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Social media platforms were designed to give us a way to keep in touch with our loved ones. Consequently, it also allowed us to find people with similar interests and befriend us. While the reason behind social media’s conception was noble enough, its ever-growing presence now is a source of distress to many people. Social media became more accessible when it was made available on smartphones and tablets. But this ease of accessibility also gave businesses and celebrities a new way to communicate with the masses. Soon enough, aggressive promotion, the perfect life depiction, and ridiculously high beauty standards took over all these platforms. All these developments have put a crater-like gap between our real life and the persona we wear on social media.
Sharing content is one of the most important functions of social media. But do you know why people post pictures, videos, and audio on our feeds? Here are a few reasons why social media sharing starts and why it becomes so addictive:
- Providing valuable content has become one of the main goals of social media users these days. And this content can encompass everything, from hidden travel spots to art tips and tricks. In a way, there is no filter left in the content being shared these days. This honest transparency has also led people to overshare about their own lives and, in turn, perpetuate a subtle competition.
- It is no secret that sharing our life on social media gives us a hit of feel-good hormones. Moreover, sharing brings in likes, comments, and followers, which translates to validation from people, no matter how relevant they are. Many users, if not all, have become addicted to the rush sharing gives, and thus down the rabbit hole they go.
- Sharing posts is a great way to show our loved ones what is going on in our lives. Sadly, this has dissolved into the need to show that one’s life is better than the others. This has set unrealistic expectations for people; they don’t have any choice but to post only the good parts of their reality.
Sharing bits and pieces of real life has become a staple of social media users. But we must ask one thing – how much is reality? How much is fake?
The game of trends – Real life vs its social media portrayal
Social media is the rose-coloured glasses we keep in our eyes to see the world. Because it is only the good parts – hangouts with friends, vacation memories, and aesthetic life pictures –make it to our feed. Photos that show our pain, insecurities, and anxieties are not even clicked, let alone posted. Why is that? There is an innate fear of being judged by others that have always gripped our society in its tight claws. Unfortunately, this fear has travelled with us online as well.
In fact, whatever we see online is a facet of real life that fits in any of the trending topics right then. For example, a while ago, a TikTok trend had people wasting food primarily for engagement. It has now died down because of the criticism it garnered and has now been replaced by cooking in masses and distributing it among the poor. Many users hop on these ever-changing trends without pausing to think if this is what they believe in (what they would like to do) or if they are trying to go with the flow.
This trend-hopping takes place because the original person who wasted food – or distributed it to the poor – amassed excellent views, likes, and followers. Such a large-scale reach translates to almost the entire world validating our content, no matter what people say in the comments. And since this validation is what we unconsciously seek, we start putting in our two cents and making it into a trend.
Another trend that may be harmful to many is people imitating others exercising or dancing. Usually, there is one person – who exercises or dances regularly – who posts videos doing complex routines or workouts. The rest of us then try to imitate the original video and are often seen hurting ourselves in the process. We do laugh it off to come across as nonchalant, all for the sake of appearing fine. Unfortunately, imitating others like this for content has been thoroughly normalized. We see such content, get influenced, imitate them – and the cycle continues.
Social media shows real life, undoubtedly, but only in obscure facets that are thoroughly polished to keep up with the reel life.
But isn’t there a trend of being yourself on social media?
Nowadays, anything can become a trend as long as there are enough people to support it. You would know that being yourself is also a trend! This trend encourages us to show our insecurities, talk about our struggles, and let the world know what we are going through.
But you must understand that this otherwise empowering thing has been weaponized by businesses and influencers to promote themselves. For example, most beauty companies bring in models with, let’s say, freckles, hairy legs, and stretchmarks to showcase the reality. But ultimately, these companies are promoting beauty products – that may or may not be produced to remedy the said bodily flaws.
As you can imagine, being yourself on social media is not easy. Why? Because it comes with conditions. We can’t express ourselves and show our negative side without getting any unnecessary backlash for it. Judgemental strangers are always lurking on social media platforms, and their presence is enough to disrupt our mental health. Facing such constant damaging strikes on social media has led us to curate an online persona that is real and fake at the same time, i.e., the being yourself version of social media.
So, why are we losing touch with reality?
A satisfactory answer to how social media harms us can be found in Kenneth Gregen’s The Saturated Self. In this book, he basically regales about how technology – and social media, by extension – makes us connect with people in different ways. However, there’s just so much happening around – even if it’s online – that it makes us exhausted and negatively affects our mental health.
The proper term is media fatigue, where you get exhausted after consuming too much information online. This onslaught of electronic changes opens a slew of endless possibilities, making us run in different directions. Such an intense social saturation leads us to have a fragmented personality that has unwittingly lost touch with its true self. We start believing whatever social media throws at us, leading to further dissociation.
How does this affect our real-life relationships?
It is no surprise that most people, if not all, are addicted to social media. If you see the stories and posts everyone shares, let’s say, of their hangouts with family and friends, you will notice a pattern. And that pattern is that of people stuck to their phones all the time!
Whatever content you see – may it be of a romantic date or friends catching up over dinner – the one we see in the video is constantly scrolling on social media. What is supposed to be quality time for bonding has been taken over by these platforms and the need to show off the said bond. But in doing so, there is no further development in the connection – apart from having a semi-permanent place in your Instagram feed and Snapchat stories.
Unfortunately, one wrong move on social media (For example, not liking or commenting on loved ones’ posts or forgetting to reply) can result in problems and, ultimately, a severed connection. According to studies, one out of five couples admits that social media has been a cause of their arguments frequently. Moreover, one out of seven couples has divorced, with social media as a prominent factor.
Since social media is also a way to connect with like-minded people, it is really easy to find people to befriend or date. Moving on is quick, which has also given way to shallow relationships and friendships.
Is there a solution to fill the gap between the real self and our social media personality?
Admittedly, social media is essential these days for personal as well as professional life. While an ounce of fakeness is inescapable when it comes to these platforms, you can still show your true personality online by:
- Always speaking the truth: Speaking the truth on social media is a hard pill to swallow. But it would be best if you always remained truthful online. People will judge you, but don’t let that deter you from being real. If you stick to it, you can lessen the gap between real life and your online persona.
- Posting authentic content: Posting content just to keep up with the trends is not the way to go. Instead, post things you really want to show the world, may it be your happy moments or sad ones. More importantly, it is okay if you don’t show everything; you don’t owe anyone anything!
- Understanding that social media is not everything: Even if it seems impossible to think, social media is not as important as it will make you believe. When you feel you’re spending more time online than with yourself, it is time to unplug and do the things that don’t remotely involve social media in any way. When you come back, you will feel a bit more refreshed and have the upper hand against your online persona.
Being away from social media is practically impossible these days when meetings, events, and even schools are conducted online. But we must strive to avoid a vast difference between how we are in real life and online because the latter is an unknown world. And if everyone is under the perfect façade, we can trust no one.