Social media is a huge part of my life, and it’s been that way since I can remember. I’m 22, so My Space wasn’t really my thing – Piczo was the platform everyone was using when I was a teen and therefore it was the one I was using too (alongside many others, such as Bebo and MSN). Some of my very first, meaningful relationships and friendships were formed online… I was hooked, from the minute I got a mobile phone and had use of a computer/laptop.
I followed every online trend – some sooner than others, but eventually I gave in to them all. I’m now the owner of SO many online profiles and platforms that honestly, I’ve lost count. I can, however, ‘justify’ them all…
But why do I need to ‘justify’ them? Well, because I know, intuitively, that being so immersed in the digital world rather than the real world isn’t healthy. I’m not the only one that knows this though… we all do, to some extent. The use of social media and its affects on our mental and physical health have been well documented and researched.
We know the dangers, we know the causes, and ultimately, we know the truth – yet we continue to damage ourselves. Where’s the sense in that? There is none and that is the main problem. Even the smartest, most successful women in our society are affected by the fear of ‘missing out’, becoming ‘a nobody’ or being an ‘outcast’ – emotions often override logic, and as a result far too many of us are spending time thinking about how others see us and our experiences rather than exploring our talents and unique interests.
After food and shelter, our number one need as human beings is to feel as though we ‘belong’ somewhere. We require positive connections with others just as much as we require water to stay alive and thrive. A well-connected community breeds happiness, health and wealth. A broken community breeds depression, anxiety, anger and insecurity. But in a bid to connect the entire world (to the point in which we know what our friends across the globe are doing every single minute of every single day), we’ve created a virtual reality that isn’t far from The Matrix concept.
The lines between virtual reality and the world we actually live have been blurred dramatically over the past 10 years. Facebook started out as a place for college students to communicate with peers from Universities in Boston, but we all know it has since turned into something far different. Of course, it’s fabulous that technology is advancing… what I worry about is how our attitudes are changing towards such technologies.
I hear many young girls/woman (including myself) use the words “ought to”, “should” and “better have” while using social media or when thinking about signing up to a new platform. Let me give you a real-life example from just the other day (that’s how often it happens):
Me: “Oh, I haven’t Snapped anything in ages. I better take a selfie to make sure people know I’m alive & well!”
A few minutes pass. Many selfies get deleted.
Me, again: “I can’t get a good one. I look like crap.”
Sam: “Well you haven’t got to do anything today.”
Me: “I kinda have, actually. Otherwise my story will be empty and I’ll be seen as a ‘bad blogger’.”
Sam: “No one will even notice.”
Me: “Look, all the best bloggers Snap at least 5 times a day. I’ve not posted for ages. How can I compete without posting? You’ve got to be in it to win it!”
Sam: “Cool. Well you realise you are making yourself ill, putting this much pressure on yourself? It’s our day off, we’re only popping to the shops and apparently you have to look perfect… not for me, but for Snapchat…”
Allow another few minutes here, to let that last comment of Sam’s sink in. It took me forever to come back with a ‘savvy’ or ‘sassy’ reply. I had nothing. I still have nothing.
I thought back to the times before Snapchat (or Instagram Stories, another burden!) and recalled what our car journeys were like then. We would sing, dance and laugh like school kids over nothing, and during those times I didn’t once think about how I looked or what anyone outside of that car thought. I lived in the moment and it felt GREAT. Far greater than fronting for a camera all the time.
You see, there was a stage not so long ago where I believed every moment and aspect of my life needed not only to be documented but also to look perfect. I’d concluded that the best Snapchat Stories are those that display their lives in this way… You know, the ones that include a morning selfie, an aerial view of breakfast, a daily makeup tutorial, cute caraoke clips, landscapes at lunch and Champagne at every interval… so shouldn’t that be what I’m striving for too?
And there it is again. That peer-pressure stemming from the need to feel validated, loved and part of something.
“Shouldn’t that be what I’m striving for too?”
Of course, I failed to reach this goal, because I was basing it upon others. I wasn’t using Snapchat when I wanted to, instead I was letting what everyone else did dictate how often I post. It quickly became intrusive and destructive. I woke up in the morning and the first thing I did was check my following, reply to my messages and pose for a selfie. The next thing I did was make a picture-perfect coffee, while considering if my nails looked good enough to be in a video of me elegantly stirring it. The day would continue on like this, until my head hit the pillow the very last thing at night. Sound familiar?
Isn’t it sickening how far we are willing to go to live up to the warped expectations that are embedded into our modern society? I was putting so much pressure on myself that it was only ever going to go one way. Failing time and time again to meet such high expectations in all areas makes you hard on yourself, especially when you see others seemingly achieving it easily, without a care in the world.
The same goes for the press. The more photoshopped images we see, the more ‘normal’ the utterly unattainable becomes. The more we share of our lives, the more ‘friends’ are invited to judge and comment on our personal experiences. The more manufactured ‘reality’ TV becomes, the more we compare ourselves to something that isn’t authentic, but rather artificial.
I don’t know about you, but I’m scared for a future that fails to change or at least focus on this issue. There’s an epidemic of beauty sickness, narcissism and anxiety in young people today and we all know the reason, as well as the cause. Question is, what the hell are YOU going to do about it?
Some of you that follow me on some of all of my social media channels will have noticed that I ‘disappear’ sometimes. I’m now nowhere near as active as most bloggers and that’s because I don’t want to be. My wants and my needs come far before the oughts and shoulds in my life and guess what… I’m far healthier for it!
Image credits, interesting resources & further reading: