It is our instinct to blame the media for our poor perceptions of reality and the ways in which we compare ourselves to idealistic standards. At one time, that all may have been true. It may have been the airbrushed models in magazines and the seemingly flawless lifestyles of celebrities that made us feel like boring little trolls in comparison. However, we are now our own worst enemies because of the way we've distorted and manipulated our social media presentations.
We're creating a culture of self-comparison that did not previously exist. Not only that, but we compare ourselves to false images, just as altered as those of the airbrushed models.
Here are only a few of the many images on social media that just aren't real.
OK, somewhere between the addition of filters and the "teeth whitening tool" we became masters at making ourselves look absolutely nothing like ourselves. I understand the reasoning. Trust me, I went through a stage of causing every self-edited image of myself to look like a blurry Oompa-Loompas with fluorescent teeth. The common thought is this: "If I can erase all of my blemishes and make myself look virtually perfect, then why wouldn't I?" Because it's not you -- and when you see others looking like that on social media, it's not them, either. We are human beings. We are meant to look unique and incredible in our own ways. We aren't blurry Oompa-Loompas with fluorescent teeth.
No one is going to Instagram a photo of the knock-down-drag-out brawl that erupted with their significant other over which selfish bastard ate the last of the crunch berries. No one is "Man Crush Mondaying" their boyfriend on his phone drunk-texting other women at a low point in their relationship. We all get online and feel like every other couple must have a blissful relationship filled with big smiles and roses hand-delivered to their desks at work. Come on now. Do you know how much roses cost?
I can't tell you how many people I hear complaining about how fantastic and fun other people's lives look on social media. "They go out and party all the time! Why can't I be fun like that?" OK, allow me to let you in on a little secret: it's never nearly as glamorous as it looks. You're going to see the beginning photos of party dresses and hair still intact, with pretty people and "candid" laughter. You aren't going to see the photos from the end of the night, with smeared-mascara faces and sweaty hair. You aren't going to see drunken drama, embarrassingly high bar tabs or someone crying into a toilet about the person they broke up with three years ago.
Traveling is incredible, and I am more than guilty of radiating envy as I scroll through photos of people on trips I could never afford. However, again, we show the photos that make perfection appear to be reality, and then wonder why our trips don't fall together seamlessly. They don't. I've flown across the country and lost my luggage -- and then my wallet, too. I was a mess. Maybe I should have Instagrammed a photo of me in my free extra-large T-shirt from the airline, crying on the phone to Pam from the credit card company. Nah, how about a gloriously filtered photo of me standing in a beautiful cove, lit by the sunset in the mountains of Washington, instead.
It's food. It's not really supposed to be pretty. You literally look at it for 10 seconds (depending upon how long you have been waiting for it -- the longer that is, the more rapidly the time decreases), and then you stuff it in your mouth. You chew it up and that's that. Unless you're a chef or a cake decorator, odds are your food is going to look pretty lame. If you do make it look good, you almost always have to arrange and filter the heck out of it to do so. So, stop judging your dinner place based on the extravagant displays of social media.
This is much different than food, as it pertains directly to people only posting photos of healthy food for specific reasons. Most of your peers are still eating far more than colorful protein shakes and Greek yogurt covered in fresh berries. We all want others to perceive us well, and health has become a large part of our culture in that regard. That being said, you aren't the only one who can't just switch to a strict diet. You also aren't the only one who can't afford a perpetual stock of fruits and vegetables. When strawberries are on sale at the discount grocery store, it's like Christmas at my apartment.
Besides, I bet Greek-yogurt-girl likes oatmeal cream pies, too.
I simply cannot scroll through my social media accounts without seeing a photo of someone that is somehow related to their fitness regime. On seeing pictures like this, the following thought seems to pop into the heads of the masses: "Why am I not as motivated or confident in my body as this person is?" First of all, I think anyone who is really and truly confident in their appearance wouldn't need to continuously gain the approval of others via social media by vigorous narration of their body's physical activity. They're just like you, so support them -- don't envy them or cut them down. Second of all, comparing your fitness lifestyle to others' isn't fair to you or them. We all have different bodies, lives and priorities, and no one is going to display the worst of that for the world to see.
8. Babies and pets.
It's quite possible that my favorite part of social media centers on the existence of babies and pets. They're so freaking cute. More animals appear in my "Discover" tab than human beings. All cuteness aside, everyone else has babies and pets that can be just as intolerable as yours. My cat is an adorable supermodel online. In real life, he's a furry little tyrant who rips through bags of cat food stored on the top shelf and purposefully pushes wine glasses off the counter to their imminent destruction. Please don't stop posting photos of your precious little life forms for the sake of me and all of your other fans. Just keep in mind that you aren't the only one who has a baby that screams and a puppy that poops everywhere. We all do.
Social media is dorky. No matter how long you take to sit around and think of a witty but seemingly effortless caption, the fact that you did that in itself is dorky enough. We all look ridiculous online. There's really no way around it, and as much as you try to mimic the tone or style of others to adhere to whatever new "cool" standards there are, it's all a load of crap anyway.
No one is breaking out the "fat pants" for a selfie. You're going to see people at their best, wearing their new clothes and showing off the one photo they liked the most after they took like 50 beforehand. Don't sweat it, unless you're talking about the big gray sweatpants that people would actually be wearing in truthful wardrobe representations, in which case I say sweat it all the way.
Essentially, we are all professionals at making reality look like an elaborate photo story of the sheer perfection that composes our lives. But it isn't real. Social media is harmless if we are careful to remember that simple fact. It's powerless if we neglect the inclination to compare and criticize our own lives through the falsified images we too are guilty of creating. Our lives are messy. We get into stupid fights, spill coffee all over our new shirts and drink too much tequila at a Tuesday night taco dinner with our friends. That's the way it's supposed to be. We aren't the people we pretend to be online, and thank God for that.
Maybe it's time we throw a little reality back into social media. Otherwise, we're going to have to start changing that witty tagline to something more fitting.
"This is a parody account, and is in no way associated with the real person it depicts."
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