“Discovering what is at the root of your rut can help you turn your focus away from what other people are choosing to share online and instead, help you reinvest your time and energy into the changes you want to make in your own life.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Abo, the author of “Unfiltered: How to Be as Happy as You Look On Social Media.” A sought after keynote speaker, Jessica’s work focuses on leadership and development, relationships, community activism and parenthood. Jessica is also a multi-award-winning television journalist and passionate philanthropist who has raised more than a million dollars for several causes by organizing her own events and running marathons.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?

I grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and wanted to be a talk show host from
the time I was nine years old. When I was a kid, talk shows were a place where
guests shared their stories while the host, guest psychologist, and studio audience, offered support. I went to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism for college and graduate school to pursue my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. After working in television news as an anchor/reporter for 15 years, I decided I had covered too many bullying stories and started my YouTube channel back in 2013 to be a positive resource for people looking to turn their struggles into strengths. Over the past five years, I’ve interviewed athletes, celebrities, CEOs, founders and extraordinary thought-leaders. You can watch my segments on several platforms including Entrepreneur.com.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting thing to happen to me was recent, actually — having my
baby’s due date and my book deadline fall on the same day. Writing a book while pregnant, being in revisions with a newborn and planning my book launch while nursing, changing diapers, rocking, singing and swaddling has been a wild ride, but it’s something I’ll cherish forever.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

I just released by first book titled Unfiltered: How to Be as Happy as You Look on Social Media, and to celebrate the release, I’m launching a fashion line at New
York Fashion Week this September. To bring the event to life I partnered with
IVY, a networking community for entrepreneurs, and STYLE360. IVY is a
community that’s dedicated to creating opportunities for intellectually curious entrepreneurs, creatives and innovative professionals to learn, grow and collaborate and STYLE360 has been a fashion platform since 2004 for some of today’s leading fashion designers like Rodarte, Rebecca Minkoff, Patricia Fields, and Zaldy — so it’s all incredibly exciting. Over the past 10 years, STYLE360 has evolved into a launching pad for trending, and celebrity, designers and is a venue known for showcasing elite supermodels and high-profile musical performances.

My UNFILTERED runway will kick off with a special performance by Jonah Platt, an incredible Los Angeles-based actor, writer, musician, composer, arranger, director, and producer, who is most well-known for his star turn as “Fiyero” in the Broadway blockbuster Wicked. The models walking in the show are people I feature in my Unfiltered book. They are entrepreneurs, celebrities, changemakers, parents and kids. The clothing highlights themes the reader will come across throughout the chapters and line will be available on www.jessicaabo.com starting September 12th.

Between work and personal life, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours looking at a screen per day. How does our increasing screen time affect our mental, physical, and emotional health?

Studies show technology can have a negative impact on our psychology, leading to stress, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. Many admit the reason they log on, and continue to check their phone morning, noon and night is due to feeding their “fear of missing out” (FOMO). Experts say half of the time that we check our phone because we’ve received a notification — a text, someone just posted, or so on — but the other half of the time, it’s because we’re subconsciously worried that we’re missing out on some new update. So, we log in due to this fear, scroll through our social media, and end up there for hours, becoming wildly unproductive and using this as a distraction to put off those “to- dos” and to avoid the steps we need to take to better our lives offline.

Also, oftentimes when we’re scrolling, we start to see posts and comments that make us unhappy — we fall into a “compare and despair trap” where we’re comparing ourselves to the perfect, filtered lives of the celebrities, influencers, friends, and family that show up on our feed, and this creates a negative affect — we’re now left with self doubt, wondering why we don’t measure up, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle, but it really can be turned into a positive one if we start to take a step back, look at the root of why we feel is this way and commit to make the changes we need to make to take back our happiness.

Can you share your top five ways people can improve mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology?

  1. Do a self-audit. If you find yourself falling into the “compare and despair” trap, do a self audit and ask yourself, “Why does seeing someone else’s post make me so upset?” Discovering what is at the root of your rut can help you turn your focus away from what other people are choosing to share online and instead, help you reinvest your time and energy into the changes you want to make in your own life. Remember that some people in your network are only posting what they want you to see. If you find yourself feeling envious of them, use that information to look at your current status and get to the bottom of what those feelings are trying
    to tell you. If there is more you can be doing to get what you want, then take the positive steps you need to make those changes. If you’re doing everything you can, then this is a good time to practice gratitude, and patience, and embrace everything you have to celebrate.
  2. Set boundaries. Create a no-phone zone whether it’s your children’s playroom, your bedroom or the bathroom! It’s healthy to give yourself a break from checking in 24/7!
  3. Don’t feed your fear of missing out! Turn off all alerts, so you don’t get tempted to pick up your device every time it notifies you that you have a new message. Consider putting your apps in a folder and moving that folder from your homescreen to the third or fourth screen on your smartphone. This will help you be more mindful of how many times you go
    onto your social media verticals. If you need more support, put your device on airplane mode.
  4. Change the way you use social media. If you find you feel empty after spending time on your social media feed, commit to engaging more with the people you follow. Maybe that means you’re going to commit to posting three comments. For example, the next time you read about someone’s job promotion, perhaps you’ll wish them well in their new role. Or when you see it’s someone’s birthday, you’ll post a nice message. Maybe it means you’re going to post something inspiring for your network to enjoy. Or that you’re going to commit to calling one person who pops up in your feed to say hello and actually hear their voice.
  5. Live Unfiltered. On that same type of note, I urge others to pay attention to the content we post. We often only post what I like to call the highlight reel. It’s what many of us choose to share online — a filtered version of ourselves that rarely includes the raw, vulnerable moments that make us human and who we really are. Instead, I want to encourage everyone to start getting more real, raw, and ultimately, Unfiltered in the content they post. If we’re open in sharing our downs amongst the ups, we can help others going through similar experiences.

51% of Americans say they primarily use their smartphone for calls. With the number of robocalls increasing, what are ways people can limit interruptions from spam calls?

Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize — my theory is that if it’s important, they’ll leave a message, and you aren’t subjected to the distraction of answering a random (and annoying!) call. Also, most phones now have a “Do Not Disturb” feature which is something I highly encourage others to make use of — you can set it so that you don’t get notifications from phone calls or text messages within a certain time frame. So, say you’re sitting down to dinner with your family for an hour or two — turn on Do Not Disturb and you’re free from distractions from the outside world, so you can spend quality time with those around you.

Between social media distractions, messaging apps, and the fact that Americans receive 45.9 push notifications each day, Americans check their phones 80 times per day. How can people, especially younger generations, create a healthier relationship with social media?

I think all generations can create a healthy relationship with social media by
understanding what role they want social media to play in their life. If you’re standing in the checkout line and want your social network to cure your boredom, I get that. If your apps help you stay connected to family, friends, community groups and today’s current events, that makes sense to me, too. However, if you’re feeling lonely and craving meaningful connections, I think it’s ideal when people use social media to engage with their loved ones around the world, while also seeking opportunities to interact with more people face-to-face. While it’s nice to have people “like” and comment on your posts, nothing beats someone giving you a hug when you really need one. So my advice to younger generations is: don’t believe everything you see online and don’t get so consumed with your digital network that you neglect the special relationships that surround you in real life.

80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth in the morning. What effect does starting the day this way have on people? Is there a better morning routine you suggest?

I think it’s become second nature for people to check their phones when they
wake up. For some people, it’s a quick fix to find out what happened overnight. For others it can provoke anxiety because they’re reminded that they’re not engaged yet, starting a family, purchasing a home, etc. Now that I live in LA, I check my phone before my daughter wakes up, so I can see what needs my attention back in New York since New Yorkers are already at their desks. Once I’ve done my morning briefing, I assess what I need to respond to while I brush my teeth. Then I nurse my daughter and get to work. I think the best way to start the day, whether it’s the first thing you do, or something you incorporate into your routine, is to start with gratitude. Whether that’s with a mantra, meditation, positive quote or prayer. When I’m with my daughter, the first thing I do is say a prayer thanking G-d for the new day.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?

“Don’t compare yourself to others. There’s no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it’s their time.”

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’m actually already working on that with my #LiveUnfiltered social media
movement and campaign, where I’m encouraging my friends and followers to
bring a bit of realness to social media. I’m asking people to share their real, raw, and unedited moments. The goal is to show that, sometimes, life isn’t as perfect as it looks on social media, and by sharing our own Unfiltered moments and stories, we’re able to help others going through similar experiences, resulting in more meaningful relationships with our followers and friends.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Instagram: @jessicaabotv
Twitter: @jessicaabo
Facebook: Jessica Abo
YouTube: Jessica Abo TV

Thank you for this interview, Jessica. It was very insightful!

This interview is part of an interview series by Dan Pannasch, Product Manager of RoboKiller, the robocall blocking app that gets even with spammers. You can check it out at robokiller.com.

Originally published at medium.com