Yes, we know celebrities edit their pictures, we know people wear makeup, and we know people sometimes lie on social media. In today’s world, people constantly remind us why we shouldn’t believe everything we see on that bikini model’s Instagram. There’s a good chance that girl who took a selfie with perfect hair and makeup at the gym didn’t work as hard as you did when you walked out drenched in sweat; and you know that. However, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the realm of social media, among pictures of people’s perfect, healthy meals, perfect outfits, and perfect significant others. Social media can alter our reality in subtle ways that negatively affect us more than we might notice, but there are ways we can mold our social media so that it becomes a helpful, positive piece of our daily lives.
Here’s a video by Ditch the Label, an anti-bullying organization, highlighting the way people lie on Instagram to make themselves appear more put together, more organized, or healthier than they really are. It shows a guy getting out of his car, walking up to the top of a hill, taking a picture, and posting it with the caption, “30km bike ride done!” This type of social media behavior is damaging because it creates a domino effect of people scrambling to look healthy on social media, and it confuses your own perception of yourself. Are you healthy? Or do you only appear to be healthy on social media?
While people totally have a right to put whatever they want on Instagram, it’s important for us to remember that not everything we see is real. Most Instagram posts are snap shots— carefully set up and edited— of a much more complex life. The same thing goes for Facebook, Twitter, and even Snapchat. It’s easy to see these posts and think, “why am I not that healthy,” “why am I not that organized,” or “why am I not that pretty,” even though we’ve been told time and time again that not everything on social media is accurate. Other people’s stuff on Instagram sometimes makes us want to buy green smoothies just to post pictures of them and put on makeup just to lay in bed. Keeping up with a fake image like that can be tiring and unhealthy. It’s important to remember that we should be practicing healthy lifestyles to make ourselves feel better, not to create a false image for our social media followers.
Despite the lies, there are so many ways to harness social media so it becomes a beneficial tool. For example, there are blogs online, similar to this one, that strive to help people by posting uplifting messages and guides to healthy, happy living. It’s never a bad idea to seek out positive, uplifting blogs on days you’re feeling down— cuddled up with your laptop in bed because you just don’t want to do anything else. Also, it’s helpful to follow accounts on Instagram that post things that make you happy— not just gorgeous selfies and pictures of healthy meals. For example, I follow Yrsa Daley-Ward’s poetry Instagram account because poetry makes me happy, and seeing her posts helps to break up the constant stream of people posting about their seemingly perfect lives.
Another thing you can do to make your social media more beneficial to you is to stop trying to mimic the seemingly put-together posts of the people you follow. Sometimes being honest with your followers on social media can be such a relieving experience. So for example, if you want to post a picture of the brownies you made at 2 a.m. with the caption, “Much needed after a hard day,” who cares? To be honest, a lot more people than you might think will relate to such a post. And who knows, maybe it will create a ripple affect, and more people will be true to themselves on their social media. A little honesty goes a long way. So go ahead, post that sweaty gym selfie because it’ll feel good, and honestly, everyone could use a little burst of reality on their feed.