Things aren’t always as they appear. That’s a widely accepted fact, and it can be applied to most things in life. Social media is definitely no exception. With all the filtering, cropping, and staging that can be done, it’s not always a good idea to take what you see at face value.
Essena O’Neill, the now infamous Instagrammer, is living proof of this. If you have ever had the chance to look at her profile, you would have seen an abundance of glamorous shots. But before deleting her account, in her captions she revealed an interesting truth: not everything you see on social media is real. The like-worthy photos meant to flaunt style and invoke envy actually took lots of work. She revealed how she’d spend hours trying to get the perfect shot, and then spend even more time editing the pictures to make them more appealing. As she put it in one of her final posts, “Without realizing, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance.” So in an effort to break away from the less than fun reality of her online persona, O’Neill decided to quit social media. Leaving behind the social media empire she’d created, she deleted her accounts and has started up a website that rallies against social media called LetsBeGameChangers.com. On it she shares her experience and urges others to live as authentically as possible.
Another well-known Instagrammer, model Stina Standers, did something a little different. The purpose was the same: to show that things aren’t always as they appear. To do this she posted several “real life” pictures. For example, her engagement in facial hair removal and shots of her IBS treatments. This move to reveal more realistic aspects of her life on social media led to her losing thousands of followers. In a statement to people magazine, Sanders said, “I think Instagram is so fake – the amount of filters, the airbrushing- so I thought it would be interesting.”
Both of these examples are sparking conversation about social media regarding our dependency on it and our need to feel legitimized by it. And before you scoff at the idea of being dependent on social media, ask yourself: the last time you hung out with your friends, how many times did you all stop to take a picture? A picture to post on Instagram, or share on Snapchat? Did you tweet about what you were doing? And after you did that, did you check to see how many likes or retweets you received?
O’Neill said, “At nearly 19, with all these followers, I don’t know what is real and what’s not. I’ve let myself be defined by something that is not real. Being with people in your real life, hugging people, talking to people, going out to the park, into nature, that is life.” The constant need to take the perfect picture or post the perfect tweet to get the most amount of likes can definitely get in the way of that.
So it’s a good idea to remember that social media isn’t real life. More effort should go into the memories you make, not the photos you take.