Social Media ≠ Real Life

Maya C. '21

It’s become a daily routine. Wake up, scroll through Instagram like it’s the morning paper, catch up on everything you missed. You scroll through birthday posts, memes, Buzzfeed news updates… and you suddenly stop as you come across a photo of a model, a person without any physical flaws, staring back at you through the screen. You feel your head hurt and your heart drop as your thin wall of confidence is shattered yet again, letting the insecurities flood out as you compare your ordinary self to this ethereal being, the epitome of beauty. You close Instagram and move on to Snapchat, going through story after story of people at a concert, at a party, with their friends. And what did you do last night? you think to yourself. You stayed home. You watched a movie. You recovered from the emotionally draining week. That’s it. No crazy parties every single weekend, no staying up until 5 am living your life “to the fullest” like everyone else presented on your screen… your insecurities quickly multiply. Suddenly it seems as if your everyday decisions aren’t good enough, aren’t on par with the glowing lives you see every time you pick up your phone, and no matter what you do, you will never seem to measure up to the seemingly perfect illusions that are carefully curated and shoved in your face, all collectively screaming “I’m better than you.” 

What we fail to realize is that these perfect lives, these flawless people, everything online that we constantly compare ourselves to — it’s all a highlight reel. What people present online is not, in fact, the reality of their lives, and does not often depict the whole picture. We present the best, most enviable aspects of our lives to the world; we photoshop our bodies, we take extravagant pictures of food, we flaunt our lavish vacations and ideal lifestyles. Contrary to the immaculate ways we present ourselves on social media, we hide the realities of what actually goes on in our heads, at home, at school… the list goes on. 

These lies make us as individuals burrow further and further down into our own holes of insecurity, and crave the validation of likes, comments, compliments on how “perfect” our lives are. The short-term validation we gain from these superficial measurements are how we choose to determine our happiness, and once we get this coveted affirmation, the seal of approval from our peers, we finally feel a sense of worthiness. Finally, others can also see your significance, your worth in the world, and your confidence soars. This sense of validation that we crave is put on steroids the second we hit “post,” but once our golden moment on the algorithm is over, we fall from our split-second high, our sense of assurance and confidence dropping yet again, sending us back to our insecure reality. 

And the cycle of negativity will continue. Compare ourselves to perfect people online, feel inadequate and unsatisfied, resort to posting yet again in a desperate attempt to chase the high of security and confidence in ourselves. Why must we focus so much on the approval of others and continue to perpetuate this cycle? Is this phenomenon something we will eventually outgrow, or are we doomed to remain under the tyrannical rule of social media for the rest of our lives? It is absolutely unrealistic to say “just stop going on your phone. Stop doing it to yourself.” Social media has become a part of our culture. It has been fully embedded in our everyday lives and has taken over our thoughts, brilliantly woven into the corners of our brain to get us hooked. We can’t help but compare ourselves. It’s almost as if these seemingly “harmless” apps on our phones are deliberately designed to force our insecurities into overdrive, sending us in a desperate search for the sense of validation and assurance we crave. So where do we go from here?

Instead of canceling social media as a whole, maybe it’s time to take a step back and examine what’s really going on. Get to the root of your insecurities and find ways to heal. Unfollow people who make you feel constantly inadequate. Instead of spending your whole vacation trying to find a place to take the perfect picture, live in the moment instead and treasure the memories you’re making. We shouldn’t be spending our entire lives and all our energy focused on beating ourselves up for who we are. We shouldn’t be picking every aspect of ourselves apart, asking what needs improvement in order to reach perfection. Because as cheesy as it sounds, perfection does not exist. And the sad thing is that most of us fail to realize this, and as a result spend our days stuck in a cycle of negativity and self comparison. So the next time you start to feel insecure and compare yourself with those you see online, remember that you are enough. Focus your energy on what you do have instead of what you don’t, and harness your feelings of negativity to a place of appreciation and positivity. Because if we fail to do this and cannot help ourselves, then how much of our lives are we really living?