So you’re sitting in your bed late at night, scrolling through your feed to see what cool events your friends have been to today. What your favorite bloggers are experiencing with their beautifully filtered husbands or children. Processing how lame you might be because you did not snap that perfect photo of your avocado toast. Sound familiar?
In today’s social media world, people are willing to do pretty much anything “for the gram”. Oprah has what she calls, “Tweetable Moments” in her podcasts. If your dog doesn’t have an instagram… are you even living in this century? If this sounds familiar, you might be wondering how you can create a more “aesthetic” lifestyle that engages others. Because that’s what it comes down to for most of us: a need to connect. A need to be liked. Here’s the thing that every social media influencer is well aware of, regardless of whether or not we are as we continue scrolling and liking: these are the highlight reels.
I was listening to Taylor Nolan’s “Let’s Talk About It” podcast (check it out here) and she discusses the concept of “highlight reels and behind the scenes” moments that we see each day. The podcast stuck with me for days as I processed how I tend to feel like I’m not doing enough, meeting enough people, going to cool enough places regardless of the fact that I’m living a really beautiful life. I have a full-time job, I am surrounded by amazing people, I have a roof over my head that I love, and I’m healthy.
So why do I see someone else posting about a trendy location and think to myself, “Why am I not doing that?” I think it comes down to this perceived idea of reality versus expectation. I’m friends with many people that have beautiful instagram pages filled with perfectly timed twirls, wine-filled glasses alongside a stunning background, etc. I also know the hilarious struggle it took to get that picture while their skirts had a malfunction, their wine glass had a smudge, or the timer didn’t go off when they snapped the picture. I know that they also go home and worry about what people think about them, what they’re going to wear the next day, or how they’re doing in regards to a “successful life”.
The point is that we can scroll through a page and think about all of the reasons someone is living a seemingly perfect life, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are struggling just as much with their own self-worth. In fact, I would argue that influencers probably face more anxiety as they scroll through instagram on a daily basis because they KNOW what a like can do. They know that even if a moment was beautifully captured with their family, if it doesn’t fit the overall aesthetic of their feed, they have to wait a few weeks before they can post it without throwing off the color balance of the overall look. It’s the same reason behind why we tend to hide our mistakes even more the better we get at something: we don’t want our path to success to look tainted because we weren’t our “best” that day.
So why am I rambling on about all of this? I think that social media has the power to do as much good as it does bad. I think that my students face more online bullying than anyone in my generation of kids did because we didn’t have the ability to post our thoughts for anyone on the internet to see, much less use against as at the rate that we do now. I think that social media also sends us into a mode of low self-worth and hours of shame for not being something we’re not.
It’s easy to see what someone posts on their social media and assume that’s their life. And yes, those are snapshots from their lives–but it’s not their entire life. We get to see a beautiful presentation of a moment in time, but we don’t see what’s behind the scenes. We don’t see that they spend hours in the same traffic of day to day life that we do. Just because someone posts an engagement picture with perfectly manicured nails does not mean that their path to love was easy. For lots of people, their social media has become a business. And if not a business, it’s become their biggest marketing tool. That is a great asset for someone looking to brand themselves and reach larger audiences. But don’t forget that that’s exactly what it is for them: a marketing tool. If someone uses instagram to pay their bills or uses it to get the most votes in class election, let them! Let them worry about how much time and effort they have to put into those pictures. But don’t let it bring you down because your life doesn’t look that way 24/7.
The biggest takeaway that I have for you is that your life doesn’t depend on likes or other people’s evaluation of you. So you don’t like to go out every Saturday night…neither does a vast majority of people you are surrounded by each day. You don’t see them because they aren’t posting about going out! So you’re not dating someone and you feel like all of your friends are getting engaged? I can guarantee you that you’re one of many single people that is focusing on something else besides love at this point in your life… that’s awesome. Do you know how many late 20-somethings/early 30-something women I follow on social media simply because of their incredible endeavors that they happened to have done single and without a significant other?
I am elated every time one of my friends gets engaged or another friend gets an amazing opportunity to move up in their workplace. Sure, it makes me wonder when I’ll settle into a new phase of life that involves certain things, but I’m kind of over people asking me who I’m dating. I have never been so incredibly aware of what I do or don’t want and I’ve also never dedicated so much time to being alone and focusing on my own self-development.
I am the first person to giggle at myself when I want to nail a cool boomerang or get the best “carefree” picture I can. I’m also the first person to criticize my own choices or lack their of. But I know that I’m not alone in that regard. I was reminded of this when I went home for the break and people kept starting conversations with me about how happy I look and how great my job must be based on what they see on social media. Maybe it was a surprise to them that I was shocked to hear that, but I was more surprised because I didn’t know that my life looked a certain way from the outside. Perhaps to me, I’m living a very normal life that isn’t anywhere near perfect or ideal in the eyes of others. But at the end of the day, our opinions of ourselves are often very different than those of other people that admire us and adore us.
[Disclaimer: This blog post was brought you by a very distracted Hope that was watching Netflix]