Social media allows us to share snapshots of our life with others, which can be great! Family and friends who do not live close by can keep up-to-date with what we are doing. Social media also gives us the chance to brand, edit and cut our everyday lives and present it to the world on our profile or news feed. That’s cool too, it's fun! But it also means that what we see online isn't the whole picture. Photos and posts can exaggerate real life. We usually select the happiest, prettiest pictures while images of other people's (carefully chosen) perfect lives can leave you feeling low. They're not the whole picture and they don't tell the whole story. So try not to compare yourself. Put the shoe on the other foot and imagine someone else looking at your photos- they will probably feel the same.
74% of girls agree that “most girls my age use social networking sites to make them look cooler than they really are” and 41% admitted this describes them.
(girlscouts.org, 2010 survey).
Essena O’Neill, an Australian teenager with 600,000 Instagram followers, dubbed social media as “contrived perfection made to get attention”. Essena posted pictures of an ultra-glamorous lifestyle. She admitted spending hours posing for the perfect shot, which “served no real purpose other than self-promotion”, she confessed it left her feeling “empty” and “addicted to social media”.
She is not alone in feeling like this. Kate Winslet also spoke out about the negative impact of social media on self-esteem, banning her own children from using it and appealing to young people to keep a balance in their usage. Winslet and others suggest that the pressure surrounding sharing photos on social media platforms impact on self esteem (how we feel about ourselves), can leave us feeling depressed and not good enough. (Of course this isn't necessary for everybody and social media also helps us make friends, relax, find information and have fun!) But we have to make choices to keep it working for us - not against us.
It can be empowering to shape and control your identity it's important to remember that #nofilters, the good the bad and the ugly is what life is. There will be happy times, there will be sad times. Some of it will feel really messy and some of it will feel like a dream. So the next time you think that someone has a better life than you, has more friends, is more interesting, has better hair, skin etc etc etc because of the photos and things you have seen online remember: there is so much more to us than what we chose to share online.
What matters is that you keep a healthy balance of online and offline- so if you find yourself spending a long time online instead of spending time with friends and family- maybe it's time to back off a bit and put your energy into doing something that makes you happy.