8.42am – I post a picturesque snap on Instagram from my early morning run, of autumn leaves and sunrise, captioned “no better way to start the day”. There’s no mention of how it took me 40 minutes to get out of bed that morning, physically and mentally crippled with anxiety from the very moment I opened my eyes. Things are never quite the way they seem.
1.12pm – I capture a perfectly arranged image of my nutritious #cleaneat lunch, the vibrant colours of the various fruits the only thing that’s really ‘full of life’ here. I leave out the part about how I’m disciplining myself, cutting out certain foods, unhappy with my body image. Things are never quite the way they seem.
5.19pm – I share with you all my latest fashion buy, gorgeous new shoes that make my heart flutter, well, for a few moments anyway. I fail to mention how shopping is my attempt to cover up my unhappiness, the temporary thrill easing the empty feelings that accompany reality. Things are never quite the way they seem.
8.47pm – Up goes a selfie. I’m smiling, eyes wide, hair perfectly in place. But this isn’t the first attempt at capturing my hair and makeup before I head out. Dozens more have been taken previously, each one portraying different insecurities that flash at me through the screen of my iPhone. It’s all about the right angle, good lighting, a flattering filter. Things are never quite the way they seem.
11.54pm – Bedtime. Better upload an inspirational quote that makes me appear strong and self assured, like I’m in control of my life. In reality, I’ve never felt so unmotivated, and as I drift off to sleep, a thousand worries scurry through my weary mind. Things are never quite the way they seem.
From an early age, we’re taught that things are not always quite how they appear, that ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. Yet, so many of us still feel compelled to adhere to the stereotypical presumptions of what is right and what is best. Many believe that the ever-growing developments in technology and social media are to blame for the unrealistic expectations we’ve placed both on others and ourselves, but personally, I feel that’s just one aspect of the issue. We compare ourselves to those around us, and that is only natural. Siblings, classmates, work colleagues, those in the media, paying attention to and even taking inspiration from the actions and reactions of those we interact with is normal, but where should we draw the line?
In terms of social media, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a slave to Instagram in particular. It’s an amazing platform on which to express my loves of fashion and photography, but it comes at a price. It would be wrong to say that what I post on social media is fake, but it’s certainly selective. What you see isn’t necessarily through a rose tinted glass, but no means is it spontaneous either. I share what I want people to see, my best angles, my good hair days, the prettiest shoes and the breathtaking views.
While those images form part of my life, they represent a very small proportion of the time that I’m happy and at ease with myself. I fail to capture the moments where I look like I’ve been dragged through a bush after a heavy night of drinking, the days when my skin is experiencing a hormonal breakout that knocks my self esteem to the floor, the pig-out meals of comfort food that certainly don’t stick with my #cleaneating image or the times when I don’t leave my room because anxiety has gotten its way – again. Both sides of this spectrum play equally important roles in mine, and everyone else’s everyday life, the ups and downs, the highs and lows. So, why is it that we’re so afraid to share the moments that even the Juno filter and your best angle can’t ‘fix’?
What I’ve recently come to realise is, my attitudes to what I post on social media and what I choose to share about my feelings, my worries and my mental state in real life, really don’t differ that much. I’d rather bottle up the not so positive thoughts, only sharing the pretty aspects of my life, as in a way, I can almost convince myself that things are much shinier and dazzling than they really are. Steve Furtick once said “the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel” and I honestly think no truer words were ever spoken. It’s only human nature to want to capture only the happiest, most proud moments in our lives, but if we all fail to acknowledge the inevitable struggles and purity of reality, we’ll continue to fool each other, but most importantly – ourselves.
I think it’s fair to say that in many ways, social media is not real life. While it’s an invaluable way to communicate with those from our ‘real lives’ and share precious moments from said lives, the manner in which we interact and portray states otherwise. So no, social media is not real life, but the fact that it’s fake isn’t the problem. The problem, in my eyes, lies not in WHAT we post, but in WHY. We now live in a world where someone’s popularity doesn’t boil down to how many friends they interact with physically, on a daily basis, but how many likes they can rack up on their latest selfie or Facebook status. It’s gotten to the stage where we’ll only post Instagrams at ‘peak times’ when we know we’ll receive the most ‘hearts’, and if we don’t reach a certain amount of likes or obtain enough complimentary comments, our self esteem and confidence takes a hit.
Gone are the days when simply staring at ourselves in the mirror was an accurate summation of how we viewed our appearance, and deeper within, measured our self worth. There’s really no need for that any more, when the iPhone in our pocket can quantify just how ‘loved’, ‘wanted’ and ‘valued’ we are, one ‘like’ at a time. If we acknowledge that social media is not real, we can begin to disconnect what we see online with real-life expectations. We can separate social media from our sense of self-worth. It’s okay that social media is not real life. It’s okay that it’s a fictional world made of Prada bags, avocado-on-toast and matcha lattes. Just remember that self-love doesn’t come from that world. It comes from the real one.
The real you.