“Stomach sucked in, strategic post, pushed up boobs, I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention.”- Essena O’Neill.
Several months ago, the 19-year old Australian, Instagram star had quit social media, changed her account to say “social media is not real life” and changed all of her photo captions to show young girls what was actually going on behind the scenes of the picture. While many felt this was just another stunt of publicity for her, her edited captions that revealed the truth were rather eye-opening.
Life is made of ups and downs, good times and bad, but naturally, we only highlight the good on social media. While scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, we will never see a picture of someone crying in the bathroom at work, the quiet nights in, the messy kitchen of the rented apartment, or their empty bank balance. We see the holidays, weddings, the wild parties, and an impossibly large friends group.
We may not realize it, but all of us who are active on social media are recreating a perfect version of our actual lives for the world to see. The hour long photo session we have when we are out anywhere nice confirms this. You can argue that you’re clicking pictures to remember the memories, but if that were the case, you wouldn’t need your skinniest shot for that. The ‘like’ and ‘favourite’ buttons under our pictures may be great boosters for our self-esteem, but they are also subconsciously training our minds to seek validation from others.
From time to time we’ll share something about a social cause on our timeline, or actually message an old friend, but more often than not, we spend hours fixating. Fixating on other’s lives, their picture perfect vacations, their thin waists, large social circles, and flawless selfies. Moreover, we are fixated on creating a picture perfect version of our own life, which is far from real.
This is in no way a healthy lifestyle to have; especially for youngsters (teenagers), as it creates a great amount of social pressure. Being a teenager is already difficult as it is, fitting into school and everything, and social media validation just adds to it further. It pressurizes them to seek that enviable ‘dream life’ and constantly check their phone for likes. It pressurizes them into living a lifestyle that looks ‘cool’ even if it makes them uncomfortable. Teens are so emotionally invested in their social profiles, that their feed does not meet the ridiculously high standards, the self-loathing begins.
Not saying that social media is the root of all evil, but it has definitely morphed with unrealistic beauty and lifestyle standards to some extent and a social media obsession can be a dangerous thing. Society first defined beauty standards through magazines, print ads and billboards. Through the models and perfectly fit actors. Now the exact same thing is happening on social media. The dangerous part is that teenagers actually believe that these accounts show the truth.
In fact, Social Media can be used in many positive ways instead. Connect with friends, and make sure you never again miss any of their big days. Find like-minded people, connect with new people all over the globe easily, and learn about new cultures and lifestyles. Social Media Marketing has also been a boon to businesses. It has quickly become a recognized platform for the youth to voice their opinions. Use it to express yourself, whether you want to talk about your art or passion, or a social cause. Just don’t get sucked in by its ugly side.