I had a talk with a good friend of mine yesterday about social media and the dangers we face due to its significance in our society – the dangers of it that we seldom speak about out loud.
There is this unspoken competition felt between every human being, I would argue especially females, who actively use social media. We are challenged to appear to have the perfect body, style, taste, significant other, adventures…life.
To have the perfect life.
We tell ourselves as we obsess over the perfect lighting and just the right angle that we don’t care what other people think. We just simply want the photo to look nice. It’s all about the aesthetics, right?
Here is a little lesson for you –
The word “aesthetic” stems from the Greek word “aisthanesthai,” which means, “to perceive.” The aesthetics of something simply means how something is perceived, how it appears.
Ironically enough, social media seems to have the same definition.
When you perceive something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the truth or its fact, it’s just how you see it, at that point in time.
I can’t speak on behalf of the entire Internet, but I can speak for myself. And I know that when I scroll down my own Instragram page, all I see is the mass amount of work I had to put in to getting those little square photos. Yet, when I scroll through everyone else’s, that understanding of that one set up moment not being the sum of the whole abandons me. I look at every one else’s “lives” in photos and can’t understand why no matter how hard I try, my life doesn’t look like theirs. Some days it sends me into a self-deprecating spiral. I don’t have the friends, I don’t have the money, I don’t have the body, I don’t have the hair, I don’t have means. And if I don’t have the means then I must not be good enough. I must not be interesting enough or pretty enough or artistic enough. All because someone else took just as much time as I did to fake a moment for a 2-inch square photo.
Again, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am the only person who has dealt with this. But in the likely chance that I am not, here is what I have to say to those of you like me, especially anyone who has felt this way when looking at the staged fragments of my world:
I didn’t take pictures of depression. I didn’t wrap twinkly lights around me while I sat in a dirty room piled with clothes and dishes while I cried on the phone to my mom that I wanted to go home now. I didn’t adjust the contrast of the scale when I only weighed 99lbs from being too stressed to eat and I didn’t zoom in on the weeks that called for me to make $5 last. There are no likes or favorites on the text messages I sent at 3am to my family telling them I haven’t slept in 3 days and my hands cant stop shaking. I wrote no captions about the countless months I went without making art, while still calling myself a writer. There is no evidence of every time I have felt insignificant, unworthy, or alone.
Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter – all they allow to be seen is what we hand pick to be shown. And when will we ever project to the world the times when we feel like hiding most?
We all have that one friend on social media who gets a little too deep, shares a little too much. We cringe at their honesty and scroll past, agitated with their nonconformity and name it a cry for attention. Because someone using social media for something other than posting edited photos and cat memes has to be seeking validation. As if that, in it self, isn’t the entire point of these web pages.
We created a generation of humans who don’t care so much about what they’re doing, so long as it looks like they’re having a good time. That’s the goal, isn’t it? We end up in places we never wanted to be with people we never cared to speak to because it makes for a pretty picture, it becomes something to covet.
The first photos started being produced in 1839 by Louis Daguerre. His first camera prototype was unveiled the same year at a convention for inventors. He didn’t know it yet, but the whole world as far as he was concerned, drastically changed forever in that moment. People started obsessing over its progression; other inventors began mimicking the work to try to improve it. And oh, how they improved it. People were so astounded and thrilled about this new alien technology, because it meant they got to save in their pockets the memories that couldn’t sit long enough to get painted. Families who didn’t have the money to get portraits of them done now saw the possibility of being remembered.
The photograph was created by people who simply wanted to be remembered.
So I ask you, amidst our posed candid photos and time wasted taking 300 pictures to get a worthy one; between the pouting of the lips and the smiles that were forced…
Is this how you want to be remembered?
I do not write this with my finger pointed at anyone except my own reflection. I do not write this with judgment or malice.
I write this with hope.
Hope that I can allow myself the humility to be my most authentic self, in both my day-to-day life as well as social media.
Hope that who I portray on the Internet, who people portray me as face to face, and who I am in my own head all start becoming mirror images of one another.
Hope that I will learn to not compare myself to others, feeding into this society of insecurity and self-obsession.
Hope that you, to whom ever it concerns, do not ever compare yourself to me and feel that you do not add up. That you are lesser than. That you need to be more of me…more of anyone…and less of you.
And hope that you allow me to remember you for what you are, not what “likes” told you to be.