“Why haven’t you liked my Insta post yet? Which caption is funnier? Should I use Valencia or Nashville as my filter? I’m just going to secretly hide my relationship status on Facebook so no one knows that I got dumped. I bet she photoshopped her arms to be skinnier in that picture. Why would you ever make that your profile picture? Would this be really funny as my cover photo or totally stupid? I’m going to check-in at a location and tag everyone that I’m with so that people know how social I am. I have to post a cute Snapchat of me here or no one will know how fun of a day I had.”
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These statements, as ridiculous as they may have sounded when you read them, are all too common. Everyone, including myself, falls prey to the illusion created by social media. We ask these questions and make these judgments on others all. the. time. The real question we should be asking is why. Why do we care so much about creating the perfect post?
Do your social media accounts reflect your true self, or do you find yourself over-analyzing your profiles and editing away every imperfection just to end up conveying that you’re someone you’re not?
We edit away zits. We edit away fat. We edit away wrinkles. But we also edit away so much more. We edit away emotions. We edit away criticisms. We edit away insecurities. We edit away the lows of the rollercoaster of our lives. We edit away the side of ourselves that we fear others might see.
We edit away and crop out every part of our lives that we deem negative on social media.
Our news feeds have become full of our highs: the parties, the graduation, the new job, the engagement, the wedding, the dream vacation, the new home, the baby announcement. And from the outside looking in, you might not be able to help yourself from comparing your life to theirs. You may start asking yourself why your life isn’t so put together and feel depressed as to what you did wrong. Suddenly, all of your accomplishments are not enough and your life is unfulfilled. You’re in a state of unhappiness because you aren’t living that “picture perfect” life, but that’s the thing. It’s a picture perfect life; not a real one. People are only showing you what they want you to see. They aren’t showing you all the times they got a little too drunk and made mistakes, the calculus tests they failed, the jobs they were turned down for, the breakups, their terrible day at work, the bills they owe, and how long and hard they had to try to have that child. That picture of the girl effortlessly posing on the beach in her bikini was not as effortless as you think. There was a person behind the camera who took dozens of similar photos until a shot was finally taken that could be edited to their liking. That super cute selfie on Instagram? That person stood there in the bathroom and wasted ten minutes trying to find the best lighting and deciding whether or not to duck face or force a smile. Photos capture a split second, not the million words of the story around it.
Unfortunately, our generation way too often defines its self-worth by the amount of likes that they receive. If you create cool posts that receive a ton of likes, then you must be a liked person. If you don’t, then you must not be popular. However, getting 20 less likes on a photo than you normally do does not automatically mean that you did something wrong or that everyone you know now hates you. Getting thousands of likes on a photo does not mean that you are happy or have it all together. The number of followers you have and the number of people who have your best interest in mind do not always equate.
In this new year, let’s start focusing a whole lot less on likes and a whole lot more on love. I’m not suggesting that we should go to the extreme of deleting all of our social media accounts and throwing away our phones. There are much greater, more effective, and honestly, simpler ways that we can create a positive change. Reach out, not just to those who you see daily, but maybe that one friend you used to be extremely close to but drifted apart for whatever reason. Do more than just like their posts or tell them how pretty or skinny they look, or how jealous you are of their life. Be present. Ask the hard questions. Get to know the person behind the filters. Recognize that the world holds greater problems than how you just lost two followers. Be the solution. As the late Hannah Montana once sung, nobody’s perfect. "Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days, everybody knows what, what I'm talkin' 'bout……. everybody gets that way." But everybody also has the ability to love. Love others by using social media to create positive connections. Love yourself by knowing that your worth is far more valuable than the number of people who double tapped your photo.