We know Social Media is selling us a filtered lie, yet we still buy it!
We scroll through Facebook and Instagram feeds, and the posts would have us believe all our peers are living a life untrammelled. Loved up, but unfettered, busy busy busy, yet still fancy free. That life for them is a constant fiesta, that their sunsets are a tad more transcendental, that their steaks are a little more succulent. They’ve never had to break a real sweat to achieve that BMI, that they awake minty fresh, motivated, and their organic green slush filled cups always runneth over. Our faux friends are smarter, solvent, better looking, much more successful, and adored. Social media posts for many young adults confirm a nagging suspicion, that in comparison their lives and they themselves are stunted, lacking, Magnolia and incomplete. It must be true, so and so’s posts always get over 100 likes.
The facade, a picture of an impossibly bronzed faux friend, awed by the tranquil majesty of the Taj Mahal. Its dusk, they’re completely alone, surrounded only by an ethereal mist. The reality, as there are between 15.000 & 70.000 people passing through the Taj Mahal on any given day, you’d be hard pressed to take a shot without another body in it, and tranquil it isn’t. Look closely at the ethereal mist, yes, it’s gorgeous, but not a colour you’d ever find in nature. Zoom in to your faux friend’s post, and there’s not a pore to be found on their sun kissed faces, not one!
What we don’t see is the cropping out of people and selfie sticks, the slimming of beer belly’s and bingo wings, the smoothing of crows’ feet, blemishes, and cellulite. There are filters that can change the colour, style and volume of a person’s hair, apps that apply makeup where there was none.
Apps to change the shape and length of a chin and nose, apps that will widen eyes until you look as though you were animated by Pixar. Filters to make an already blue sky bluer, and turn the turquoise of a sea up to 11, which is one brighter than 10.
Smoke and mirrors, illusion and delusion, the endless cycle of contrast and comparison social media locks its users into, serves to create unrealistic expectations. The latest research from Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, suggests that for teens and young adults, there is a link between spending extended periods of time on social media, and experiencing negative mental health, outcomes. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all being found to have negative effects on a young adults’ mental health.
Bob Sorokanich, formerly of Gawker Media, summed it up best when he said. “Ultimately, Facebook is a narcissistic playground where the best, the funniest, the most charming aspects of our lives are publicised and the boring stuff almost never gets posted. All those walls are edited at some level and that makes them, at best, a deformed mirror image of real life or, at worst, nothing more than a fictional movie of how we want people to see us”.
Social media started out as a tool for keeping in touch with genuine friends and loved ones. to keep us connected through the years, job changes, emigrations, births deaths and marriages. It was never meant to be used for self-affirmation. We’d do well to remember that social media is only part of our lives, and nothing like a true reflection of it.