and mishaps. But I truly believe I’m the better for it””and I’m pretty sure that’s why I enjoy those media the most!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks SO much, Andrew! I’m glad you liked this post 🙂

      I hear you- before the challenge, my Instagram was a pretty sacred place where I only posted maybe once a week, because I only wanted to post things that were unique or beautiful, but I found it was actually fun to be more active on the site and it helped grow my community too!

      And on Twitter…well, like you, I’m an open book 🙂

  • Thanks so much for sharing this post with me! I love that you did the side by side because I think that really brings it home. I love my #faceplantfridays but sometimes the corresponding photo is pretty old by the time the video makes it up. Having a billion photos for each post is actually why I’ve most stopped taking pictures, instead I video and grab a screenshot – ain’t nobody got time to set a photo timer over and over and keep missing it! 🙂 Thanks so much for helping keep yoga real, and I promise I’m responding to your email now! <3

    • Jessica Lawlor

      My pleasure, Kim! Your posts and Instagram pics have been so inspirational to me (especially your #keepyogareal ones!). I love seeing the way you make progress, which really, is what yoga is all about!

      Filming the poses and taking screenshots- so genius! I’ll have to try that for the next yoga challenge I do.

      xox

  • I love this! What a fabulous idea from your yoga studio. While I probably would feel uncomfortable sharing my own poses since I just started (this month) doing yoga again after years away from it and am very much on the heavy side (and thus much less flexible than I used to be), I would certainly take part in trying out the poses and in cheering others on in their own photos. What a great way to foster community for the yoga studio.

    As far as sharing online goes, I’m pretty open, though I do tend to keep really personal things to myself. I am more open on my tightly-monitored Facebook account than I am on my very public Twitter account and I find that I use different networks differently, both in subject matter and with how open/forthcoming I am with information.

    I am trying to decide how open I want to be on my blog. I’m not sure I want it to be a personal dumping ground for everything, but I think in the past I’ve really held back on including personal information and I’m not sure I want that anymore. I think some of the most rewarding writing can be of a personal nature and I do enjoy reading other people’s blogs when I know a little more about them. So, maybe it’s time to get gutsy and reveal a bit more about myself.

    I think it was very brave of you to share your “outtakes”, but I loved reading about them and seeing the “bloopers” because this makes yoga REAL. While yoga studios and athletic wear outfitters should post exemplary photos to demonstrate, most people are not going to get a yoga pose perfect, even with practice. Yoga poses can always be better, but I think the honesty of showing what a real body looks like attempting these poses is even more inspirational – like, if Jess can do this pose, why not me?! 🙂 Love it.

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Sara! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I so appreciate it.

      I hear you- I was a little nervous to take yoga pictures and share them too, but I kept trying to remind myself that yoga is about progress, not perfect (and that hopefully the people on my Instagram support me and want to cheer me on). But I can completely understand NOT wanting to participate either. I thought about it for awhile.

      I also can relate to being more open on some social media networks than other. Sometimes I choose to make a FB post public, other times I keep it to just friends. On Twitter, I’m pretty much an open book and same with the blog.

      I find that my most well received posts are very personal and vulnerable ones (like this one!). These are obviously the more difficult ones to write, but I find they help the most people so I find value in publishing them.

      Thank you again for this amazing comment! It’s so good to hear from you! xox

  • Efraim

    Jess , i have never met you in person only on IG and i feel like i know you . you inspire me so much and iam sure LOTS of others out there as well in getting out of our comfort zone .. cause everybody knows i like running along with helping volunteer at a dog rescue and love my Weimmy i have ..but dont stray to far off that course ..so i recently got out of my comfort zone and started doing like cardio kick box and those kinda classes at my gym and my running and body strength and even mind all improved. so basically i guess getting out of our so called comfort zone can really help us in the long run and i thought of you right away with all your stories and transformations !! way to go girl keep inspiring us !! and for the IG pics i also love taking pic as well but like you said i only put some of the better or good ones on IG but the ones i look at the most and show my friends out are the bloopers so between freinds which we all are keep the so called good one’s and YES the bloopers as well !! LOL …so keep doing your thing Jess you are one amazing person !!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Efraim! This comment absolutely made my day. Thank you! I’m so happy to hear I inspire you to get out of your comfort zone. That’s amazing that you’ve started kickboxing! How is that going for you? Sounds fun and challenging! Thank you again for the kind words- you are awesome.

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  • Great post and thank you for sharing such a great message. Social media is a wonderful thing but is definitely only a selective snapshots of the highlights reel of one’s life. Oh and I totally relate to feeling overwhelmed by fabulousness everytime I scroll through my Instagram feed!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thank you and my pleasure! You’re SO right- social media is only a selective snapshot of someone’s life (and usually the very best!). I’m happy I was able to contribute a little bit of reality, even if only through one blog post!

  • girlwiththeredhair.com

    Hahaha I love this post and I LOVE all the blooper photos. So true – I often take a picture many many times to make it “perfect” for instagram. Good reminder and message!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks Amber! The challenge was so much fun, but I definitely wanted to showcase all of my fails too! 🙂 xox

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  • Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections

    I love the idea of social media bloopers! My phone is filled with really weird “oops” photos that never get used. It’s amazing how deceiving social media really is. We only post things once we get them perfect usually. Kind of scary!

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks Melissa! 🙂

      Social media can be *really* deceiving. It was actually fun to put my goofy photos out there- less scary than I thought it would be!

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