When the snapshots we upload to our Instagram become the placeholder for the everyday interactions in our daily lives and are our only version of reality, then that's when we've hit the depths of just existing.
There is a difference between living and existing. That, I'm sure we all know in theory. Yet, I wish we talked more about how to distinguish between the two, because sometimes you slip from the buzzing, radiant precipice of living, into the mind-numbing, worthless depths of existing without knowing how you ended up there.
I guess we should start with the fundamentals.
How I've always seen it, to live is to experience, to exist is to be experienced. You would think that in your own life, you'd be forced to be an active participant; except, I know first hand that it's one of the easiest things in the world to walk around on autopilot, moving from mundane task to mundane task without a single care for why you're doing it, other than because it fits into the narrow confines of what society has already decided is expected of you. Boredom, disillusionment, and dissociation ensue, and you fade into the background, becoming part of the canvas that those who are actually living paint into the fabric of their lives.
It's empty and apathy becomes routine.
This image of existing is probably the one we're all most familiar with, but it feels too easy. What has been on my mind lately is another form of worthless existence, one even worse yet. The kind where you're alive alright, but immersed in a world far removed from your actual reality. Can we call it living if it's not real?
Essentially, it's like being in the matrix.
Since I've discovered social media, I feel like that's where I've been. I don't mean this in an angsty, "I hate my life so I'd rather live in delusion online," type of way. I mean that I've been fooled into distorting my own reality to fit the ideals of a social media world. I mean that I've been chasing behind likes, comments, and followers as if that somehow equates to tangible success in the real world. I mean that I've been experiencing the world through the pixels of a 6.1 in. screen. The saddest part is that I didn't even know I was doing it, and how far it had gotten out of hand, until yesterday.
I watched an excellent video by Tiffany Ferg where she explains how the normalization of Facetune is contributing to not only unrealistic beauty standards but tricking people into distorting the polished, impeccable bodies and images that they see online for reality. Ferg makes it easy for us to infer how Facetune is contributing to a larger problem with social media: the disillusionment and shame that comes with not 'measuring up' to the standards set online by influencers (not just beauty standards, but ideals of how you should live your life in general), as well as the incessant need to alter your reality in order to live up to these standards.
People think altering your reality is only related to circumstances like taking drugs, but it very well can apply to instances like using Facetune to give yourself "five-minute plastic surgery" or conflating your social media profile and presence with your actual, physical being. When the snapshots we upload to our Instagram — the smiles in every photo, the tiny waist and wide hips we photoshop onto ourselves, the trips that we take twice a year, yet upload to our account as if we vacation every other month, the flawless makeup and perfect skin, the effortless, endless, and constant adventure — become the placeholder for the everyday interactions in our daily lives and are our only version of reality, then that's when we've hit the depths of just existing.
And that's what frightens, disgusts, and angers me the most because everything on social media is fucking fake.
It is a culmination of the most idealized version of our world. It's unattainable. It's perfect. It's empty. I've spent so long trying to make my actual life match my Instagram profile that I've forgotten to live. Social media should be a reflection of our reality, not the basis for it. Trying to craft the perfect outfits, trying to feel excited and happy every second, trying to create a perfect image will get you nowhere expect caught in the storm of confusion and disappointment.
I don't say this in opposition to social media. I love Twitter and Instagram because it's a great source of news and entertainment and it helps us connect with each other, as well as express ourselves.
I say this in favor of waking up.
Waking up to savoring each moment in your actual reality. Waking up to realizing that nothing is perfect and that we should be thankful that it's not. Waking up to chasing fulfillment in real life and not just for a great picture on Instagram.