The Dark Side of Social Media

CommentaryHannah DrakeComment

Oy. Social Media. Where do I even begin?

Like most people these days, I absolutely have a love-hate relationship with the apps on my phone that seem to suck up so much of my time and energy. I have a hard time finding balance. I have a hard time unplugging. And sometimes I just want to delete them all.

I haven't because I truly believe social media allows for genuine connections with people who are coming to the table for the same reason. In the last two months alone, I've met two wonderful women in real life that I wouldn't know if it weren't for Instagram. I'm inspired and encouraged by people I follow on social media and I don't want to lose that.

But of course sometimes it's a bad place with a dark side and I think we've all experienced to some extent. At the very least, we have a false sense of community with people we know in real life. We feel that because we see what our friends are up to online, we're caught up in their lives and don't need actually keep in touch very well. I have absolutely fallen victim to this falsehood, and even more so now that I live far away from the vast majority of my Facebook friends.

At the very worst, social media can be incredibly damaging to our mental health, our perspective of our own life, our priorities and aspirations, and our sense of reality. A lot more people are open to talking about this dark side of the apps most of us use on a daily basis and that's really great, but the issues still remain the same and I think it manifests itself the worst on Instagram. 

When you scroll through Instagram, it's really easy to lose sight of reality. Instagram is a photo-focused app that prioritises pretty photos. Unless you're a celebrity, you can't get away with posting blurry, grainy, dark photos if you want all the followers and likes. So people are more inclined to post beautiful photos, which often results in creating a highlight real of life or sometimes just a staged version of real life. It's easy to forget that people are only sharing the beautiful things they have, the exciting things they do, the awesome places they visit, and the wonderful relationships they cultivate, but behind the scenes, they have struggles and pain and insecurities as well. There are people have gone into debt to "keep up with the Joneses" with what they see on social media, especially when it comes to the materialism of fashion bloggers and influencers. There are people who never put their phone down to enjoy the moment because they're too busy trying to capture the perfect shot or live streaming every experience. There are people who portray a picture-perfect relationship and hide mess and the troubles of their real relationship. It's all toxic and it's all hurting us.

In recent months, I've tried to be more real and honest about life and my struggles and insecurities here on my blog and on my social media platforms. Even though it may be accompanied by a pretty picture on Instagram, I'll talk about the mess in my house, the mess in my life, the mess in my heart. And I've seen a lot of people doing that too. I've seen a lot of people gently remind their followers that these are the highlights and their lives are far from perfect. Those are the people who I'm more inclined to follow because I don't need the temptation of someone who portrays a perfect life or who is always showing off new things that I could never afford.

A few years ago, I followed countless fashion bloggers on Instagram who were always posting brand new outfits and convincing me that I too needed new clothes in my closet. I had no idea that some of these people were tucking the tags into their clothes only to return them after they've been photographed or even racking up thousands of dollars in debt to always have new clothes. (Or worse yet, posting from the changing room at Nordstrom and never even taking the clothes they're sharing and linking to out of the store!) Now, when it comes to fashion, I follow far fewer accounts and try to follow people who focus on capsule wardrobes, recycling pieces, rewearing outfits, and live by the idea that less is more. I know myself and I know how easy it is for me to fall into the idea of keeping up with trends and suddenly I've convinced my shirt that I need another, slightly different white shirt or something.

I've tried to be more conscious of who I'm choosing to follow, even though it's taken a while. I've unfollowed a lot of people that I found only added negativity to my life, either directly or indirectly. If I feel jealous and envious of their social media personas, or it's clear they're not being real, I usually unfollow because I don't want to succumb to comparing my lows to someone else's highs. When I'm having a bad day, I don't need to see someone on social media showing off for the purposes of showing off. There are no rules on who you have to follow and even though we all have people who we "probably should" follow, most social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram, allow for you to mute someone to hide them from your feed. It's easier than ever to be empowered to create your own experience online and surround yourself only with people and accounts who inspire you, encourage you, and make you feel good about yourself and your life.

So even though I've cleaned out my feed and tried to create a space that inspires me and brings me positivity, I still struggle, especially with Instagram. It's so easy to compare. It's so easy to think that more followers means more opportunities, more exposure, more security, more happiness, whatever it is. To be completely honest, sometimes I look at people's accounts and think "my photos are better than hers, why does she have 10x the followers?" At the end of the day, the number of my Instagram followers isn't going to be in my obituary, this isn't that one episode of Black Mirror with Bryce Dallas Howard, so it shouldn't matter, but it does. And it's hard to even articulate why it does. One of the girls I follow recently hit 10k followers and she talked honestly about how she didn't wake up feeling any different when she hit 10k. She didn't suddenly have more money, she wasn't happier, it doesn't really change anything. She didn't want people to look at her account and think she was happy and perfect and successful based solely off a number next to your picture. It's just a number and it doesn't define who we are. The hard part is just remembering that.

The important thing to remember is that everyone has problems, even if they have 1 million followers on Instagram. Everyone struggles with things and everyone feels the pressure to put their best foot forward. Of course no one wants to read about all the bad things in your life all the time (we get that enough from our high school classmates on Facebook, amirite?), but it's okay to be honest with people about what your real life looks like. It's shocking how many people can relate when you are vulnerable about something you're going through on the internet. And it's really encouraging to read that you're not alone. The number of people who follow us on any social media platform doesn't determine if we're good or bad people. It doesn't count what's in your heart. It doesn't know what your dreams are. It doesn't consider the hard work you've put in to get to where you are. It's just a silly number and at the end of the day, it doesn't define you and it doesn't matter.

The internet can be a lot of things. It can be a scary place, a dangerous place. But it can also bring you a lot of amazing opportunities and introduce you to a lot of incredible people. The space you take up online is what you make of it. If you want it to be a positive place that makes you feel good about yourself, you can create that. And when you need a break, take one. Get realigned with what truly matters in life. Step away and take a breath. No one is going to die if you miss a day posting on Instagram or take a break from your blog. It'll all still be there when you come back to it, if you come back to it. And it'll all be okay.

Why You Should Visit the Garden of the Gods

TravelHannah DrakeComment

While we were in Colorado last month, we hopped in the car after church to go to Colorado Springs and spend time with my dear friend Tia and her boyfriend Jason. We first stopped for lunch at Trinity Brewing, which turned into longer lunch that expected, but Luke, Tia, and Jason enjoyed a few beers while I sipped on cider. 

We headed into the park later than we probably meant to, but the clouds were rolling in which made it so much cooler than it had been, probably scared off a few people (making it easier for us to find a parking spot), and clearly created beautiful lighting. We didn't have much of a plan, other than to wander around and the rest of the group was patient with me while I snapped like 200 photos. (Don't worry, they're not all in this post.)

So what is Garden of the Gods, you want to know? When I was younger, I had heard about it, but I don't ever remember going. That probably explains why I basically pictured it as being a second Hanging Gardens of Babylon. I thought it would be closer to a forest than a desert and I figured if the gods had anything to say about their garden, it would definitely be lush and green and there would be vines dripping from above. Right? Wrong.

Instead, this is Garden of the Gods. And boy am I glad because, as you know if you read my US Bucket List post, I've been wanting to go somewhere with otherworldly rock formations. Somewhere dry and dusty.

So Garden of the Gods is a free park and a National Landmark as of 1971. It was first called Red Rock Corral by the Europeans until two surveyors came across the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". The other, Rufus Cable, seemingly awestruck by the landscape, replied, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."

The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. Many native peoples have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute.

In 1879, Charles Elliott Perkins and William Jackson Palmer, purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. After Perkins' death, his family donated the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, under the condition that it would remain free and open to the public. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch, which was also donated to the city after his death.

Colorado Springs is definitely worth visiting and Garden of the Gods is just one of its wonderful attractions. Although it's free, there is limited parking and operational hours. You can check online to see when they'll be open, as their hours change throughout the year.

It's a really great place if you're looking for an easy hike (perhaps even called a walk), or with a large group, children, elders, or people with disabilities. While you can "off road" a bit, much of the park is paved with wide walkways with fencing.

There are 15 miles of trails to explore in the park, some of which can be found online, though you can pick up a map with all the trails shown at the visitors' centre.

You may also spot some wildlife, but sometimes it's hard with the crowds. While we were leaving the park with Tia and Jason, I saw a deer butt off the side of the road while it ate some grass, but no one else saw it before we hit the curve. 

You are able to bring dogs on a lead, though there is one designated area where they can be off the lead.

You can even rock climb or mountain bike, but I recommend checking the site for regulations first.


Our Ceremony

MarriageHannah Drake3 Comments

Our ceremony was short, just the way we wanted it. (It wasn't without awkward moments, though!) But like I've mentioned before, since we weren't getting married in a church and since our friend Tia, who did a beautiful job on the ceremony, hadn't married anyone before, we literally started from square one.

Writing the ceremony was probably the last "big" thing on our wedding to do list, and arguably the most important! As the calendar moved closer to our wedding day, figuring out what would be said and how it would go definitely became a stressor for me. In the end, we worked with Tia to kind of piece together the ceremony. I started by finding an outline that seemingly included nearly anything you could do during your wedding. I put it all in a Google Doc that Luke, Tia, and I had access to and could edit, and we started narrowing things down from there. We cut out things we weren't going to do and rearranged things to make it the order we wanted. After that, it was a matter of finding the right words for everything.

Before the processional started, Tia made a statement about it being an unplugged ceremony. I knew right away that I wanted just the ceremony to be completely camera and phone free. I didn't want people obstructing others' views--especially our photographer's--trying to snap a photo. I didn't want photos of the ceremony to have phones being held up over people's heads or people standing at their seats. I found the perfect statement online that only needed a few tweaks:

I invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks — I encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology.

Of course there are so many ways to do everything, but Luke knew for sure that he wanted to have all four of his groomsmen standing up with him at the beginning, so all the bridesmaids would walk down the aisle alone.

After my dad walked me down the aisle, I did something that still haunts me late at night. See, our venue doesn't do rehearsals. The closest we got was the bridal party going over where to stand while Luke and I did our first look. So because of that, we didn't practice the whole giving away thing. When we got to the end of the aisle, I started panicking and muttering (apparently not very quietly) "give me away, give me away". I think Luke and my dad shook hands, but then I hugged Luke. I didn't hug my dad! Seriously, it's one of those embarrassing moments that just randomly pops into my head every once in a while. Ugh.

A few weeks before the wedding, I asked people on Instagram what they did at their wedding or have seen at other weddings that was worth repeating. What I got back more than anything was having a moment of stillness. Everyone says the whole day goes by so quickly, you never get enough time with everyone, and it can seem like one big blur. It was really important to us to take a moment to pause and to look at everyone's faces who was there to support us. (This is the #1 thing I would recommend all couples incorporate into their ceremony.)

To honor this wonderful expression of Hannah and Luke’s love and commitment for one another, I would like us all to enjoy a moment to take in our surroundings and the people who have come to celebrate with us.  Hannah and Luke, I invite you two to take a breath, and look around you. See who has traveled to witness this ceremony. This day is made possible in part through the grace and support of your family and friends, who all hope that you find continued fulfillment and joy in each other.  Soak in their love and excitement for you both. I invite the whole room to please be still with me for a moment.

Tia's address was absolutely perfect. She asked us to give a sort of thesis statement to capture what we wanted our wedding to be about. We told her that we didn't want to emphasis the wedding as being the end goal, but instead celebrates everything that has come before and marks our commitment to each other in the future. 

We've talked about it since and she said she was just thinking "Don't lock your knees" the whole time and I was thinking "Don't cry or Tia will cry" the whole time. 

We had asked our friends Adam and Esther to do a reading during the ceremony, but had no idea what we wanted them to read. We were kind of hoping they would have some good ideas from something they had read or something they had heard at one of the weddings they have been to. Instead, they did us one better! Esther wrote a beautiful poem that Adam read during the ceremony. It means so much to us that they were a part of our ceremony, as they've become such good friends to us over the last year. And it's so special that it was something Esther wrote rather than a recycled passage about love that you hear all the time at weddings.

If only love remains, there I am happy.
If the tides have pulled apart the string of my life,
Untangling and removing those things that give me meaning,
But you and your love still remain, there I am happy.

If only love endures, there I am content.
If the storms have blasted apart the earth upon which I have settled,
Destroying my foundations and dirt upon which I rest my head,
But i have your love enduring through this, there I am content.

It is love that roots in the summer but blooms in the winter.
It is love that hides in the light and shines in the dark.
It is love that speaks a shout of rebuke and a quiet word of adoration:

For what else would I be? Without your love, my darling, what else would I have?

After the reading, we did the Declaration of Intent. You know, the "I do" part. It was the only time the words Luke and I said to each other differed, as Tia asked us two slightly varied questions.

Luke, do you take Hannah to be your wife? Do you promise to love and protect her, forsaking all others and holding only unto her?

Hannah, do you take Luke to be your husband? Do you promise to love and respect him, forsaking all others and holding only unto him?

I wanted the words "protect" and "respect" to be different because of a teaching I had heard at my church a few years ago and the roles in a Biblical marriage. 

Luke and I wanted to write our own vows, but it was incredibly important to us that we said the exact same words. We've both been to weddings where the couple have said beautiful, wonderful things to each other, but haven't made any promises. Or where they're promising each other different things or silly things and missing out on the big vows. Everyone should do what they want since it's the foundation of their marriage, but for us, we wanted to make promises to build our marriage upon and we wanted them to be the same.

I, take you, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. I will share my joy with you, that it be multiplied. I will share your pain, that it be divided. I will walk by your side as we journey together through life's adventures. I promise to live together in the holy covenant of marriage. I promise to love you, cherish you, comfort you, and keep you. Forsaking all others, I will be yours alone as long as we both shall live.

We did a lot of research about traditional vows from various sects of Christianity, as well as secular vows. We took what we liked and worked it into something we loved. So many of the phrases are pulled from various types of ceremonies. I love what we ended up with.

We read our vows from the vow books I got from Elmo Paperstories. They were an investment, but they're so gorgeous with their velvet covers and silk ribbons and they had exactly our wedding colours. We had also written letters to each other in the books that we read during our first look, so we mostly filled up the pages.

I give you this ring,
As a symbol of my commitment to honour and respect you.
I give you my love, forever.

This might just be my favourite photo from the ceremony. While I was putting the ring on Luke's hand, he mouthed something to me, which made me miss the line Tia had just given me to repeat. I thought for a moment that I knew it well enough to wing it, after all I had written it and Luke had just said the same words, but then I decided I needed to get it exactly right. So I turned to her and said, "Wait, what?" Everyone started laughing immediately. Turns out, Luke was telling me to stop trying to force his ring on. It fit, but it wasn't exactly sliding on. He said while I was distracted laughing, he slipped it on so I would stop pulling his skin. Ha!

So even with a few hiccups, our ceremony was exactly what we wanted it. I love that we were in complete control with the words that were said at the beginning of our marriage. Words are powerful and it was important for us to get it right.

We are so grateful to everyone who was there, and those who were there in spirit, to witness our promise and commitment to each other. We are especially grateful to our friends and sisters who stood with us and to Tia who blessed our marriage.

I really appreciate this is the only photo I have of Rachel and Emily walking back down the aisle together.


Bridesmaids' Dresses: Weddington Way (US)
Cake: Amerton Cakes (UK)
Cuff Links: Tesoro Jewelry (US)
DJ: Benny Smyth (UK)
My Dress: Allure Bridals via The Bridal Connection (CO)
Engagement Ring: ROX (UK)
Florist: Penny Johnson Flowers (UK)
Hair + Make Up: Sam Larson Hair (CO)
Paper Flowers: Lia Griffith (US)
Photo Booth: Peter Horrox (UK)
Photographer: Brianne Haagenson Photography (CO)
Ring Box: Amonie (AUS)
Robes: David's Bridal (US + UK)
My Shoes: Hobes (AUS)
Stationary: Minted (US)
Luke's Suit: Next (UK)
Venue (Catering & Alcohol): Shustoke Barn (UK)
Vow Books: Elmo Paperstories (UK)
My Wedding Band: Ernest Jones (UK)
Luke's Wedding Band: LuxuriaJewelers (US)

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All photos in this post, including the header photo by Brianne Haagenson Photography.