“Social media is not the enemy,” Jessica Abo said at a recent gathering of Jewish women in Los Angeles. “Loneliness is the enemy.” In that moment, I sat up straighter in my chair.
As women today celebrate friendship for “Galentine’s Day,” our social media feeds are undoubtedly full of picture-perfect couples and love stories—and Abo’s calls to action to all of us to stop perpetuating the social media cycle of “compare and despair” and make room to “care less about what everyone else is doing and more about what’s good in [our own] life” is as timely as ever.
Abo’s book Unfiltered: How To Be As Happy As You Look On Social Media, is a confessional and a revelation. “No one tells you staying positive is a mental exercise that should be classified as a marathon with its own medal,” she writes. “Have you ever noticed how quickly one negative thought can turn into a million? … The next thing you know, you’re on the express train to Negative City with no stops in sight.”
In Unfiltered, Abo opens up to readers about her career as an anchor, her experiences in philanthropy and her own quest to find love and offers worksheets and practical exercises to nudge us along on a journey toward fulfillment and happiness. Whether reader’s take Abo up on her advice to use the notokapp.com or partner with a friend to reach their goals; get inspired by her examples from Teachers Righting History, DreamJobbing.com or TED talks; her book will ultimately make you seek out the best next step for yourself.
One of my own a-ha moments came when Abo discussed her faith. When we met, she explained that she made sure a Menorah was included on the Five-Day forecast during Chanukah while she worked at one broadcast station. “He always had ghosts for Halloween, Santa for Christmas,” she said, “and I wanted to make sure Chanukah would be represented, too.” That small gesture led to a small shift in my own life: I have made an effort since our meeting to post about Shabbat each Friday. If I am in Los Angeles, I attend Shabbat services at temple, but it was not something I ever thought to mention on social media. Abo helped me realize how important it is for girls to see Jewish women in the media, and as adventurers and wanderers.
Abo’s perspective on rejection is also ripe for inspiration. “Sometimes being rejected from something good,” she writes in Unfiltered, “is directing you to something better.” I remembered then how disappointed I was last summer when I wasn’t selected for a three-month project on the East Coast—and that I was later invited on two bucket-list trips, which led to several great story opportunities, and which would eventually take me to the graces of Jane Goodall, Jean Michel Cousteau and Seth Godin. What I was available for by being rejected was much better for me. “Do your own thing on your own terms,” Abo urges readers. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there. Just keep going.”
I often think that my own advancement—and progress for our culture-at-large—is taking too long, but we all have no idea what the “right” amount of time really is. Abo’s focus on happiness, resilience and empathy also collides with my own work and my own passions. I support the #SeeHer project to lift up women in the media and entertainment and The Female Quotient’s Gender Equity Measurement tool is helping to increase the number of women in advertisements, and Abo’s mission to inspire other people to embrace life’s messy moments and share more of them resonates with them.
“I launched #LiveUnfiltered as a way for people to join this movement,” she explained. “I would love to see more people post their real, unedited moments. Those are what remind all of us that we’re human and enable us to create more meaningful connections online and in real life.”
One mantra guides Abo and the readers through tales of her hopes, disappointments and successes: “We’re all a work in progress.” If you need a boost of you can do it, you need to buy yourself a copy of this book.
“Whenever you feel lost, remember this is temporary,” she writes. “Whenever you make a mistake, allow yourself to be upset but don’t let this setback consume you for too long. Whenever someone posts about their awesome office view, team, project or product remember you can have that sense of work pride too. Whenever you find yourself in a different place form your friends, remind yourself that outgrowing certain dynamics is part of growing up and life is not a race. Whenever you’re on the edge of breaking up with dating and everyone around you is getting engaged, married and having kids, stay in your lane. Whenever life crushes you with bad news or a new reality, honor your feelings. Whenever you see someone doing something inspiring, think about what keeps you up at night and look into what you can do around that issue.”
Unfiltered feels like a good talk with the one friend who can shake you out of a rut and get you back on track. This Galentine’s Day, I can’t think of a better book club read.