Social media is undoubtedly one of the most powerful advancements of our generation. From Myspace to Facebook, Instagram and countless more, social media has grown from a casual pastime to a prominent aspect of the modern lifestyle. But for all the benefits and possibilities these platforms offer, many people have a very narrow perspective on how they can utilize them to the best of its ability.
At first glance, it seems as though there are plenty of upsides to using social media. Those intent on making a difference have been more successful in spreading their message and discussing major issues with a wider audience, all while using social media as a platform for discourse. Friends and families can be more connected than ever before, and there are more opportunities to meet new people and share our experiences with them. People hoping to see the world can explore different cultures through the perspective of someone who lives a whole continent away. From the smallest town to the largest city, new discoveries are an everyday possibility for anyone with an internet connection. However, these aren’t the reasons why we’ve become so attached to social media.
In many cases, our relationship with social media has been hinged on the art of deception. Most of the photos we see online are chosen intentionally to create this specific, and often false, perception of someone’s life. When celebrities or well known figures in society share their accomplishments, many of their followers end up comparing their lives with those of their idols. Others are left feeling disappointed in themselves because their peers seem happier or more successful than they are. That sense of inferiority pushes us to act differently online, in hopes of “fitting in” and making ourselves seem more interesting to other people. In reality, we could be the exact opposite of our online personalities, yet the desperation of remaining relevant or socially accepted prevents us from being ourselves.
We only post what we want the world to see of our lives, and refuse to share the parts that are less than perfect or too vulnerable of being judged by everyone who won’t seem to understand. We allow ourselves to see the surface level of someone’s personality through their timeline, but we forget that there’s always more to the story beyond an edited photo or a funny caption. In this sense, the illusion is a two way street; we stress the importance of perfecting ourselves in the eyes of our audience, and we accept that same “perfected” version of the rest of the world through our screens. This constant cycle is becoming a serious problem for all social media users, but few of them are willing to admit how drastically the issue has grown in recent years.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the highlight reels of social media, but there’s more to life than the moments of glory. People are going to remember you for your personality, the kind of decisions you make, and your impact on the world and those around you. The number of likes you get on a picture could never compare to that. Someone else’s approval can’t replace self acceptance. We need to remind ourselves that there’s more we can achieve with this technology besides maintaining a presence online. It’s whether we use that presence to try making a difference, or stand by and watch others do so, that truly matters in the long run.