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September 2017
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Picture Perfect?

Feeling a little envious after seeing yet another happy couple photo on Instagram? Or seeing your best friend’s Facebook post about her epic vacation in Brazil this summer? We have all been there, admiring other people’s life based on their social media posts and suddenly wanting the same life for ourselves. But do we really?


By Loredana Schelper

As I write this, I’m scrolling through my Instagram and stop at a picture of two smiling people, standing in front of the Prague Castle. They both seem so happy, traveling the world together and enjoying what life has to offer. The girl on the picture is my childhood best friend, and funnily enough, just an hour ago, she called me on the phone to complain about how distant her boyfriend has been towards her during their Interrail trip. The distance between them doesn’t really show on the picture but I just shake my head and continue scrolling. Then I go back though, because the picture got me thinking. The fact that she posted this picture while they are clearly having problems reminded me of my own last relationship.

After my boyfriend and I had been dating for about 4 months, I moved from Germany to the US for a year and continued going to High School there. Being separated after only dating for a couple of months was very hard for both of us, and many Skype sessions and late night e-mail exchanges took place. I lived in State Washington, and the time difference of 9 hours didn’t make the whole long-distance relationship thing easier. How were we even supposed to have a properly functioning relationship if we couldn’t figure out how and when to communicate? Although our situation was far from ideal, the months passed and we stayed together. Towards the end of the year, we couldn’t really call it a proper relationship anymore – we barely even talked.. Ironically, the happy Instagram #tbt posts and the “I love and miss you so much” Facebook posts kept on coming more than ever. Everyone who didn’t know what was really going on thought we were doing amazing, completely unaffected by the long distance. And really, who could blame them, after all that’s what our social media represented. But that’s not really how it was, was it?

12343488_10153780237794634_1483832310_oI guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes we are better off not living the life we admire so much on social media. It is easy to become jealous or envious of what other people advertise about their life, especially if these are images implying happiness or success. But that’s just it. It’s all about showing off. As writer Jodie Gummow says, it is necessary to consider that what we see is “only a small silver of someone’s life, which for the most part, is heavily embellished and mostly rooted in fantasy”. This is also supported by psychotherapist Sherrie Campbell, who investigated on the relationship between social media and self-esteem. “On social media, everyone’s life looks perfect but you’re only seeing a snapshot of reality. […] if we take what we see literally then it’s possible that we can feel we are falling short in life”. Campbell brings the whole issue to the point. Not everything we see is real.

The problem is that we all chose what we post on social media. We take a snap of one happy event that aligns with the image we want to represent, put some filters on there, combine it with a cheeky caption, and boom: this is what other people will associate with us. If these snaps are actually true to ourselves isn’t really of importance as long as we get many likes. But here is the reality check: the number of likes one gets does not equal with life success. Social media easily makes us assume that everyone else is living a better life simply because they might have a lot going on and capture these moments perfectly for that fabulous Instagram post. But like Campbell claims, “social media is merely a way to project your story onto somebody else—you’re making up a story”. Considering that we all do it – choosing the best out of the 50 selfies we just took– why do we still think that other peoples’ social media is real?

Did I just spend a whole weekend binge watching Gilmore Girls and not socializing with any of my friends? Yes. Will I take a picture of myself and post it on social media? No. This is not what society considers cool, or what we would define as success, so let’s not show other people that we do it then. A study at the University of Salford in the UK on social media’s effects on self-esteem reported that over 50% of the 298 participants said that their “use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter makes their lives worse”, simply because of the constant comparison of their own accomplishments to those of others’.

5 Is it alarming that in times where more than a quarter of all teens say that they go online “almost constantly”, we get to the conclusion that social media is fake? It certainly is. But while the amount of money and time invested into the right self presentation on Instagram increases every day, there is also some sort of realization happening.
Especially with recent hashtags such as #socialmediaisnotreal trending, we are being confronted with the fakeness of social media. Teen model Essena O’Neill, who recently made headlines after o-ESESE-570quitting social media and exposing the truth behind her “perfect” life by re-captioning her Instagram posts, supports these claims. “I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention”. Hands down girl, you got it all figured out. Now it’s our turn to stop admiring other peoples’ lives and just accept social media as a show-off platform, rather than a true reflection of life.

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