We as a society have come to a glorious point in time where we have the ability to distribute opinions, pictures of cheeseburgers, and heavily filtered selfies across a variety of platforms. Do you want to post a six second video of you potentially getting arrested? Head to Vine. Need only 120 characters to express your distaste for the latest episode of Scandal? Twitter is here for you. Searching for a group of angsty teens in Docs? Tumblr can be your online support system. Don’t ask me what Periscope is about. The point is, now, more than ever before, individuals are capable of reaching out to millions of other people in the world to exchange ideas (and many times hate on the same people) to the extent that you can perceive these connections as something genuine. That is, until you realize how contrived many of these posts are and the manipulation of reality by posters in order to sell you a lifestyle. I’m looking at you, FitTea instagrammers.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to be “real” online – there are plenty of people out there who use their accounts to actually keep connected. But I do feel as though all of these various screens in our lives have put up a real life valencia filter over our eyes. And it’s not just this constant desperation for likes and retweets that cause us to lose ourselves in our online personas, but what it does to us to see others more “successful” in their social media presence.
I personally noticed the negative impact of watching hundreds of seconds of snaps by YouTube “beauty gurus” and seeing their corresponding airbrushed Instagram posts. A makeup brand recently pampered a group of YouTubers on a trip to the Turks and Caicos, spoiling them with boat rides, pool parties, and products. These girls were living the life and they started out as simple makeup lovers, just like me. I found myself envious of their glamorous “candid” shots and lavish gifts I can only treat myself to every once in a blue moon, and even then, it’s just an eyeliner. On my couch in pajama pants with acne cream plastered on the latest monstrosities, I sat in awe as each snap story made me feel worse about myself, my friends, and my un-glamorous lifestyle. Instead of appreciating everything that I had, I grew more agitated with everything I didn’t. Pretty sad, I know.
But then I realized something extremely important: None of that was real. Sure, those women were being catered to and apparently wanted for nothing, but it is literally their job to make me feel as though this brand could provide a surreal, life-changing experience. All I have to do is buy their new lipstick line. After watching this “vacation” in condensed snap stories, I thought about how many products had just been advertised to me, how exhausting it must be to be on a schedule for fun, and, of course, how every single person was busy talking to me about how wonderful everything was instead of taking in every single moment on that beautiful island. What would that company have said if these gurus didn’t snap or instagram a single second of that trip? These people are hand selected for their personality in front of a camera and their skill in selling me on a fantasy. And it honestly worked. But maybe not in the way they had hoped.
Instead of rushing to the nearest Sephora to buy as many products possible or saving the date for the new products I was given a “sneak peek” of, I caved into myself because that’s just how I operate. Now, obviously, everyone reacts to things differently and as a person who deals with anxiety, exposure to social media like this makes me realize just how antisocial I can be. It makes me wish I was different, that I had amassed more friends in high school and in college. It makes me wish I could just reach out to people more and invite them out instead of being too nervous to put myself out there. But I am who I am, and while I try to work on it so I can function like a normal human, I don’t want to harp on these things to the point that it changes my true self.
My multiple accounts reflect what I choose to put into the online universe, and when I do have those rare occasions where I get together with the few people I’m close with, I want to spend time with them, not my phone. After a few hours of moping, I remembered that I don’t mind sitting at home on a Friday night catching up on my favorite TV shows rather than heading out to a club after 10pm (I shudder at the thought). I remembered that I have people in my life who like me for who I am and not for what I can do for them (aka sell shit – I suck at that anyway). And I also remembered that I’m honestly just too lazy to create an entirely new personality for the sake of appearing awesome. If that’s your bag, by all means, you keep on keepin’ on, but I’m way too tired to keep up with the demands of being instacool.
It’s easier said than done, I know, but I urge you to not compare yourself to what you see online. People only share what they want you to see, and the higher their number of viewers, the higher the probability that it’s all smoke and mirrors. If you’re going to take anything from social media, take inspiration. Take notes on where people travel or even some of their fitness tips. But try not to take it too seriously.
And on that note, I leave you with a link to an article on Essena O’Neil, an instagrammer who came out from behind the veil to share everything you don’t see: 19 Year-Old Instagram Star Reveals The Truth Behind Her Perfect Photos