Today I posted some pictures on social media. I looked good and took some “Instagram-worthy” pictures I thought would make sense to share. I wanted a befitting caption to accompany the photos, but also didn’t want to put something pretentious or some other unrelated inspirational quote. The only thing that came to mind and was quite apt for how I felt at the time were lyrics to the song, Anchor by Bethel Music: Holding onto hope, holding onto grace, fully letting go, I surrender to your will. Though still unrelated to my pictures, I paraphrased and posted.
As I edited my pictures, I got the guilty feeling that I was posting pictures that weren’t necessarily reflective of my mood, upholding the fact that social media promotes a façade and the idea of keeping up appearances. I honestly wasn’t in the brightest of spirits, but still wanted to drop one for the ‘gram. As the likes and comments poured in, it occurred to me that someone out there would see my photos and be led to think that I have it good, with no serious worries. Who knows, someone struggling with a difficult situation may have seen my picture and sniggered, thinking Oh, she’s chilling and living her best life. If only that were true. But this is the reality of social media and, admittedly, I am an enabler.
It’s easy to underestimate the power of social media to negatively influence our thoughts and desires. We scroll and like and scroll and comment and keep scrolling and liking all day, but we leave with our minds loaded with all that we had just seen and read.
Ah this person is getting married too, na wa o.
When did he relocate to Canada? Everybody is leaving Nigeria.
Wow, I remember when this girl started this business and now she has blown. Me I’m still here saying I want to start something.
See how pretty this girl looks and she lost so much weight.
Aww, they look so in love. When will I get my own love like this? *Types comment*: Couple goals <3 <3
This one is always travelling up and down the world, living their best life, she must have plenty of money.
These are some of the many thoughts that flow through my mind when scrolling through my Instagram feed, and I know I am not alone. But what this does is that it feeds our insecurities, creates a feeling of dissatisfaction such that if we’re not strong and self-assured, our insecurities soon come to the fore. It’s a black hole, and if you’re not careful, you’ll fall into the trap of developing feelings of envy, inadequacy, unhealthy comparison, and feeling sorry for yourself based on what you see. These feelings could grow into an ugly monster.
We have made social media into this virtual reality where we view the world through tinted lenses, leading to false aspirations and triggering a fear of missing out, or the feeling that life is passing you by.
This leaves me wondering why we are comfortable keeping up appearances and showing off the good times to convince others that we are indeed living our best lives, but aren’t comfortable showing the other side – the glamorous, dishevelled, anxious, unhappy, dissatisfied sides to us. For those who are brave enough to, they are ridiculed for putting their business out there and for not hiding their dirty laundry. On the flip side, I don’t think the ridicule and shaming, especially from people who barely know you and know only your online persona, is worth it, as it could take its own emotional and mental toll on you.
At a time in my life when I was very unhappy, I took to Twitter to vent about my frustration. My tweets reeked of sadness and a cry for help. Some folks reached out, which I was very grateful for. Others asked me about it months later. In hindsight, I cringe when I think of what it must have been like reading my tweets, as I must have come off as a very sad person, which is not a pretty look, and certainly not one that is reflective of who I am today. When I see similar tweets on my timeline, I wonder if the tweeter is doing well. But if I’m being honest, those are not the kind of tweets I expect to see when I open my Twitter feed, and I don’t think I am completely wrong to say that others feel the same way.
I realise that social media, for a lot of us, is somewhat of an escape from our reality. We don’t just check-in from time to time to see what others are up to, we also check-in for entertainment and to share snippets of our lives. So, my conclusion is that we don’t necessarily want to see the sad parts of others’ lives and know about their struggles, especially if we don’t know them personally. The same way we wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing the not so glamorous parts of our lives online for everyone to see.
That is, we don’t like to put ourselves out there, which is fine. Unless it’s a success story where we share the challenges we have faced after the fact. In that case, maybe we might be more receptive to posts like these. I am all for sharing on social media, after all, it’s a great way to keep up with friends. But where I start to see a problem is where people go out of their way to prove a point and portray an image that isn’t necessarily reflective of their reality. I honestly wish people would not put up pretentious and deliberately misleading posts to garner likes and comments. I believe the extra attention promotes a false sense of importance and an unhealthy reliance on internet strangers for validation. This ignores an underlying internal issue that needs to be addressed. Social media has its good sides, but this is one of its darker sides.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. How do you stunt for the ‘gram but keep things “real”? How do you strike a balance in your social media usage to avoid going over the edge and crossing the thin line between being your authentic selves and altering the appearance of your reality for validation? You are welcome to share your opinions and leave comments.