Social media is a pretty awesome part of our lives, but it's come to consume a lot of my life.
Like almost everyone else I know, I spend unhealthy amounts of time scrolling through my Instagram feed and retweeting cute puppy pics on Twitter. It's even kind of hard for me to resist checking my Snapchat as I write this article. Obviously, I'm as much of a fan of social media as the next guy, but when you think about it, that much time spent doing anything can’t be good for a person. Sure, Instagram and Facebook let us keep up with friends that we don't get to see often and "like" all of their latest updates, but when we think about it, is this type of interaction doing more harm than good?
Bear with me here, but aren't all Instagrams really just finstas? Okay, okay, let me back up and explain. "Finsta" stands for fake Instagram. These are normally second accounts that people make, normally as a place to post all of their funny or embarrassing pictures that they wouldn't want all of their followers on their normal account to see--just their closest friends. It's seen as "fake" because its pictures don't fit into the caliber of photos that they'd want to post on their real account. These are less polished photos and sometimes extremely unflattering--but these posts aren't made to fit an image, it's all done for the humor. Conversely, when you really and truly think about it, everyone's Instagram is a finsta--and in reality, even more "fake" than a "fake account."
SO much work is put into a person's image on social media--so much that it's no longer real. All of the edits, the cropping, the clever use of VSCO cam to cover up flaws, the witty caption. All of that compiled into a tiny square on a screen. That's not you. No one looks like that in real life. So much time is put into making Instagram a representation of one's best version of themselves that the image is no longer true--it's just an image, a facade. So many people want to create this image that everything is fine and that they have their whole lives together, neat and wrapped up with a little bow. In reality, everyone has bad days, yet no one wants to show that to the world. Everyone is too concerned with creating the illusion--through social media--that they are having fun, they have the perfect friends, the perfect clothes, perfect everything.
But in reality, no one does. Everyone struggles, no one has that perfect friend group, or an entire wardrobe of the cute clothes it seems like they're wearing in all of their posts. No one is out sitting in artsy urban coffee shops, drinking a perfectly crafted latte and looking like a hipster EVERYDAY as their Instagram would make it seem. It's not a true representation of their lives and the ups and downs they face every day--it's only what they want the world to see. It’s human nature to put up the front that you’ve got everything figured out.
This, my friends, is why I think social media is so damaging to us. This need to feel appreciated--to feel like you're having a good enough time, that your feed is up to par, that you're getting as many likes as everyone around you--is KILLING self-image. People get major FOMO because of other people's posts. They feel like their feed doesn't make them look "cool" enough or that they're not getting enough likes. And I absolutely hate that. But it happens. And I'm so guilty of it myself. I've spent my fair share of time wondering, "Is this picture good enough to post? Do I look skinny enough in it? Do I look like I'm having fun?" And it sucks to feel like you have to fit into this kind of confine that everyone around you is seemingly following.
Even more so than self-image, pressures from social media are destroying levels of self-worth. Just because a picture doesn't get as many likes as someone else's, a person can feel like they're not good enough, not worth it. But in reality, what other people think of your pictures don't matter. You shouldn't be posting to please others, but to make your own self happy. I’ve learned this recently through experience, and one of my favorite quotes by Jorge Louis Borges really illustrates this idea:
So plant your own gardens and decorate your soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
I'm definitely not saying not to use social media, because I love it too and I love being able to see all of my friends from states away and all of their posts. But I think that a person is worth so much more than 200 likes on a posed and carefully edited "candid." And even more importantly, it's hard to give advice on this, because I definitely have, and will, fall into these same traps of social media. But for now, I've learned that you should post if YOU want to post. Post something that's real and don't feel like you have to keep up a fake image of yourself that doesn't represent the real you.
People love authenticity, so if you're going to put yourself out there to the world, just be you.