I want to start this article with a disclaimer. This is not me pointing fingers or accusing people but rather something that I felt in my heart these past few days that I needed to get on paper.
There may be a variety of reasons that you’ve chosen to delve into this little article that I wrote this morning. You could feel that your people skills need brushing up, you could feel a longing to bridge gap between you and others that surround you. I’m not sure why you decided to click on my article this lovely Sunday evening but I can tell you for certain why I chose to write this piece on an early Sunday morning.
“We are all under a microscope”.
This idea had struck me with such ferocity that I went into a frenzy of deleting all of my social media applications from my phone last night.
I had asked myself while looking at my favorite application where I organized pristine, perfect boards of pastels and people who seem to have it together. After thinking for a moment, the horror sunk into my pores like polluted air.
“Yes, it’s all just an image.”
When I woke up this beautiful Sunday morning, I had forgotten the events that had transpired the previous night. I rolled out of bed with a frizzy knot of hair on my head and picked up my three essentials: a coffee mug, a Keurig pod and of course, my phone.
As I was waiting for my perfect cup of medium roast to brew, I went to check my phone. Of course, I immediately realized that all of my social media apps had been removed from my home page. Initially, I condemned past Emily for being so receptive to any idea that enters my mind in the hours of the night.
A few days prior, I had watched the documentary, “Minimalism”. I had become so inspired that I had gotten out of bed and began to sort all of my clothes out of my drawers. Of course, it was two in the morning, so when Future Emily woke up that fateful Wednesday, she was greeted with a cluttering mess of clothes, crafting supplies and beauty products covering the floor.
After my previous escapades, I was not surprised with myself. My idea to become a Vegetarian had happened due to my late night musings about two years ago. I still practice the lifestyle and it has brought me happiness.
Anyway, I was so inspired by the sadness and panic that flooded my heart the previous night, that I decided to write this article expressing a problem that we face in society today. I would love any comments from people who have more insight on this issue or have felt a similar concern to me.
1. We will do anything for a “like”.
My friend will flurry over who likes her pictures. She scrolls through who liked it and will say, “Why didn’t ____ like my picture? He’s trying to get to me.” or “Why did _____ like this? So weird.”
I realized that I am no different. I spend about five minutes editing my photos to make them look polished and fun. Then, I refresh my picture to check how many “likes” I get from others. I get the thrill of the approval of others when I look at the likes and think, “So many people care about me.”
In reality, this system of likes as a form of approval can create a divide between real relationships with the people around us. When we begin to alter our social media presence to please others, we are becoming extrinsically motivated to continue this behavior through our reward of other’s, “likes”. It destroys our connection to the real world when we begin to put such weight on the approval of others, that we change our habits to accommodate this sense of social confirmation.
2. We filter our world.
I put my pictures through a series of rosy filters, my friends and I fake affectionate poses, I spend time coming up with the perfect caption that will capture a dual sense of fun and perfection.
“Look at how perfect my life is.”
When I scroll through my Instagram or Pinterest page, I am flooded with images of perfect people doing things that I could only dream of doing. What I’ve come to realize is that nothing is real.
A friend had kindly showed me a series of apps to put my photos through in order to make them more appealing to the public eye. My feed is so rosy and warm like enjoying a day in the sunshine by the ocean.
“Look how happy I am”, “Look how much I’ve changed since High School”.
These filters destroy our relationships in the real world when we parallel the ideal tone of our digital lives to the corruption and the harsh conditions of reality. The world is not always sipping iced tea by the beach. When we become more accustomed to the filtered world rather than the real world, we can withdraw into our distorted online worlds that encompass a kaleidoscope of perfection that the real world does not have to offer.
3. We only interact through devices.
There are some relationships in which we rely so heavily on devices to communicate that we forget the importance of interacting with others through memorable experiences.
A text message saying, “I miss you! We must catch up!”, does nothing for your relationships with others.
Ask yourself how many people you would consider your inner and outer circle of influence, write the names of those people down on a piece of paper. Now, circle the names of the people on that list that you have seen face to face in the past month.
Are you surprised, pleased, revolted?
I had a moment of truth when I was telling a story about a friend from high school, I started the sentence with, “Once, my good friend Ann-“. My thoughts halted after this statement. Was she really my good friend? I thought about the last time that I had seen Ann, two years ago?
“But she commented on my Instagram last week,” I justified our friendship in my mind through this statement. So what if it’s only words on a screen, it’s interaction, right?
4. We compare someone’s highlights to our entire life.
Social media can become a problem when we begin to envy the lives of others in comparison to our own.
A friend of mine studied abroad for a semester. I remember seeing her pictures, so full of life, color and adventure. I was envious of her eating fish and chips by the water and viewing underground concerts while I was on the other side of the world feeling lonely and miserable. I was constantly comparing my struggles to the happy experiences painted on her social media outlets.
When she came home and we met up to discuss her adventures, I told her how I had felt the past semester. She responded, “I never thought about how social media does that. My page only shows the fun I had, not the nights I worried because I was lonely or the times I was sad from homesickness.”
It’s so easy to compare our plights to the well being of other people when we only see their high points. Social media can cause us to feel that we are abnormal, unlucky or become depressed when we wonder why we can’t be as happy as the people in the pictures.
Make a change.
Social media can be a useful tool for networking, keeping up with loved ones across the world and meeting new people. Our development in modern technology has created so many benefits in our society.
We can help and donate money to people we had never met, speak our mind through our keyboards and create a folder of amazing recipes from around the world for free.
However, I’ve found it quite difficult to keep up the facade of a perfect life that I didn’t even realize I was painting. This is why I’ve decided to take a break. Instead of spending time filtering my life or comparing it to other’s, I will be making a change in my time.
I want to crack open the books under my bed that I never had time for because I was scrolling through Pinterest, pinning houses and clothes that I will never be able to afford.
I want to start journaling again and explore who I am and what I am feeling instead of spending time flipping through pictures of people that I will never be.
I want to live in the present instead of living in the electronic images of places I am not currently at.
I want to cherish the relationships I have and experience the grit and raw imperfection our world possesses, rather than spending my time in a make believe world of shiny items and happy people.
Photo Credit: Bored Panda