Written by Jordan White
We all want to post our best lives on social media. Filtered avocado toast for Sunday brunch, your latest crop, the best of three hundred selfies you took amongst the Van Gogh Alive sunflowers. I could go on.
It’s no secret social media is bad for our mental health. The technology designed to bring us together has been found to increase feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) time and time again. One landmark University of Pennsylvania study found a causal link between time spent on social media and increased depression and loneliness.
Of course, it isn’t all bad – social media can help us connect with others and keep up with friends – but this seems to only be the case when we approach it in moderation. And much like retirees at property auctions, our generation sucks at exercising moderation. We spend an average of 145 minutes a day on social networking apps, according to We Are Social. This isn’t about screen time, though. That conversation was had in 2018 when Apple and Android (followed by many other tech platforms) introduced screen time measures with mixed results. This is what happens when all our screen time is spent viewing the best versions of ourselves.
“I recently realised I check social media in the exact same order – a “loop”, I call it…”
Maybe you don’t need me citing studies to know what comparing yourself to others on social media feels like. I recently realised I check social media in the exact same order – a “loop”, I call it – when I wake up each morning. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, emails, TikTok. Almost subconsciously. And on each of these platforms is my dose of other people’s perfection for the day; photos in golden sunsets, strong jawlines, perfect figures, days-in-the-life of an absurdly young and successful something-year-old entrepreneur (seriously, what is up with that? I can barely water my plants). Comparison really is the thief of joy. And with so much perfection to compare to on social media, Marie Kondo is going to run out of business.
But the grass isn’t really greener on the other side. What we see on social media is only a glimpse of reality and people can use this to warp how we perceive reality. Behind each aesthetic #InteriorDesign is a hidden bundle of washing. For each selfie is two dozen more that didn’t make the cut. A seemingly fun day at the beach might’ve been miserable. We all know this but seem to forget it. We see perfect lives and perfect bodies and obsess over them, even if we know they might not be real.
“We just need to remember this: that life is a mess at the best of times…”
Recently, a friend sent me a selfie. ‘Is this okay? I spent a week editing it,’ she wrote. It was, of course, fine. Like all her photos. Fine – just as things are without filters and selective posting.
You don’t need to stop using social media. We don’t need to boycott or punish posts that seem “perfect”. And I checked my phone about 56,000 times while writing this article so don’t worry about me lecturing you on screen time, either. We just need to remember this: that life is a mess at the best of times.
Maybe it won’t hurt to show this on social media for a change. If you are feeling down, post about it instead of saying nothing. Choose the selfie that’s just good enough. Question why you need to delete a post shortly after publishing it. Sure, show us the Van Gogh Alive sunflowers. But show us the graffiti in the carpark and the painfully slow line outside, too.
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