Okay…let’s talk about social media.
Looking back at my teenage years, I was almost always online during my free time, either watching Youtube, instant messaging, or looking at my friends’ updates online. I won’t even get into the amount of online stalking me and my friends did. I can trace my relationship with social media back to Myspace, Nexopia, and MSN. But I won’t talk about that since it’s outdated by now. 🙂
I used to manage my Facebook photo albums like they were my portfolio. I checked my notifications to see the number of likes I’d get for each new profile photo and felt a sense of satisfaction after seeing each like. Then, when Instagram and Snapchat became popular, I switched gears and instantly learned new social media jargon and etiquette.
I still remember the feeling. Restaurants had to be insta-worthy, photos had to be taken with the best camera and lighting, and captions had to be witty.
Luckily, my obsession with social media didn’t last too long.
After graduating from University, my first job was to help manage the social media accounts for a local fashion week (being a social media savvy millennial, fresh out of University with no work experience, it was quite an easy transition). That was June 2013. From my job, I saw how social media had become a platform for social selling and it just slowly lost its sparkle. It wasn’t as prevalent back then, but now you will find sponsored content everywhere – even in the posts of your favourite social media figures.
I saw people posting content only to please followers, even if they weren’t authentic. I learned that anyone can ‘buy followers’ just to appear popular (this is crazy to me). Having a certain number of followers meant you could get sponsored. The comments that were on popular photos seemed generic and simply robotic. Instead of humans interacting with one another, it seemed like robots were. To top it all off, I even heard of food bloggers buying food just for the photo and then throwing the food away!
Is the world of social media just a web of narcissistic lies?
Okay, that might be going too far. Of course there are some positive uses for social media – to connect people with similar interests to one another, to raise awareness for situations, phenomenons, or events around the world, or to spread positive self-image, peace and love. There are many accounts that serve those purposes as well.
Losing interest in social media and maintaining a public profile allowed me to focus my attention on the beautiful moments offline. I became more present in my interactions with friends, no longer taking photos of every moment and meal and diving straight into the conversations. Thankfully, my best friends and boyfriend are not interested in social media either, so that helps a lot. We really are the average of the 5 people we spend most time with.
“Comparison is the thief of joy “- Theodore Roosevelt
Social media is set up so that its users cannot help but compare themselves with what they see online. And when we compare ourselves, we often feel unhappy about our own reality. Now that I am very conscious of its harms, I would stop myself and pause whenever I notice that I am comparing my life to others’ online.
I’d say that awareness is everything. Learning to be more self aware is the beginning of a wonderful journey :).
I also decided to change the type of accounts that I follow online. For example, I used to follow models, celebrities, fashion bloggers, makeup gurus, and overall good-looking & fit people. Now, I have removed almost all of them from my feed and only follow those who I believe are good influences or those who share things that I want to care more about. I’ve even been finding myself quite intrigued by the 2017 Miley Cyrus. If you look closely at her character, you’ll see that she has quite a big heart for others.
But most importantly, before going online, we need to know that our lives are bigger than who we appear to be on social media. The number of likes/followers does not matter and it does not define us. But sometimes after spending just 10 minutes scrolling through Instagram, we can forget that. Being self-aware will help you catch yourself before you start panicking about how to improve your life and going down that spiral again.
(P.S. Check out the “Nosedive” episode in Black Mirror if you haven’t yet.)
After it’s all said and done, I have one conclusion to make from all this. Since social media exists, and will continue to for the foreseeable future, we should try to make the best use we can out of it. I see it as a great tool for directing people’s attention onto something they may otherwise not know about. So let’s direct the attention of young minds onto the important things that matter.