Don’t let yourself be isolated by self-care trends

and | Junior Forum Editor and Contributing Writer
Illustration by Jaime Hebel

“The feeling of removing from your life people, friends that didn’t make you shine” is the “best feeling in the world,” says influencer Maria Riera to over 536 thousand TikTok followers. Trends like “protect your peace,” “if he wanted to he would,” and “cut off toxic people” equate isolation with self-care. While these bits of “wisdom” may seem like they apply to your issues, cutting yourself off from the people that care about you is usually poor advice. 

In a study with over 300,000 participants, psychologists discovered that the impact of inadequate social integration on health is as significant a mortality risk factor as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. It’s vital that we build our social networks, not necessarily for the sake of networking, but for the sake of having a support system. We should be careful to appreciate those relationships for what they are, rather than comparing them to social media standards.

Before social media, encouragement to end relationships came primarily in the form of black-and-white dating advice, like not going out a second time with a man who doesn’t pay on the first date. One of the consequences of social media is that advice is generalized in order to reach the largest group possible. Rather than pointing to specific instances that might be interpreted as disrespect, like not opening your car door or not walking you home, social media has coined the term “if he wanted to he would” as an all-encompassing adage for relationship advice.

#Ifhewantedtohewould has over 749 million views on TikTok, and it’s filled with videos of girlfriends, wives, and fiancees with bouquets of roses, boxes of chocolate, and, perhaps the most elusive relationship symbols of all, Instagram hard-launches. The truth is, the problem probably isn’t that your boyfriend doesn’t want to buy you flowers. He probably just doesn’t know you want them. You can’t be disappointed with someone for not knowing exactly what you want, and you can’t expect yourself from someone else. Further, the performative nature of this trend in particular devalues everything it preaches — acts of kindness in a relationship are intended for you, not the Internet, and encouraging others to compare their relationship to yours is inherently dishonest.

TikTok life coaches propagate the idea that if you want to change your life, you need to change the people you surround yourself with. While this might hold some truth in specific situations, it should never be the first solution, and you should never cut off people that genuinely care for you solely because of something you saw on TikTok. There’s value in working through ups and downs in relationships rather than being quick to cut people off; in fact, this makes relationships even stronger. You should work to understand that “protecting your peace” needs to have more to do with you than with the people around you. Take note of how you spend your time and what you care about rather than how often your friends text you or initiate plans.

This isn’t to say that we, the concerned authors of this article, haven’t experimented with these trends. Motivated by the saying that “the phone works both ways,” we’ve held back from initiating contact with friends, curious to see if they would make the first move. However, these experiments in being “mysterious” have proven to be overrated; rather than receiving an influx of texts and calls, we’ve simply found ourselves drifting apart from people. This isn’t due to issues within the friendships themselves — often, people just get busy. Some people’s personalities don’t naturally incline them to be constantly on their phones, texting, or making plans. This doesn’t make them bad friends; it’s simply part of who they are. So, it’s important to actively make and maintain connections, instead of passively waiting for others to. Maintaining relationships requires effort from all sides, and it’s crucial to remember that staying connected is a shared responsibility. 

While embracing independence and self-care is of course important, strength and independence don’t necessitate isolation. True empowerment and understanding of oneself often comes through connections with others, not apart from them. Indeed, “you learn to understand yourself in relation to people around you. You can find independence through connection, too,” says author Ayisha Malik, interviewed in Natasha Lunn’s “Conversations on Love.” Social media trends advocating for isolation can sometimes lead us astray, making us forget the importance of healthy relationships that truly enrich our lives. In a journey towards personal growth and independence, don’t overlook the value of interdependence and fulfillment that comes from shared experiences and mutual support. 

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