A concept I often find myself revisiting is that of motivating factors. I tend to be a bit of a deep (read: over) thinker, and I enjoy the process of tracing my steps to figure out why I feel and do certain things.

Social media – and your mobile device in general – is a real addiction. So much so, in fact, that in this month’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference put on by Apple, senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi even announced a new function within iPhone software that can help limit users’ screen time. This got me thinking about my own personal motivators, and exactly how skewed they have been in the past.

If I am rudely honest with myself, I can look back and see that a very clear motivator for many decisions I’ve made has been the “cool factor”. It’s a tough thing to admit – that you were doing something for the validation you’d receive in return. I spent a long time denying this fact.

But I looked at my track record, which told no lies. Every post I made about a clinic with an upper-level rider, a name I could drop, or a particularly flattering photo of my latest cross-country school had one glaring issue in common: I posted each of them with the clear, conscious thought that it would grab a lot of likes and attention. Of course, in the moment I would tell myself that I was just proud, that I was just keeping a log of my accomplishments, or some other justification.

It takes a lot to admit this. It’s embarrassing, even.

At the end of 2016, I crafted a long Facebook post. In that post, I laid out my plan (which, in all actuality, was not much more than a thought said aloud at the time) to aim to qualify for the 2018 Asian Games, where I hoped to represent my birth country of South Korea.

I think the post got over 100 likes within the first few hours. It’s rather intoxicating, watching them flow in like little affirmations and confidence boosting hits.

How important are these to you?

Fast forward to today, 2018, and the Asian Games are just a couple of months away. Given the fact that, just a few short months later, I ran out of financial means to support my pipe dream, it’s safe to say that I will not be contesting them.

Here’s the deal, otherwise known as the cold hard truth that I really didn’t want to tell myself: I was doing it for the wrong reasons. Sure, I loved my horse. I love the sport of eventing. But, that wasn’t the only dog I had in the fight. I wanted – I craved – that validation from my social media peers. Every time someone made a comment voicing their envy at my working student gig, I glowed a little. I pictured myself trotting down centerline in a gorgeous shadbelly in Indonesia this August – but I didn’t picture the work and the planning and the sheer expense that would give us a small chance of getting there. All I saw was that pretty, filtered moment.

It makes me physically ill now, thinking about how superficial that was. How entirely selfish and short-sighted my behavior was.

So now, I am making a conscious effort to really think about the why behind my social media presence. I try to frame each post from the perspective of attention: is there a part of me that is looking for attention by posting this? If the answer is yes, then I try to think about the benefits of hitting that “Post” button.

While this approach certainly won’t work for everyone, it’s beneficial to try to post thoughtfully. You may not be as obsessed with the “cool factor” as I was (am?), or maybe you are and you’re like me and hate to admit selfish things like that. No matter where you are on the spectrum just remember one thing: the “cool factor” – however it fits into your life – only goes so far.