…Did I grab your attention? No, but seriously. Maybe not 90%. But certainly a sizeable proportion of bloggers.. social media addicts.. the general population.. are fake online. But, do we have a duty as bloggers to be as honest as possible? Or should we be the ‘elite’ – the ones everyone should strive to be like – whether it’s who they truly are or not?
Today, I heard on the news a story about whether social media and our presence on it as a society was necessarily ‘social’. I am almost instantly reminded of the viral poem on Facebook a while back – “this thing we call social is anything but…… we open our [laptops] and it’s our doors we shut”. Can you honestly say, as fellow bloggers, or even just Jane Doe reading this post, that your social media is a 100% accurate reflection of your life?
Mine certainly isn’t! I would never post a picture of a happy face trying to make out I’m happy all the time when I’m not, and I would never post one of the incredibly irritating status’ of “feeling sad” just to grab the attention of my friends and seek it out like a whore. Well… 17 year old me may have done… 21 year old me at university may have done… but 26 year old me is getting more and more fed up of it by the day.
I used to love watching YouTube stars – the ones who think themselves lifestyle gurus – and trying to match my life to theirs. Making sure I always had the latest Boohoo fashion, making sure I had the right coloured lipstick for a certain week of the year, making out that my life was all Holly Golightly (and no, I’m not taking a dig at the famous comic writer – check out Urban Dictionary).
But you know what happened to Holly Golightly (if you’ve ever read The Lovely Bones)? – She dies!
Taken in my someone trying to be fake and nice… and all along he was a child murdered.
Ok… so maybe that’s a little strong a reference to compare the impact of social media on the millennial of today with, but I hope you get the gist.
In the article I read today, it was stated that “researchers, who surveyed 1,787 adults from ages 19 to 32, asked them how often they used platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google+ and Instagram. In a separate portion, participants were also asked to rate how strongly they agreed with statements about how alone they felt, like “I feel left out” or “I feel that people barely know me.”
The study found that those who used social media more than two hours daily were twice as likely to report feeling social isolation, even after controlling for other factors such as age, gender and relationship status. People who visited a social media site more than 58 times a week were also three times more likely to feel socially isolated than those who visited such sites the least.” (source)
These figures astonished me somewhat. I mean, as a psychology graduate, I’m an absolute sucker for data and analytics, but this data worried me – a feeling I’ve not felt in a long time. How can it be that this online world we live in that has put us in touch with thousands…. maybe even millions…. more people that we could have ever imagined having direct online contact with thirty years ago, make us feel so alone? Well, the simple truth of it is – it can’t!
No, seriously, it can’t. It’s not the lack of contact we feel with people that is creating a black hole of loneliness in social media – it’s the comparison of our life with the lives of those on our feeds and timelines. 90% of people in a modern society will tell you that their social media is a reflection of their lives – the good and the bad – but 90% will also not admit that while everything they post is true, you’re only actually seeing a very small portion of their lives.
Listening to the BBC News report on this on the way home from work, I heard a 29 year old woman speaking about how she felt disconnected from her friends as she kept seeing photos of them on nights out, while she was at home on a Saturday night looking after her children because she couldn’t find a babysitter. My response to this probably wasn’t what most other people would have reacted with (or at least admitted to have reacted with)…
I thought to myself ‘how selfish can this woman be? She has bought an amazing, incredible life into the world, and all she can do is resent (correct me if this is too strong a word.. but this was my thought process) it for her not being able to get drunk with her friends. Who, by the way, if they were true friends, wouldn’t abandon her when she had children and would still see her enough that she wouldn’t feel like crap when she misses one night out’.
Yes, ok, it’s not fun to see other people having fun when you’re not involved, but it’s not social media’s fault that we are exposed to that. We would be exposed to that in talking physically with someone after the event, or seeing it as we walked down the street… the problem isn’t in that social media has made us feel isolated from our friends, it’s because social media has shown us who our true friends really are. They are the ones who when they know you’re having to stay in to look after your children and can’t come out, come and visit you the next day, or offer to come to yours and help babysit and stick a film on!
So, this brings me to another question. Why are we, as a society, so obsessed with having to be accepted and involved in the lives of people who clearly aren’t the people we should be caring about? Why do we take our online presence so seriously? From personal experience, I can answer this question… and, I feel, echo the voices of many social media addicts out there.
Society – in a nutshell – is cruel. We are taught to dislike anything that is different. We bully as children anyone who we think is slightly off the ‘norm’. But, what we don’t realise, is that it’s not just those couple out of a hundred that are bullied… Research (from Ditch the Label) has shown that 50% of children in 2016 said they were bullied. Did you expect that high a number? Go on, be honest with yourself. Now, that doesn’t mean that 50% of children are bullies.. no – it’s probably more like 85% – maybe even 90.
How many of you reading this can honestly – honestly – say that you have never talked about someone behind their back, laughed at someone for what they were wearing or what music they were listening to? In this sense, I can call myself a bully – we all are.
Is this where the innate sense of having to show ourselves as “perfect” online has come from? When we are bullied (and I talk from experience as on the receiving end of bullying for a lot of my high school career here) we get this feeling of worthlessness – that we’re not good enough for society – that we have to try even harder to be ‘normal’.
Having grown up in the age where nobody my age had even heard of Facebook until they were 17, I can honestly say that the feelings I felt when I was a teenager, and the longing I had of trying to wear my hair in the right way, always trying to make myself the life of the party and look happy.. all that has been completely digitalised for the Generation Z. Social media hasn’t made us feel any less lonely, it’s just made it a lot easier for us to allow our emotions to show when we are alone, because we are spending less time physically having to keep the front up around our friends.
But, on the flip side, it has also become much easier for us to bully online – to hide behind the shadow of a fake profile picture and telling the internet our name is Sharon when it’s really Sally! Social media, in its essence, has fuelled not only the prey, but the predator also. So, the next time you are sat at home on Facebook and see your friends having a nice night out without you – ask yourself – “how many of them have called me to arrange something for a later date?” – If the answer is none, it’s not social media that’s the problem…
And what about those who have actually been helped by social media? Those suffering from anxiety disorders, or communicative phobias who find it hard to even leave their houses? Social media is so much more than scrolling through photos of your old high school friends, or comparing how many likes your selfie got to your friends, or posting photos of happy smiling faces in the hopes that someone will see and think you are important for five minutes?
The phrase “live your life for yourself” has never been truer.
Which, hopefully, brings us full circle to the initial question of this post? Do we, as bloggers, have a duty to write happy posts about how amazing life is, and show our airbrushed make-up tutorials on Instagram? Or should more posts about how shit life really is be at the forefront of our minds?
There’s nothing I hate more – and to be honest, it’s the reason I stopped blogging for almost a year – than constantly being bombarded with photo after photo, and blog post after blog post, saying “this is amazing”, “best thing I’ve ever tried”, “so lovely”… when will someone write a blog that simply says “I tried this product.. or food.. or service.. and it was shit?”
Until we can be honest with ourselves online, how can we expect others to be, and how can we expect people to stop feeling like their online presence is all that matters?