The encounter helped me get my priorities straight when it comes to social media ...
We’re living in a time when social media is an inseparable part of our everyday lives. We follow the accounts of our girlfriends, friends, favorite bloggers, famous actors or athletes. We like to watch someone else’s life.
Recently one of my friends wrote: “Beata, your life is awesome! I’m jealous!” When I asked her what she based her opinion on, she replied that she took one look at my Instagram account, and that was enough. It made me laugh. Unfortunately, what we see on Instagram is not a measure of fulfillment, success, happiness or a “great life.”
We often forget that social media does not reflect all of our reality. Instagram is just a snippet of our life, the place reserved for the most beautiful moments. After all, it wouldn’t be appealing to post a photo of a dirty plate, stretched out sweatpants, or a messy room.
From the best perspective
It’s natural that we want to show ourselves from the best possible perspective, but sometimes it leads to dangerous situations when we start to pretend to be someone we are not. Not long ago, during a trip to Bali, I saw familiar faces by a waterfall. After a while, I realized it was one of the more famous couples on Instagram.
On the web, they show photographs from the most beautiful corners of the world. Sun, palm trees, exclusive hotels, perfect bodies, designer clothing, radiant faces. The perfect life. This time I saw them from a different side. They were yelling at each other like crazy, stunning all passers-by. The fight was all about silly things, but their words were full of aggression and profanity. After a while there was quiet. The man took out his phone and started recording a video, and they pretended how much fun they are having. It became part of their Instagram story, and after seeing it, I lost all faith in the authenticity of Instagram accounts.
Happiness or loneliness?
Another time I happened to be traveling with a young woman who has tens of thousands of followers around the world. Despite looking happy and fulfilled on the photos, her heart was full of sadness and loneliness. Most of her followers were strangers, as her friends and acquaintances turned away from her saying that what she does is silly; they didn’t accept her passion for photography and fashion.
These situations open my eyes to several problems. First of all, Instagram can negatively affect our psyche and self-esteem. Imagine a rainy morning. You overslept. In a rush, you grab a cup of coffee, which lands on your favorite white shirt. You leave the house in a wrinkled dress. You get in the car, and you realize you didn’t even brush your hair. As if that weren’t enough, you get stuck in traffic at the first light. You reach for your phone, click on the Instagram icon and what do you see? Perfect bodies, perfect makeup, exclusive dresses, palm trees, sun, and beaches. I bet that your frustration is mounting even higher in moments like that. In such situations, it’s difficult to stop yourself from comparing your life to someone else’s. And we all know that road leads to nowhere.
How many people follow me?
The number of followers is not a measure of happiness either. It’s much easier to get virtual followers than make friendships in real life. Real relationships take effort, which is a time-consuming process. Friendships need nurturing, time, we need to accept someone’s faults, worse moods. And that’s far more difficult than double-clicking a photo or hitting a Follow button.
There was a time when I was irritated that my Instagram account was not growing as fast as I would like it to. Now I laugh at it. After all, it’s not the people who have thousands or even millions of followers who are lucky. It’s me, I’m the lucky one. I have friends who I can talk to, go out for coffee with, call when my world is falling apart, whose shoulders I can cry on and with whom I can share my happiness or ask for advice. And that is happiness.
I’m not trying to discourage you from using the app. Instagram is a beautiful place, full of many inspirations and incredible people. I’ve met many great travelers and photographers there. But it’s worth remembering that this app can be as helpful as it can be destructive. As with most things, moderation is the most important thing — and an awareness that social media is not a reflection of reality. Real life happens on the street, at work, and in our homes, not behind the glass screen of a phone.