“Quick, go like my picture,” said a girl to her friend. “Oh, I must have missed it, when did you post it?” her friend replies. “Just now.”
This exchange of words is progressively becoming more popular among today’s youth as the era of social media continues to alter our sense of priorities and sets up a falsified reality.
We have fallen victim to the idea that we must uphold a certain image of ourselves in order to maintain a consistent image to others.
Although all social media outlets are guilty of perpetuating this, Facebook and Instagram are predominantly the gateways to these parallel universes.
These media platforms can be very beneficial in keeping in touch with people that would otherwise become ghosts of your past. They are also helpful for classes and events; let’s be real, we wouldn’t remember most people’s birthdays without it.
At the same time, social media allows people to create any image of themselves they want, thus creating an inaccurate representation.
The problem with this is it only shows one side of someone’s experience and what is exposed is completely in the hands of the user.
Someone could come off as seeming happy when they may actually be struggling. The deceptive nature of social media also has the potential to mislead anyone who views these posts. Seeing friends post about their seemingly happy lives makes us question our own experiences.
Speaking from personal experience, it can really affect someone’s mindset who may not be doing well themselves. During high school I deleted my Facebook for two years after finding myself comparing my life to everyone else’s supposed happiness, as I was struggling with my own.
The idea that other people’s happiness can cause others sadness is no new concept. Montesquieu said “If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.”
By showcasing the most positive, joy-filled moments of people’s lives, social media is exploiting the Achilles heel of human nature.
In a Stanford study, researchers asked 80 freshman to report whether they or their peers had recently experienced various negative and positive emotional events. Time and again, the subjects underestimated how many negative experiences their peers were having. They also overestimated how much fun these same peers were having.
In another sample of 140 students, researchers found students were unable to accurately gauge others’ happiness even when they were evaluating the moods of people they were close to.
In a third study also by Stanford, they found that the more students underestimated others’ negative emotions, the more they tended to report feeling lonely and brooding over their own miseries.
In the past week, an Australian teenager with more than 612,000 Instagram followers radically rewrote her “self-promoting” history on social media. Essena O’Neill, 18, said she was able to make an impressive income from marketing products to her followers.
She describes Instagram as “contrived perfection made to get attention” and deleted more than 2,000 photos “that served no real purpose other than self-promotion.”
On top of this, she dramatically changed the captions to the remaining photos in a way that shed light on the distortion of social media.
Although debunking social media expectations is progressive in changing the dynamic of the online world, inconsistencies are inevitable according to BBC news.
Some researchers have coined the term “friendship paradox” meaning that no matter what, there will always be people on social media happier and more successful than you.
According to Nathan Hodas at the University of Southern California, the friendship paradox holds true for more than 98 percent of Twitter users.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to remind ourselves that there are many differing realities that people have, and the one that is portrayed on social media is not an accurate representation of their entire being.