There has been plenty written about the perils of social media recently, the scandal of celebs using their platform to advertise goods to their loyal fan bases, the horrific vitriolic comments targeting people’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. What doesn’t seem to be getting much coverage is the post of your Average Joe / Jolene.
It’s easy to feel envious when flicking through Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Instagram feed seeing his big cars and private jets, or Floyd “Money” Mayweather counting his never ending supply of 100 dollar bills. It’s easy to be sucked in to Kanye tweeting about, well, Kanye, or Kim telling everyone how much money they have or what exciting venture is coming next. But what about your friends? What impact are they having on you? And more importantly, what impact are you having on yourself!
I have seen this as a bit of an issue for a few years now – I have never been one to share too much on social media myself, but my friends and my fiancée certainly enjoy posting with a thousand and one hashtags. At first my concern was selfish, “I don’t want my private life plastered on social media for others to see… its private… and it’s mine”. I have often been told I’m being boring, and need to get over it – a few of you are probably thinking the same right now! My concerns have however grown since then, and this is largely based on my own real life interactions with friends.
Say you haven’t seen someone for a while, and you go for a beer or a social gathering and start having a conversation. Normally you would catch up, ask how things are going? What they have been up to? How are their better halves, pets etc? Nowadays it seems to be standard custom for your friend to start with, “oh I saw you have done X, Y and Z”. Instantly half of your conversation is dead. They’ve seen it all on Insta, there’s no point telling them about it again, is there!
But they haven’t seen it, have they. All they have seen is a select few, normally heavily edited and filtered, snaps that would appear to suggest you’ve had an amazing time at the most beautiful location. Nothing went wrong, it was all perfect, the food the expensive wine, the company and the clothes. Everything was perfect. Only it very rarely was perfect. I am not suggesting that people will ever necessarily change and start putting shitty photos of a crap hotel room showing an argument between everyone present – but some balance would be good.
I have experienced this problem first hand recently, a lot. My fiancée LOVES Instagram posts, shared to Facebook with accompanying Facebook location tag. Everywhere we go, it’s shared. If it’s too many days in a row, she will hold on to the photos and post 3 days later. So on a Wednesday night it may appear we are out having a meal and drinking cocktails, when actually we are sat in our PJ’s at 8pm waiting for an acceptable time to get in to bed. As explained above, this frustrates me from a privacy perspective, but more recently it has caused issues in that other people think I’m absolutely fine, my back must be ok, I must be feeling good, because according to my social media, or rather my tagged posts and photos, I am living my best life.
I am not living my best life. I am not feeling good, and my back and resulting sciatica is fucking agony. I live with chronic pain 24/7 at the present time. But you can’t just say that, all you get in response is a blank look, or worse; you suspect they are thinking you’re lying. All because they can’t compute the 2 conflicting views. “You must be doing well, Insta showed me as much”.
This issue ends up coming full circle. Why do people post so much, about where they are, what they’re eating / wearing / drinking / watching? Because celebrity culture (and their social media persona’s) has made us all buy in to the capitalist way of thinking;
Success = Happiness, whilst Money = Success
If you were to stop people individually and ask them if they agree with the above formulae the majority would say no, I’m sure. That same majority will then proceed to want what someone else has, want more money, more holidays, designer clothes and then post about how amazing their life is to show other people that they are successful too. We live in a society where people post about how well they are doing to massage their own ego and to flaunt what they have at the expense of their own friends and family who have less than them. The biggest indictment of our collective generations, from 16 through to 40 and beyond, is that some people don’t stop to consider the impact their post has on others whilst some people knowingly post it regardless, no matter if it is true or not.
Social media has evolved to a point where a lot of people can’t live without it. The developers of the social media apps have lost control, and there appears to be no solution (or no solution they are prepared to implement, at least). The impact of this is being seen time and time again, young people’s mental health is an international pandemic. We need to wake up and smell the coffee. The biggest killer of men under 45 in the United Kingdom is suicide. Not gang violence, not being stabbed, not even road accidents. Social media tells us what we all should be, it tells us how much better others are doing compared to ourselves. It tells us we aren’t successful, because we don’t have what someone else has.
If someone were to look at my social media profiles, I may appear to be a man that has it all going for me. Great job, earning a good wage, nice car and a beautiful fiancée, and we’re moving to an exclusive part of town. I wouldn’t blame someone for questioning what possible reason I have to be depressed. No one can see my pain, no one sees me struggling to get through each day.
We need to take social media for what it really is; it’s a best hits album reminding everyone of your best tracks, whilst glossing over all the shit that comes in between.
Please, think before you post. Your life isn’t a business venture, you don’t need to sell your success to others or build your profile. Enjoy your successes, celebrate them, you deserve it, but stay humble. You don’t need a thumbs up from someone you once met in a bar 10 years ago to validate your lifestyle. In a world of increasing pressure on both young men and women to look and act a certain way, your posts could be causing more damage than you realise.