When we spend hours on social media, looking at the filtered and edited versions of our loved ones, we become prone to compare our worst self to their carefully thought out versions of themselves and consequentially our self-esteem takes a hit. Read to find out how to recognise and avoid such behaviour.
Social media is a carefully constructed façade where every aspect of people’s lives is edited, filtered, and tweaked to perfection. We have a tendency to compare our current state- not having showered for the second day in a row, eating potato chips on the bed- to this carefully crafted version of others and consequentially our self-loathing is strengthened. What we do not take into account is that this version of our friends and acquaintances that we see on social media is not their most authentic self; a lot of time, effort, and good photography skills went into its creation. People’s representation of their lives is highly selective: the happy moments and achievements are milked to the fullest, failures and heartbreaks are not even talked about. It becomes easy to then feel inadequate and let our self-esteem take a hit.
With the rise of Instagram, an entire market catering to beauty and aesthetics has been born. The word “instagrammable”, which means something being beautiful enough to go on Instagram, is now used casually in everyday conversations. Everything ranging from cafés and food, to clothing and holiday locations are now clubbed on the basis of how “instagrammable” they are. Our lives are controlled by how it would look on social media. With the advent of stories, and with their exclusivity being lost to Snapchat, the intrusiveness of social media in our everyday lives has increased even more. Social media today is more engaging than it ever was and consequentially the amount of time we dedicate to it has also increased. As we spend more and more time admiring and envying others for how seemingly perfect their lives appear to be, we stray from the reality of our own lives and any sense of pride that we had for it, also slowly dying out. Our worth is not defined by who we are anymore; it is in fact viewed in relative terms now. “How do I stack up against X?” or “Am I having as much fun as Y does?” are seemingly legitimate thoughts that enter our minds. We are slowly choking our individuality and allowing conformity to seep more and more into our lives. We forget that people do not just post on social media to document their lives, they do so to cement a certain image of their in the minds of others. As much as they want to document the beautiful times they had on a trip, they also want to look like they are having fun. The amount of effort that people put into social media needs to be accounted for every time we look down on ourselves for our internal self not matching the perfected the version of someone else. This inadequacy is not limited to appearance anymore. Academic success, the kind of internships secured, choice of college for post-graduation and for adults the success and well-being of their children also give people bragging rights on social media. Envy has always been a part of human interaction and relationships and the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” so to speak is not relatively new. But with the rise of social media, the desire to lead an enviable life has become more prominent than before. Everyone we know and care about (and don’t care about) is connected with us on social media. “Stalking”, or rummaging through someone’s account to look for specific information, is also a relatively common activity amongst millennials now. The pressure to look interesting, good-looking, intelligent, successful, and fun is therefore omnipresent.
While research has linked excessive social media usage to low self-esteem, this research is also relatively new, with its long-term effects not completely known as of yet. But this cultural shift that the past decade has witnessed is going to be significant for mankind. And for all the boons that come with social media, none of them are worth losing our sense of individuality, happiness, and pride over it. Not only should we constantly remember the artificiality of social media, we should also aim to be more authentic and true to ourselves on these platforms. It is easy to pity ourselves after stalking the most interesting and good-looking person we know for half an hour. But our pride and self-esteem are integral and foundational blocks of our idea of self and we must preserve them at all costs. We need to actively seek positivity on social media and never forget to stay true to ourselves; this is the only way to preserve our sanity and happiness amongst the filtered lies we are bombarded with every day.