Welcome to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. Where the posts are petty, the candid photos are posed, and the followers are itching for your life’s entertainment. Social media directs awareness to great causes, aids in keeping us in the loop with family and friends, and brings the most unlikely of people together. It gives us access to news, markets, and the latest trends, but the problem comes when it also gives everyone open access to us. It seems as though these free platforms stand to incur some serious costs.
Our means of connecting with the world simultaneously distances us from the people that mean the most to us and our actual selves. We spend so much time and energy trying to convince others that we are complete, our relationships are #goals, and our success is abundant that we inevitably suffer for it in the long run. We suffer because the effort we gave to our audience should have been given to ourselves and the people that truly deserve it. It's no wonder that a multitude of studies show a correlation between social media usage and negative affects on mental health, relationships, and self-esteem.
The constant exposure alters, desensitizes, and rattles us. Because of peer pressure, constant subconscious competitions, and our own self-esteem issues, we develop these elaborate, unattainable ideas of how our lives should be and look. Because we crave the perfect life and praise, we lose the desire to dig deeper within ourselves and be content with our authenticity. So tell me... we give every aspect of our lives to the world, but what do we gain in return? Our fears of failure and imperfection intensify whenever we realize that our thousands of online "friends" could view us as inferior and we begin to take our online presence more seriously than we should. Many of us judge our beauty and achievements on a scale of likes and comments and thrive on the validation of others. It's not only addictive, but also horrible for our mental and emotional state.
Ever walked into a store and saw a person that you’ve conversed with on social media, yet didn’t feel comfortable enough to start a conversation with them in person? You got a strong urge of speaking coupled with this odd feeling of reluctance. It’s because you don’t actually know the person standing in front of you. You know the appearance but not the person.
We also experience the reverse reactions when around these familiar, yet new faces. Social media will lead us to believe that we know or can trust people because we are “connected” but that’s not really the case. We concoct these miscalculated impressions of others because their overwhelming amount name recognition, photos, and experiences are at our fingertips, but do we really know them...no. Constant exposure doesn't increase credibility but is sure does make for convoluted narratives.
Contrary to what the titles may say, the majority of these friends and followers are not, and will likely never be, our friends at all. As much as you can say you know them by the things they do, say, and post, we only know what they want us to know. They post, promote, and portray the person they want people to see them as. Before passing judgement, realize we are all subconsciously that way and do the same thing. Our social media accounts are simply our egos put on display. These platforms are a mass compilation of ideals accessible on a news feed.
No one is going to present an image that depicts arrogance, evil, or lacking in any sense. Why the heck would anyone do that when videos, photos, and posts could create a better appearance of reality? This is why people go broke everyday trying to look rich for their followers and why online predators are so prevalent. It's a mask and some people are beautiful, intricately wrapped doses of negativity that gain their strength and esteem from an audience. There is always more than meets the eye and we can't truly grasp that by simply sitting scrolling on our phones or staring at a computer screen.
Like many people in my generation, I entered the social media conversation in middle school with Myspace. I grew comfortable with posting and sharing but failed to realize its affects on my growing, changing, and inquisitive mind. Because it was a part of my routine for so long, I failed to realize that I needed to have mental, physical, and emotional boundaries when leaving my life open for examination, judgment, and connections.
I used to post a plethora of things on social media: selfies, experiences, my accomplishments, and times with family and friends. Guess what I didn’t post: my struggles, my failures, or anything remotely negative. This is why I can honestly and humbly state that fact. Looking back, I realize that I commonly overcompensated. I didn’t share or see my unhealthy need for validation because I was too busy letting social media interactions feed it.
Whenever I took many necessary steps back and unplugged from social media, I began to see things, people, and my life for what it really was. Therefore, its role in my life has changed dramatically. I much rather privacy and preservation over likes and public perception. All of the energy I poured into outside approval is now geared toward personal growth and authenticity. I savor moments, keep photos to myself, and enjoy my food, travels, and outings without having the urge to show it with the world. I share less but experience more, and in my eyes, that is a win.