Amber Chin/The Paisano
The 21st century is often referred to as the age of social media, and rightly so. Today, platforms like Instagram and TikTok have gained enormous popularity and boast millions of users. Many young individuals, including college students, spend hours on these platforms, scrolling through posts from acquaintances and strangers alike.
Proponents of social media often argue that it is a way for people to connect. It’s a way for you to stay up to date with everything that is going on around you. Some may even say social media could be a way for you to gain some much-needed ‘inspiration’ through the lives of other people.
While social media may have its benefits, my personal experience has taught me that it can be a toxic environment to be in, especially as someone who is still figuring out life.
When I first started using social media, I was intrigued by it and thought it was a fun pastime. However, over time, social media started taking a toll on my mind and I grew sick of it. I realized that social media perpetuates an outlook on life that is a little too positive and optimistic, when in reality life isn’t always, as they say, “rainbows and unicorns.” This can be very harmful if you are going through a rough patch and your life isn’t quite as put together. Social media can deflate your confidence little by little and the main reason for this is the simple act of comparison.
Have you ever scrolled through social media feeling demotivated with every new post you see? Has social media ever made you feel like you’re missing out? Have you ever felt drained after using social media?
These negative and, often times, suffocating feelings are a direct result of comparing your life to the sugar-coated posts you see on social media. Before you know it, you find yourself holding your life to a very unrealistic standard. You are reminded of all the insecurities you harbor every time you log onto social media. Instead of inspiring you: social media makes you feel agitated and unmotivated.
The same was true for me. It felt like social media was designed to make me feel terrible about almost every aspect of my life. I’d spend hours on social media, comparing my imperfect life with someone else’s well-curated social media feed. I believed everything I saw online. There were times when I felt extremely alienated because my life looked nothing like my social media feed.
Every time I got off social media, I always had a gnawing feeling that my life was incredibly dull and insignificant. I attributed my lack of “coolness” to my introverted personality, something that I have been insecure about my whole life. In addition to that, I also let my insecurities about my appearance get the best of me.
Once I fully comprehended the damage social media was doing to my mental health, I vowed time and time again to not let it get to me. Yet, I still kept going back, scrolling for hours, drawing comparisons and feeling the same things all over again. It was almost like I had become dependent on social media despite all the stress it caused me.
It took me a long time to unlearn the idea of a perfect social media life. It wasn’t until I took a month-long break from social media, more specifically Instagram, that I was able to distance myself from it. Despite this decision, I still have moments where I find myself drawing comparisons that deflate my confidence. The only thing that has changed is that I am able to recognize when that happens. During times like these, I am quick to remind myself that my life may not fit right into an aesthetic social media feed, but regardless, I am still doing my best.
When it comes to social media, it is important to realize that a lot of the things you come across — all the smiling faces and all the exciting videos — are not an accurate representation of an average day in a person’s life. Social media is designed so that people share only the good aspects of their lives. Everything you see on social media is well thought out, if not fabricated.
Comparing your life to this unrealistic picture does nothing more than harm your mental well-being. As a user, you need to be able to distinguish social media from reality. You don’t have to cut yourself off from social media if you don’t want to. Instead, you can always learn to use social media in ways that minimize stress and comparison. It may not be very easy and may take you some time, but it’s definitely worth trying.
Your life may not resemble the happening pace of social media and that is ok. It’s important to remember that life is much more intricate than social media makes it out to be. The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.