On a whim, a friend and I decided that in some point in the near future we would take a week long break from all social medias. We came to this conclusion after a long talk about how our various social medias were affecting our lives and we discovered that the negatives far outweighed the positives. In total, apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook were doing more harm than good in our day-to-day lives. It was difficult seeing old friends partying, socializing, and trying new things on what seemed like a daily basis. It made me frustrated that I, too, wasn’t up to a new adventure every night. It made me feel ashamed of myself for not living my life the way I thought I should be.
What I wasn’t fully aware of, however, was the fact that people’s postings about their lives were really only tiny glimpses into their lives and these tiny glimpses often formed a greater impression than they should have. Sure, I knew the two minute highlight real of their day but what I didn’t know were the upsetting moments, the moments that no one wants to reveal to the world because they don’t want to crack the perfect reflection they’ve created on social media. Once I really became fully aware of this disturbing and distorting phenomenon, social media made me sick. All I saw were people flaunting for the camera, desperately trying to prove something they shouldn’t have to prove in the first place.
So I deleted all the social media apps on my iPhone. With a few clicks, I already felt an invisible weight lift off my shoulders. I realized that not only was I free from constantly knowing what others were up to but I was also released from the social burden of feeling like I had to constantly update my followers on what I was doing. I no longer had to make sure my pictures were perfectly tailored to fit what was expected of me on all my social platforms. I didn’t have to worry about getting that perfect shot or making sure I looked stunning in every photo I took of myself. No longer did I have to interrupt a lively conversation between friends only to say “Could everyone raise their glasses up? I wanna get a perfect ‘cheers’ photo, ya know?” This awkward exchange in order to get a staged photo that you think looks completely candid is one I am sure most social media users have experienced. It is also one that I abhor yet would still partake in because I, too, wanted my photos to look like everyone else’s photos. Instead of taking precious time to capture a perfect photo, I simply took photos for fun and snapped shots I thought were intriguing. Instead of stopping a conversation mid sentence to stage a photo, I engaged in conversation and took photos when it didn’t inconvenience anyone. I no longer felt like a burden to others and I no longer felt the pressure to be perfect.
I truly believe that social media was created with good intent. Underneath all the hidden meanings, theme-obsessions, follower tracking apps, etc., Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook are all great ways to stay connected with friends from out-of-state and family members you don’t see often. And in the midst of this technology boom, social media is becoming an increasingly prevalent domain to network and meet people in your field of study or work. That being said, the pressure to be perfect is not one that started as a result of social media. The pressure to be perfect is one that has plagued humanity for an unnecessary amount of time but it is not one that we can’t overcome. An important lesson I learned from my short cleanse was that the sooner you start interacting honestly and candidly with your followers, the sooner the message will start to catch on. While we may not like to think it, no one is perfect and no one will ever be perfect. The internet would be such a happier and more fulfilling place if people interacted honestly instead of hiding behind a facade of filters. Of course, the ways in which you choose to present yourself on social media is completely up to you and if you want to have an artsy Instagram, by all means go right ahead. But the next time you scroll through your feed wondering why your life just doesn’t match up with all the photos you’re seeing, take a step back and realize that a photo is just a photo. Life is so much more complex than a picture could ever attempt to define.