So here’s something people are always surprised to learn about me: I’m not the biggest fan of social media.
Okay, there are some caveats to this, but you would think someone who’d chosen to make a career out of social media would be a more avid user.
The thing is, when I started working in social media back in 2013, it was a different thing entirely. Facebook wasn’t this corrupt entity, just a way to see what was going on in your friends’ lives. People weren’t getting canceled on Twitter, and YouTube stars weren’t releasing apologies over controversies every week. I’m pretty sure social media still wasn’t perfect then, but it definitely wasn’t the beast it’s become now.
Whenever I get started on a social media rant, I always feel like I should be holding a cane and waving it emphatically at any youths in the vicinity. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to say anything you haven’t heard before on the topic. Social media kills our attention spans, makes us more self-conscious, increases anxiety…sure, we know all this already.
It also lets us connect with people all around the world, feel like we’re part of a global community, express our creativity, increase awareness around important issues, do social good with a few keystrokes.
Social media isn’t inherently a good or bad thing in itself. It’s all in the way we use it, and one of the ways in which social media contributes most to our unhappiness is the reference points it provides.
Reference points are important, because they affect how we perceive our own happiness and quality of life. If you compare yourself to a coworker, your life probably won’t look too bad in comparison. If you compare yourself to Taylor Swift, that’s a different story. The problem is, social media presents us with nothing but unrealistic reference points. Scroll through your Instagram feed and you’ll see a bunch of teenage influencers sipping champagne on a yacht, ordinary meals styled to look impeccable with the perfect lighting, girls made up with professional makeup and nary a pore to be found. (This is not actually what my feed looks like btw).
Even your friends only post the best or most photogenic moments of their lives making it seem like everyone’s constantly having the most amazing time. I’ve actually worked with a few influencers at past jobs. It was amazing to scroll through their social media where they’d accumulated thousands of followers. They’d post pictures of themselves wearing glamorous outfits, flouncing around the city without a care in the world. If you didn’t know them in real life, you’d think they spent all their time going on amazing vacations, eating the best foods, and lounging around their penthouse apartments in expensive gowns. I did know them in real life, and real life was a much a different story.
At their day jobs, they didn’t dress up or come in with full faces of makeup. Most of them spent 40 hours a week being stressed out by terrible bosses, underpaid, and unsatisfied with their work. Maybe the rest of their lives were just as glamorous as it was on their Instagrams, but the part that wasn’t glamorous sure didn’t feature in any of their pictures.
Since learning the truth, I now tend to look at most influencers’ posts with a skeptical eye. I know that behind every perfect picture there’s a less than imperfect story, and that’s okay! We’re all imperfect, and if you want to portray a different story on social media, that’s okay too. It’s just important for all the rest of us to remember that what we’re seeing is in fact just that: a story.
There are times when I get frustrated with the people in my own life. Friends and family who will make me wait to take a bite of my meal until they get a great picture or who have their heads bowed down towards their phones the whole time we’re on vacation. I won’t pretend I haven’t been occasionally guilty of doing the same. When I visited Notre Dame in Paris a few years ago, everyone inside the cathedral had their devices out even though there were multiple signs informing visitors this was not allowed. When the news of it catching on fire broke out, I was so grateful for the time I’d been allowed to spend there, and even more grateful that I remembered every detail of the experience so vividly because I’d stubbornly refused to take my phone out.
I guess the whole point of this rambling rant is that social media can be a fun way to pass the time and, in many ways, a great tool. However, it’s up to us to make sure we’re using it in a way that benefits us instead of letting it run the way we live our lives. Lately, my social feeds have been filled with nothing more than pictures of dogs, happy quotes, posts about obscure interests, and cooking videos. That change alone was enough to reduce my daily anxiety considerably.
I’m not trying to tell you how to spend your time on the internet. I’m just saying, a few extra cute animals on your feed couldn’t hurt.