Social Media platforms exist on a tightrope, balancing on the boundary of the condemned and acceptable. We all love to complain about the negative effects such curation has on our lives, and how influencers know nothing of normality, but what if we stop equating glorification with harm?
It is no secret that when we scroll through Instagram what we are witnessing is a highlight reel, and that Snapchat stories are filled primarily with last night’s laughter, and not the drunken tears. So why do platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Facebook get such a bad reputation?
If you had to place the blame somewhere, perhaps you would direct it towards the growing trend of becoming “that” girl. The girl who wakes up at 5am, goes on a 4 mile jog, ends with some yoga, then cooks up a Michelin star breakfast, all before a day full of productivity, with no procrastination or mental breakdowns. That girl. The one we are all jealous of, and deep down, wish we could be. Perhaps, this is who we can condemn for our collectively declining mental health. It is her fault that we lack self-worth in the morning when we look in the mirror. Because “that” girl is so easy to villainize. It takes no effort to claim she is fuelling inferiority complexes, creating unrealistic expectations, and presenting a lifestyle where productivity is linked to self-worth. But what if you tried viewing her as an inspiration instead of a threat?
If your immediate response to seeing a life more put together than your own is to focus on your losses, perhaps it’s time to realise that you are the root of your problems and not the stranger on Instagram. We all love to point the finger and play the blame game when asked why our current routine resembles that of a lazy house cat, rather than the busy beaver, but it is time for us all to be a little more introspective.
Now, I am not naïve enough to suggest that social media does no harm to our mental health, or that influencers are guilt free in projecting glamorised versions of their lives, that not even they themselves could live up to. But what I am suggesting is that we have a choice. There are settings and features that allow you to silence the voices of those who don’t inspire you. You can choose to unfollow accounts that make you feel like a failure, rather than encouraging you to succeed. We have all been warned excessively that we are the product in this media exchange and that we cannot win in the power struggle against the force of social media, but this is just untrue. We have all become so comfortable playing the role of victim that we have readily handed over our agency. It’s time to take it back.
Social Media is not that bad. In fact, with a slight attitude shift, it can be great. It is an easy, accessible and entertaining way to keep in contact with friends and family. It can be a space for creativity and innovation, all whilst enabling you to project the best version of yourself, as well as celebrating the best versions of others. Whilst this may result in feeds filled with smiling graduation pictures and Saturday nights’ toothy grins, replacing the reality of tears, a lack of motivation and the fight you had with Bethany that night, surely this cannot be condemned as a perversion of reality detrimental to our well-being. If you approach social media platforms with just an ounce of self-awareness, the fact that what we see is not the coarse side of living may not feel maliciously deceptive but, instead, like a release. Perhaps, instead of seeking reality through your phone, you should look up once in a while and experience the hardships with your friends and family, instead of relying on Facebook status updates, or twitter threads to fill you in.
So, let’s go back to “that” girl, the one just trying to become the best version of herself. Who, perhaps, gains motivation by filming and uploading her routine and who may even inspire others to follow in her footsteps? Let’s not write her off as stuck up and proud, or a glorification of a reality that cannot exist. If she is living the life you aspire to, take inspiration; start by following one step of her routine, make it work for you. If you are not interested simply unfollow, silence, or block the page from your view. We don’t have to exist under the stranglehold of social media platforms, if they are condemned for curation, curate in a way that makes you feel good. Stop the slander and take back control.
Illustration: Vera Rapp