I’m sure you have read something or another about the dangers of social media on our mental health. About how we only show our best selves. Everyone’s life on Facebook is one big party. The average person looks like a rock star in their profile picture. Everyone’s relationship on Instagram is fairytale-perfect. And all this leads everyone who is not feeling so great about their life to feel, well, even worse.
I need to write this post because I want you all to not underestimate the power of honesty. I am not saying we have all become liars, but we leave out the inconvenient truth of many of life’s realest moments.
Last year, I knew a girl who was going through a personal crisis. She started chain smoking, even taking harder drugs, gained weight steadily and drank herself into stupors regularly. Yet according to social media, she was the happiest, jolliest, most unselfish, life-loving person ever.
This contrast was so painfully construed that I don’t think I can ever forget it. It also showed me that our generation has been given the tool of image-creation like no other, and that we may even be focusing more of our time on fixing our image than working on our true selves. Because the first step to healing yourself is acknowledging your problems – but if you can construct an alter-ego showing the world you have no problems, how are you going to admit them to yourself… let alone work on them?
Social media gives us the tool to not just deceive other people, but ourselves, about the realities of our lives and emotions. Even without intentionally wanting to do so.
For example, this year has been profoundly difficult for me. However, according to my Facebook page, I went on a couple of cool trips, and nothing else. People write to me saying, “what’s up, looks like you are LIVING THE LIFE!”
Then they almost can’t believe me when I tell them about some of the challenges of this year. But of course, how would they know? Social media is also not a platform for whining, or at least, it ideally shouldn’t be that, either.
But I feel like we have stopped living to live, and focus on living to show. When was the last time you took a trip just to live it, without inviting everyone and their dog into your most intimate moments just seconds after?
Have you, in the last year, sent a picture to your loved ones directly with a sweet message instead of posting it to the world?
When was the last time you posted an unedited, unfiltered photo?
Tweeted something melancholic and sentimental that shows you, too, feel hurt or alone at times?
Resisted the “check in” because really, no one needs to know you’re lucky enough to eat at this cool restaurant or travel to that awesome city?
So I give you a challenge:
On your next trip, at your next fun event, (or the next time you look extra fly), don’t post it. Let the moment pass knowing it was special to you, cherish it inside you, or with anyone directly with you. Take a photo for your own memory if you must, but don’t share it. Don’t publish an image of the thoughtful gift your significant other gave you, the present was meant just for you. Can you do it?
Can you live without showing, even just once in a while?
I’m not saying we should stop sharing life’s best moments, not at all. Joy is to be shared. But perhaps we should be more real – when the waves are rough, it’s okay to acknowledge that. And not *every* good moment has to be glamorized and publicized.
Trust me, just because 500 extra people don’t know something happened doesn’t mean it wasn’t real. If anything, it was more real because you didn’t measure the moment’s value in the ominous currency known as “number of likes”.
I know it is anxiety-inducing. Why would I go to New York/Paris/the beach/the club in my sexy outfit/my bed when I look extra sultry-sleepy without taking a super cute amazing picture to show everyone how good life is?
Show people how good life is. But afterwards. And choose the moments. While you’re there, live it. You don’t need other people’s input. You are beautiful even without the adoring comments. (Or, in my case right now, totally unglamorous wearing sports clothes (to clean the house top to bottom, not to actually do sports), with an overly-full stomach from stress-eating and really dry skin that has started to peel on my arms (sexy) because this weather is freakishly undecided.)
Social media has given all of us a public voice we, in other times, would not have had. Let’s use it wisely, constructively, tenderly.
Precisely because I am afraid we are losing the art of doing something for the sake of just doing it, I urge you to try being a little realer even when it is so easy to be on the life-high gallery aka media sharing. Perhaps, you can even share a more melancholic moment once in a while? You don’t know how many fellow humans will feel you for being real, and you might even make them feel less alone knowing you’re right in that very real boat of life with them, all the storms and sunshine included.
Namaste and good vibes always,