This world is filled with contradictions. The grey area between the black and white seeps into every aspect of life, an inexcusable fine print hidden underneath every simple facade.
An issue I think about often, as I’m sure many others who spend plenty of time on social media do as well, is wonder how real the images and text we see really are. It’s not even like this is a huge secret: many people have spoken out about the depth behind every pleasant-looking image, and yet we still struggle with desiring a fabricated life.
With social media, we are always connected. Unless you swear it off for some time, you never get a break to just be. And with that technology comes our innate drive to feel like “a part of the group,” to avoid the fear that we’re missing out.
Even as someone who is very independent and introverted, I can get in this rut easily. I know I have some awesome people in my life, but I also thrive being alone and doing my own thing. Social media doesn’t really lend itself to those people who don’t have newsworthy pictures to post regularly, unless you count finding a new great book or buying a new plant as newsworthy (which in my case, these both definitely are). Heck, the only updates I ever share on Facebook these days are cute animals.
In my ruts, I start to overthink everything, a common habit of mine. I go through profiles of people that share updates involving tons of friends, receiving hundreds of likes from thousands of followers. Especially in the summer and in a college setting, times in life that it almost feels like an obligation to go out constantly and socialize (and “if you didn’t take a photo, it didn’t happen”), I sit in solitude wondering if I’m spending enough time with others, if I have enough friends, if not having enough pictures with others makes me inadequate, or if others look at my profile and judge me for my rare instances of having a picture with others tagged.
How contradictory it is that platforms designed to bring others together can so easily make us feel empty and disconnected. How much time and energy we can put toward trying to design an appealing life for the sake of others’ approval. Never before in history did we ever have 24/7 access to keeping track of others, and from there can come the dangerous practice of comparison. As one saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. You have to realize that 1) we are all different, we all have different lives we are each living, 2) a picture may be worth a thousand words, but it never tells a person’s full story; those who master the art of social media can put up a very attractive front to conceal some less appealing details, and 3) life is not and will never be a competition. The people who look like they have it all can feel the most melancholy. The people who you might describe as “goals” could just as easily be looking at you and wanting what you have. It’s an endless vicious cycle that will never cease, and social media feed feeds that even more. I can just hear an infomercial voice narrating, “Now, with this new website and technology, you can compare yourself from anywhere, even the comfort of your own home! How convenient! And all for free, just pay $400 dollars in processing and handling!” (Well, probably not the last part, but you get my gist.)
Honestly, even when I do go out and see others, my instinct is to never document it on social media, and I think that is so important. I feel like trying to constantly take pictures strictly for the sake of filling up your profile takes away from genuinely appreciating others. If you enjoy taking pictures, great, but place more emphasis on face-to-face interaction rather than staring at your phone to upload tons of groups selfies. Not everybody has to know about your time spent with others, either. Just because you didn’t post every second of your impromptu adventure with friends doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. The memories shared just between yourself or very few others can be some of the most wonderful moments of all.
Also, spend time with yourself. I know it might not lend itself to tons of content to post depending on what you do (I’m guessing not many people will like a status describing a dinner date for one), but the best friend you’ll ever have that will never enter or leave your life is you. Introverts and extroverts alike can find value in a quiet moment. But ultimately, do what makes you happy, whatever that may be. If it’s going to parties every weekend, great, and if it’s writing blog posts and watching TV every weekend, that’s great, too. You don’t have validate your happiness to anybody else. Assessing how you feel about yourself comes from your own inner drive, and any improvements or changes you want to make should come from a place of personal growth, not a self-esteem reliant on likes and comments of others.
If filling your camera roll with tons of posed photos with others is your sole indicator of how “well” you are living and the value of your personal relationships, it’s time to look away from the screen and turn off your technology. Even just a day unplugged from social media can be very beneficial. It can feel so refreshing to let go of those anxieties of feeling left out and feeling like life is going past you without fully enjoying it. You may realize how simple days can be amazing days and that you are perfectly content just as you are.
And I never really understood the appeal of those cheesy sorority-style poses anyways. Personally, I want people who I can have thought-provoking conversations with rather than people who put on a great smile for the camera. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a quality friendship with someone goes beyond words.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie