It is difficult to remember a time when social media wasn't a big part of our everyday lives. Personally, I was lucky enough to go through all of middle school without participating in any of it. It wasn't until high school, after much persuasion from my friends, that I ended up making a Facebook page. It was an innocent enough past time; a method of keeping up with old friends and connecting with new ones.
But over time, social media platforms have evolved, morphing into something greater than just a way to interact with other people. There is a new pressure now, like the desire to look good online. Now, you don't just have to appear attractive and cool, but you also have to look interesting and well put together. It's almost like our social media platforms are an extension of our own identity. Our online personas become one of the main ways we present ourselves to the rest of the world.
Of course, we know that social media is not a clear window into someone's actual life. It is essentially a "highlight reel" of happy, visually appealing moments. It depicts the good times but leaves out the less than perfect moments. We don't want to show the world our struggles so we show them the version of us that we want them to see. An Instagram post may show a beautiful girl who is surrounded by friends, her head thrown back mid-laugh. She looks like she is having the time of her life, and maybe she is. Or maybe, she is battling her own inner struggles. She could be fighting loneliness, depression, or any number of insecurities. The truth is, we just don't know. All we see is the happy version, someone we want to know and maybe even aspire to be like.
It is easy to get caught up in all of it. Especially when much of social media is focused on the need for attention. "Liking" posts becomes a way to give others validation, something we desire ourselves. When we post a picture or status update and it doesn't get the validation we want, we might question ourselves. What am I lacking? What should I change about myself to get that acceptance and validation I'm looking for?
Even if it is not quite to this level, social media affects all of us. Personally, I often catch myself comparing myself to people I see online. Not just to people I know, but to celebrities and people that are on a completely different life track than I am. I might think things like "Why am I not to that level of success in my life yet?" or "Why don't I look like her or have a life like that?" Clearly I am inadequate, clearly, I am lacking. This is an easy trap to fall in. When this happens, we have to remind ourselves that social media is not real life. We are on our own life journey, not someone else's. Instead of worrying about where we should be or what our lives should look like, we should accept them as they are. They are probably not perfect but they are where we are at now, not an indication of where we will be in the future.
This is not to say that we should delete all our social media accounts and fall off the face of the digital world. Instead, we should just remember the next time we post or tweet to separate online from reality.