I’ve been on social media for a good few years, first as a user and now more as a job if you will. I’ve had times I’ve loved it and how it has allowed millions of people to connect, and times I have hated it with how nasty and shallow it can be.
There is no denying it has become a part of our culture, one that is almost hard to imagine the human race without. It has made news travel fast and rumors travel even faster, it is inspiring at times with positive messages and new voices that have never been heard on a mass scale before, but has also been a source of great pressure on young people in particular and the cause of depression for many.
What started out as social networks meant to bring people together, quickly developed into platforms to “show off” our lives, document them and compare to others.
Take Instagram’s famous ‘story’ feature or Snapchat for example:
The ‘story’ features allow you to create your daily story. These can be either images or short video snippets (or both), which you can update as your day progresses, and which will all be deleted after 24 hours. You can add text to your story, emojis, funny filters, your location, the time etc.
Sounds fun, right?
Why? For one, it is addictive and time-consuming but mainly because all the hours spend “documenting” our lives, are in fact taking us away from actually LIVING our lives (and I say this after I tried it).
I didn’t do much cos, to be frank, it did my head in, but for a while, I kept updating my IG story with all my boring news and day to day moments, and guess what?
It took me away from my family, from real life, and from being present.
It meant that every time something was remotely worthy of documenting (for 24 hours I mean), I was too busy getting my phone out and finding the best angle to shoot it from. Sometimes I even had to recreate a moment that had already passed, something I bet my life most people who use the feature do too.
The ironic thing is that the whole point behind the story features was that people could share images they had already taken on their camera but didn’t want to put up on their main wall (cos they were either not “good enough” or cos they didn’t want to bombard their followers with lots of posts).
These days most stories consist of young girls with bunny ears bopping around to some music played in the background, or people taking you through every single thing they’ve done in their day, every single thought they’ve had in their heads, and every single thing they’ve had to eat.
There are two things that worry me the most about this culture (which btw I am totally part of cos lets face it, my main work IS on social media):
One is that even though a lot of the stories seem “real”, the fact of the matter is that REAL life actually happens in between the IG/Snspchat stories and no matter how much people document, and how raw, truthful and honest they set out to be (if that’s their intention at all because let’s face it, most people just wanna look good), they are still only showing a fraction of their lives and it’s edited, filtered, scripted and 100% calculated.
But for those watching, life seems perfect, somewhat interesting (or not), and as a result, we have a new generation of teenagers feeling depressed cos other people’s lives on social media seems so much better than their lives in actual reality.
The truth is most of us lead pretty similar lives. We wake up in the morning, have breakfast, get the kids ready, get dressed, some of us hit the gym, take the kids to school, go to work, get a pint of milk from the shop on the way home, eat lunch, eat dinner, meet a friend for coffee, pick up the kids, help with homework, make dinner, watch TV, then fall asleep and do it all over again the following day.
But social media has become a bit of a virtual reality and in that reality, people are leading extraordinary lives, partying on yachts, traveling to exotic locations, having super important “meeting”, eating kale and loving it, all of which they are doing while looking fantastic with zero effort.
My point is that the gap between real life and what is presented as real life on social media is massive.
The second issue I have is what is this culture of documenting all our moments for the benefit of OTHER PEOPLE teaching our kids?
I have seen people document the most personal moments of their lives while they are actually happening and share with the world with some sort of commentary like they are presenting a reality TV show with their kids and families being the stars of the show.
Now, NOT parent shaming anyone because lets face it, I have been very open about my own family life so who am I to criticizes anyone, right? But I would like to raise it as a question and find out if people feel this sort of thing is a good idea?
In my opinion, not only is it taking us away from being present when real life happens as I have already pointed out, it also teaches our kids that anything they do and anything they feel is only worthwhile if it’s caught on camera for the whole world to see.
What a scary thought, right?
In a world that is already a little bit messed up, with reality TV shows being so popular, people being filmed in their own homes while watching TV, camera crews following people around everywhere they go, young kids wanting to be famous and have millions of strangers follow them on YouTube and watch them playing video games, aren’t we teaching our children that living our so-called perfect lives on camera on social media is the only way to be happy?
And if so, knowing how fake social media actually is, aren’t we setting them up for a lifetime of disappointment?