Millenials are faced with a number of daunting challenges and tasks that our parents and grandparents never could have imagined in their day. Some of them are less severe, like trying to decide between an iPhone or an Android (I'm pro blue messages all the way), and some are a bit more serious, like wondering if getting a college degree is worth the trouble when we have absolutely no job security anymore. While drastic technological advances and generational changes have proven to be an advantage for writing research papers and having endless amounts of knowledge at our fingertips (thanks Google), I think it goes without saying that our generation feels somewhat cursed at times. One of the most prominent of those curses, is without a doubt social media.
Social media is simultaneously the biggest curse and the biggest blessing of the millenial era. On one hand, we have limitless access to current events, thought-provoking articles and hilarious memes. Not to mention, we also have the ability to connect with friends (both old and new) around the world twenty-four hours a day and 365 days a year. But on the other hand, social media allows the evil monster of comparison to take over every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, comparisons can be a good thing, they can be constructive and often necessary in pushing ourselves to be better human beings, but that only happens if we're comparing ourselves to the right people, and even then it must be done in a healthy and intentional way.
For example, using one of your fitness inspirations on Instagram to gain access to new workout plans and further push yourself along the path of a healthy lifestyle is completely acceptable, and even commendable in most social circles. But the danger arises when we begin to compare ourselves to people over shallow and menial things that don't actually matter, like obsessing over a celebrity's vacations and constantly putting ourselves down for not being able to afford such lavish luxuries. This can get especially tricky when we begin comparing our daily lives, our jobs, our kids, our significant others, our bodies, our faces, our goals and ultimately our worth with those of celebrities and sometimes even with the people around us. We tie our worth to the image that we portray on social media, and in doing this, it's easy to place social media at the center of our lives, leading to some extremely toxic mind patterns.
I say image, because if we're honest, this isn't even the real us. The image that we portray on social media is a fabricated version of ourselves. It is a compilation of all of our best hair days, most memorable moments, our highest accomplishments and our cutest selfies. This image is the person that we desperately want to be, but have absolutely no possibility of fully maintaining. Because the truth is that we all have bad hair days, moments we wish we could forget, things that we failed to accomplish and butt-ugly selfies on our camera roll. No one is perfect all the time, and yet most of are tirelessly trying to prove to each other (and ourselves) that this perfection is actually attainable in some form or fashion.
Social media is daunting, because we decide what is posted and we decide exactly how the world views us and how often. This freedom might sound like a positive contribution, but in reality, this means that every person out there is only showing their best side, and inevitably, we end up comparing their best side to our worst sides and most undesirable qualities. So while their life might look like a parade of endless fairy-tales and sunshine, it is (most likely) very far from that. The grass is always greener on the other side, am I right?
I mean, think about it, would you ever go out of your way to post a picture of yourself on a bad day when you're crying over something silly? Would you post pictures doing the laundry or taking out the trash? Or would you even consider making a Facebook status the moment you found out about a death in the family or something else of more serious repercussion? Doubtful. You probably don't want the world knowing the messy, boring or unpleasant details of your life, because that would be foolish (although fools like this do exist, but that poses another problem entirely).
My point is, on social media we put our best foot forward and show off everything (positive) that we have to offer, because we know that someone out there is taking notes and comparing their frustrating lives to the image of a life that we are putting on display. And be honest, something about that satisfies us. We love knowing that our lives are better than some of our Facebook friends' lives. We take pride in the fact that this image of our life (that we are trying so hard to make a reality) is somehow more impressive or significant than our former high school classmates' lives. What is so appealing about putting others down to pull ourselves up over and over again? Why do we constantly resort to this ugly behavior?
I am not implying that comparison was never a component in former generations, but I am saying that social media has without a doubt made this beast of comparison remarkably worse. You see, in generations past, these comparison-fueled behaviors were reserved for high school class reunions and sometimes even family holiday parties (depending on who you are comparing yourself to). And even then, you could only gloat and gallivant so much, because you can only be fake to a certain extent in person over a short period of time. Social media has become toxic because (most of us) prey on the weakness of others and we thrive on the idea that our lives are more fulfilling than those of our peers, even if the image we're projecting isn't even slightly realistic. That is where the true problem lies.
Please don't think for a second that I am suggesting we all delete our Facebook accounts or cut ourselves off from reality altogether. (Unless God calls you to do that, in which case I fully support it!) But a more realistic approach would be to genuinely alter our mindsets to be more considerate and empathetic to those around us, and more aware of our social media presence and the power that it holds. Furthermore, we need to stop placing our social media image at the top of our priority lists, and maybe start being a bit more honest on our social media accounts.
I'm guilty of it. You're guilty of it. We have (probably) all been guilty of this at least once in our lives. It all started with who had the best MySpace backgrounds or the most impressive or creative answers on those stupid little survey things we used to do. For the last ten years (at least), social media has slowly but surely driven a wedge between our real lives and the image of our lives, causing us to be obsessed with comparison and fueled by self-righteousness. It's dangerous. It's petty. And ultimately, it can ruin your life and destroy your relationships if you allow it to.
So do what you need to do, boo. Try a social media fast or cleanse if you are looking for a fresh start. Go out for a real dinner with some real friends for a change, and be real about your life and some of the messy details within it. Or maybe just take a nice good look in the mirror and reevaluate why you post what you post, and what your long-term intentions are in the daunting world of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or whatever else tickles your fancy.
Social media is amazing, and truth be told, I don't think I will ever be the girl who deletes her Facebook and goes off the grid. I like the grid. I like making my presence known. I will always be that girl. Hey, maybe you're that girl too, maybe you thrive in a publicized position and truly enjoy telling the world about your life. There is nothing wrong with being that person, as long as you are conscious and healthy about your social media decisions, you can be whoever you want to be. Just don't go (directly or indirectly) tearing down anyone else in the process.
Remember, we are all wildly imperfect individuals who will never be able to fully attain a perfect life. We weren't created for perfect lives though. Life is meant to be messy, uncomfortable, kind of crazy, sometimes frustrating and even a little bit ugly at times. Own it, girl! Be messy, learn to live with the uncomfortable, embrace your crazy, persevere through the frustrating and deal with the ugly as it comes at you. I despise Hannah Montana, but she was right about one thing, nobody’s perfect. So let's stop pretending that we are.