I have talked before about the fact that I am something of a social media addict. Out of pure habit, I will constantly pick up my phone and scroll through Instagram, or flick between tabs on my laptop to refresh Facebook. I will admit to taking longer than is acceptable to select the perfect selfie to ensure the maximum number of likes, or carefully crafting a status update to fit with an expected outcome.
So what’s wrong with that?
First of all, let me say that social media has a hell of a lot of benefits. While studying at various Universities, I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people from all over the world, who had just so happened to pick the same course as me, and allow us to be in the same place at the same time. Serendipity is great sometimes. Come graduation, all of these people packed up their lives and dispersed across the globe, remaining as close as Ireland, to as far away as Australia and America. And funnily enough, I miss these funny, educated, intelligent, caring friends of mine, and want to stay up to date with their lives, as well as sharing mine with them. Facebook in particular is great for that; I can tag my friend from Minnesota in a cat meme, and she can see and respond to it instantly, despite the distance between us. I don’t have to worry about the ridiculous time difference when I want to catch up with a friend in Brisbane: she can pick up the Facebook message at any time. I can stay in touch with friends who are travelling around the world in any spot they can receive WiFi. Similarly, Instagram allows us all to share snapshots of our lives and adventures, and offers a wonderful way to feel close to people so far away. Social media also allows me to pour my mind ramblings into a blog post in an attempt to empty my brain, so theres downsides to everything. Joking aside, there are a lot of positive aspects to this much derived phenomenon, and it is important to remember that Facebook et all are merely tools, we as puppet masters decide how they are used.
HOWEVER (there’s always a however)…
How many times have you been having an amazing Saturday evening, snuggled in the warm under twenty blankets protected from the bitter icy snow of Yorkshire winters (or spring or summer), all cosy and ready to enjoy Strictly. You pick up your phone, happen to end up on Facebook and BAM, there are twelve of your mates at a party, shots in hand and looking like they are having an incredible time. All of a sudden your perfectly acceptable, enjoyable evening in is plagued with self doubt and worry. Why aren’t you at a party? Should you be at a party? It’s a Saturday night and you’re young, you should really be at a party! Paige is wearing a dress just like the one you have, and she looks twice as skinny in it. Why don’t you look that skinny in it? Paige is a bitch who made you feel bad about yourself. And on and on and on until you waste your entire precious evening off from stopping your feet bleeding while you serve increasingly drunk punters sobbing over Facebook and stalking pictures of your ex’s new girlfriend while condemning the world around you. And all that emotional energy you’re investing?
It’s just Not. Worth. It.
Like so much in our lives, most of what you see on social media is a carefully constructed reality. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve never updated my profile picture when I’ve just got out of bed and am wearing my most fetching pyjamas. I’ve never shared a selfie after I’ve been caught in the rain on the way home, hair like rats tails and mascara down my face. I post status updates about the surprise dates, the ‘incredible’ days, the sunsets and rainbows; never about the fights, the bad days, the panic attacks, the stresses. And I’m willing to bet that that is the same for 99% of people on social media. People want to portray themselves in the best possible light, living a charmed life of endless travel, luxury items, and happy families. There is nothing inherently wrong with that – we all want to be our best selves – the issue comes when you perceive that as reality. Take it for what it is; a heavily edited snapshot of the best parts of real life.
The issue comes when you stop living for living, and start living for Likes. Next time you are about to do something awesome, just think about putting the iPhone down, not checking in or tagging yourself, or checking how many Likes or Loves or envious comments there are; just try and see it through the lens of real life.
So just have a think before you click. Why am i posting this? Who is it for? Am I doing it for me? If it’s to prove something, to show how insanely cool your life is, to make a point to someone, then maybe reconsider. On the other hand, if it’s an incredible shot of your hot new outfit, you are having the Best Hair Day Ever and your overall look is 15/10, then go for your life and enjoy those Likes! Like anything else, it’s all about balance. Similarly, it is apparently bad for us to exist purely on cheese and tomato pizza, we have to have green things too.
Breathe, balance, broccoli in moderation.