Social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook offer a myriad of communal benefits such as staying in touch with friends, keeping up with the latest celebrity news and trends, and being informed on what is happening in the world around us. These platforms also give me overwhelming anxiety that feels almost ubiquitous.
Something that I struggle with on a day to day basis is comparing myself to others. In this day and age, it's almost impossible to go online and avoid photos of models and influencers with seemingly perfect lives. Photoshop is more prevalent than ever, and it seems as though the majority of active social media users share their lavish experiences with the world. But here's the thing...
Some of these "lavish experiences" are only a glimpse of what someone's reality actually looks like. So why do I still feel this overwhelming pressure to be perfect on social media? No one's life is perfect, yet I almost feel obligated to portray my life in a flawless light in order to feel accepted. Why is this?
Sure, social media can be rewarding: posting about my long-awaited college acceptances was something that I had been looking forward to since my first year of high school, and I felt proud to share my accomplishments online with so many of my peers. However, each time I log in to my social media apps nowadays and see those same peers landing impressive internships and studying abroad, it becomes really challenging to not compare myself. Again, why is this? Each person takes their own path, and each person lives their life amid their own timeline... so why do I care?
What social media often fails to express is the idea that no one's life is perfect. What people share on social media is often a mere glimpse of their own reality. We could find ourselves in extremely unhappy relationships yet post couple photos as if everything is perfect. We could post photos laughing with friends when, in all actuality, we feel lonely. This is not to say that everything people post on social media is a lie, but it most certainly is not the whole truth. It took me a long time to realize that having a thousand likes does not mean you live a happy life, and having ten likes does not mean you live an unfulfilled life.
According to an article published by Anxiety.Org in 2013, "Comparing can also lead to anxiety when it relates to followers. For example, teens using Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have indicated that it's more about quantity rather than quality; that is, the number of your followers, re-tweets, and "likes." Users can take these obscure numbers, and twist them to support negative thoughts." Followers that we rarely speak to in real life, if at all, may dictate our decision to post something that makes us happy, rather than what is accepted. For me personally, I've contemplated the idea of posting my music on my social media accounts, because some people may not care about it... but if it brings me joy and is something that I feel proud of, why shouldn't I post what I want to on my own account because of others' opinions, or not getting as many likes as a picture of myself at the beach would.
So I encourage you to try and take everything you see online with a grain of salt-- it is impossible to fully know what someone is going through, what genuinely goes on in their personal life each day, and what lies behind a beautiful Instagram filter. I encourage you to try and not let what those who may follow you on social media but do not truly know you, influence your happiness. Just because someone doesn't broadcast their flaws and insecurities online, does not mean they live a perfect life.
Social media platforms can only have a hold over your joy and confidence if you let them. The next time you find yourself scrolling through your apps and feeling stressed, close out of them. Turn off your phone. Devote yourself to participating in activities that remind you of who you are. Don't let an unfollow or a lack of likes on a post affect how you feel about yourself.