Disclaimer: The following is based on my opinion only. I’m not an expert on the matter nor am I claiming to be. Please don’t be offended by anything I’ve said or stated. You’re welcome to agree/disagree with me, but this is just what I personally think.
How many times have you gone on social media and compared yourself to that influencer (one of the many, I should say), with the perfect body and and an even more perfect life? How many times have you felt that instant pang of jealousy scrolling through her feed, trying to find flaws in her ‘life’, before realising that there aren’t any? How many times have you looked at the number of followers she has and compared it to your own? These are all things that so many of us do, almost instinctively, just from one glance at Instagram.
One thing I can’t stand about Instagram is the seemingly perfect lives that everyone seems to lead. Why do I think this? Because this is all I see – all I’m shown – and I bet it’s the same for you as well. When I go on Instagram, I’m not being shown authenticity. I’m not being shown an accurate depiction of someone’s life. I’m being shown the highlights, the positive, the ‘good vibes only’. It’s all well and good to solely create a feed based on the positive moments in your life – those you wish to remember – but that does not make it authentic or real. In my opinion, it will only ever be this if we start being shown both sides: the good and the bad.
Social media does well in the way that it lets us be so selective. So selective, in fact, that it has turned deceptive. We show people what we want them to see and leave out the rest. We mislead those who follow us into believing that we are, in fact, perfect all the time. That we have perfect lives. That our hair, makeup and body is always on point and flawless. That we just ‘woke up like this’, that everything we post is utterly effortless. To me it feels like every time I go on Instagram I’m entering an alternate reality. One that is based solely on perfect lives and perfect elements that don’t actually exist. Instagram creates a warped perception of reality, and ourselves if we let it. It’s an illusion that many of us mistake for real life, even if on a subconscious level.
We have the ability to create our own image, regardless of how similar or different it is from reality, in order to give our followers, as well as anyone else, a particular impression of us. We choose how we want them to perceive us. It’s never been easier to re-create ourselves in a way that shows us as we wish we were, and encourage others to buy into it because it’s all we decide to share with them (so therefore, it must be real).
With it being easier than ever to earn a decent income through social media via sponsorships and brand deals, how do we really know we can trust influencers to tell us the truth? If we don’t have the opportunity to get to know these people as they really are via their feed (not just the surface level things or what they want us to believe), then how can we so willingly take their word for it and buy that product that they’re promoting? After all, we don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes. We don’t know how much money they’re being offered or how much incentive they were given prior to this. All we see is the finished product when it’s a done deal. On top of that, we don’t even know if the person themselves is trustworthy, since we can’t entirely trust them to accurately portray themselves or their life. In short, we may feel like we know them on a personal level but that doesn’t mean you actually know anything about them – the real them.
Instagram, in my opinion, is also responsible for encouraging us to believe ‘quantity over quality’. It’s responsible for encouraging us to buy followers in bulk, even if these are only bot accounts, in order to boost our followers and ultimately increase the total number. Why do we do this? Because it looks good. It makes us look better, or at least like a more desirable candidate to follow for newcomers. It encourages others to have the belief that we are worth following. My question is, why do we believe we need to prove our worth in such a way? Why is it so important to us to have the numbers, whether that’s through genuine means or a simple purchase? How come when we first click on someone’s profile one of the first things we look at is how many followers they have, before comparing it to our own? I doubt any of us really think about it anymore, we just do, out of habit.
It amazes me how many of us buy into this fake world that Instagram portrays, seriously comparing ourselves to another’s totally self-selective feed. It amazes me how many of us then begin to think negatively about our own lives or looks in comparison to those they’ve seen. I realise that we don’t do this on purpose, as I believe that on some level humans are basically wired or programmed to compare ourselves to others, especially those of the same sex. However even so, social media encourages us to do this more and more than we might otherwise. It’s practically made it a part of our daily life, since many of us cannot resist going on Instagram at least once a day. Many of us have developed an addiction to social media over time, meaning that we check it absent-mindedly and in excessive amounts. It’s scary, really.
I believe that you can reduce your chance of developing this addiction as well as negative way of thinking towards yourself (which can easily turn self-destructive), but limiting your social media use. Become aware of how much you actually do use any form of social media per day, particularly Instagram, and take the initiative to cut back if necessary in order to maintain a positive and healthy mindset. When it comes to social media, we need to look after ourselves just as we would in any other way. They may look like harmless apps on our phones, but that does not mean that they are risk-free or cannot be detrimental to our mental health, confidence, sense of self and well-being.
Lucy Rebecca x