When you stand in front of a mirror to snap your photo for Instagram, how many times does it take for you to capture the perfect image that is worthy of posting? When you're typing a Facebook status, how many times do you reread it to convince yourself you've formulated the perfect wording? When you scroll through your feed, how many times do you like someone's picture that you don't genuinely know anything about? In a modern world of Internet based communications, we are becoming dependent on status updates, perfectly edited photos, and supportive comments to validate the quality of our character.
Social media is a form of online communication created to enhance our sense of community and widen the amount of people we come in contact with. Over the past two decades, this particular form of media has exploded beyond anything anyone could have ever imagined. It has become standard for people to exchange Instagram and Twitter usernames upon meeting each other. It is more unusual for someone not to have social media than it is for people to be apart of multiple platforms.
In my personal experience, I learned that social media can cause a lot of harm. People feel more comfortable to say rude, hurtful things when they are hidden behind a screen. Rumors can spread ten times faster by web than by mouth. During high school I was opened up to the vulnerability of being cyberbullied. As a result, I took a stand and deleted every form of social media I was apart of. I felt liberated. It no longer mattered if my name was mentioned on the web, because words can't hurt if you don't hear them. I was able to focus on myself, and heal through not worrying what other people would think about my not-so-perfect life.
After a long break from the online social scene, I started fresh on Instagram as a way to keep in touch with family and friends and to connect with people in my college community. I quickly started to pick up on trends amongst the web based community: filters, angles, and setups. When you submit a picture to your Instagram feed, you are offered an enormous amount of editing options to improve the look of your photo. You can brighten your photo, add color, and even blur out certain aspects.
I started to feel the pressure to keep up with Instagram "powerhouses". People are able to capture the best, most beautiful moments of their lives, and leave out the bits that are less glamorous. Online, you are able to portray your life in any way you'd like. Hiding behind a screen gives you the power to create a virtual representation of flawless living that is nearly impossible to achieve.
Young generations, such as the one I am apart of, rely on the number of likes their pictures recieve to boost their confidence and validate their worth. The more likes, the better you are. It's a craze. It's becoming another way children, and even adults are opened up to opinions that make you no more or less than you already are.
I started to feel deminished and disappointed that my life wasn't as flawless and ideal as others my age. Dwelling on everything that everyone else has, only highlights everything you don't have, when in fact, photos can hide the truth that lies behind the lens. It's easy to collect things that depict the life you'd like to have, organize them into a neat backdrop, and capture just the right amount of goodness to hide the negative aspects of life.
After stepping back, and doing some soul searching on what life is truly about, I came to the conclusion that likes do not equal worth. No amount of social approval will verify the kind of person I view myself as. Life continuously drives on, despite the amount of likes you received on your most recent post. Confidence is not gained through acceptance of others, but through acceptance of yourself. Actions speak louder than pictures. Life is messy and dysfunctional. Everyone faces ups and downs in life; however, the luxury of social media is that we are granted the opportunity to hide our demons.
The best thing to do is to take a step back. Leave your phone for a moment, an hour, a day to push through life and let things progress quietly. If your mind is buzzing with pressures brought on by social media, then take a moment to disconnect and regain your mental sanity. As the generation of technology and social media, we have to learn to balance our modern advantages with humbling and humanizing ourselves. Remain genuine, be kind, accept your flaws, and welcome your triumphs. Don't let the Internet, or the people behind screens create an incorrect image of yourself. You are as good as YOU believe you are.