Millennials are wrestling a monster. A world in which so much of our being exists on social media that sometimes it is hard to differentiate between what is real and what is for show. Am I wrong? Hear me out, I know I am a hypocrite. During my lowest point in life, social media was my outlet. A place I could seek immediate validation for my seemingly awesome life. A place I could appear OK.
I know this topic is controversial, it could seem as though I am targeting specific people or attacking you. I’m not. These are my opinions and what I know to be true from my own experiences. I am not asking anyone to agree, I am just asking you to consider my thoughts because I believe that social media has the power to harm us if we allow it.
Consider for a moment there is no social media. It is almost impossible to imagine right? My generation was raised on that stuff. I was on Facebook back in the day when you needed to have a “.edu” e-mail address to join. Before that, it was Webshots and Myspace. Releasing every facet of our lives for public consumption has become normalized, thus creating this era of social comparison, this era of documenting all, and feeling the need to measure up to what everyone else has or is. The need to look fulfilled. The need to please everyone. The need to explain everything. The desire to have it all figured out.
Have you ever considered how damaging this concept is? I spent years of my life posting on social media without analyzing why I was doing it. It was all subconsciously driven. I was clicking “post” or “upload” as if it was a conditioned response that I gave absolutely no thought to. No hesitation, just share share share. Unfortunately, in most cases the reasons weren’t healthy. I wish I had recognized that at the time because it would have allowed me a head start tackling the personal issues I have been actively addressing in my late 20s.
Lets be honest, we know the type. The person who posts excessive selfies. The person who documents each waking moment of their day as if every mundane part of life is suddenly celebrity status and worthy of sharing. The person who portrays their life as nothing other than beautiful and fortunate. The person who has it all and is constantly flooding your feeds to the point you wonder if you should just hide them, but then you feel guilty for being a cynical asshole. Guess what? I have been all of those people. I can tell you that each one of them was riddled with insecurity, haunted by the accomplishments of my peers, and fearfully uncertain of my purpose in life.
If you have ever been coping with a major life transition, an episode of depression/anxiety and logged onto Facebook, you know exactly what I mean. If you have ever been painfully lonely and logged onto Facebook, you know what I mean. If you have ever felt ashamed of your body, you know what I mean. There have been negative phases of my life when social media has made me feel bitter and angry. I felt like I needed to keep up with those who appeared to be doing better than I was, financially, physically, emotionally… etc etc etc. People who don’t understand what I am talking about will find this entire concept very difficult to understand, but please realize that not everything is as it seems. If that isn’t your case, more power to you, but at times there has been an inverse relationship between how happy I appeared online, and how happy I actually was in reality. The more pictures and posts and attempts to validate my own existence, the emptier I was because I was not giving attention to the roots of these choices.
My facade was busted pretty openly. Its hard to pretend your life isn’t a mess when you get divorced after 1.5 years, lose the house you just built, and are living with your parents and starting completely over at age 27. The social media jig is basically up. I had to look at things differently after that. What did I want to share, what did I want to keep private, what did I want to portray? How open did I want to be about my pain, my struggles, my insecurities, the ways my life was changing? How quickly did I want to share my new relationship? When was I ready to be judged in an entirely new light? This is the social media era we live in. This is a cultural burden that some generations before us cannot fathom. The pressure of it all does seem so silly when you really think about it, when you remember that the only person you need to answer to, is you.
And so we all toe the thin line of sharing versus oversharing. Of being “real real” or “highlight reel”, of attention seeking for the right reasons, of trying to seem happy, or trying to BE happy, of CAPTURING the moment while also LIVING the moment.
I still share, of course. But part of taking care of myself emotionally post crisis years has been staying in touch with why I press “post”. I think that is important for all of us to analyze from time to time, even if the reasons aren’t completely simple or easy to swallow. I think it is important for us all to be in touch with these reasons so that we don’t lose ourselves in the temptations of comparison and envy that are only a click away.
As I approach 30, I find myself wanting to be a bit more private relative to my past. When I do share, I try to only post things that mirror how I am feeling. If I am feeling inspired, I spread positivity. If I am feeling silly, I post something funny. If I want people to comment on my new hair do, I will post a picture of that. If I am feeling moved by a topic, I will write 😉 If I am feeling down or lost, I try to find more productive ways to handle that than I once did.
We all have completely different lives, both on and off the internet. We experience peaks and valleys at different times. We express ourselves differently and we all have our personal thresholds for what is too much. Social media can be used in many positive, amazing ways, so long as we remember to keep in touch with ourselves and the “whys” behind our behavior. The bottom line is, there is a reason we all share, as opposed to a group text, an e-mail, a written journal entry or a scrapbook. There is a reason we share with ALL.