I watched a really great TED talk last night about why thinking you are ugly is bad for you. The speaker presented some statistics about women who would skip school, underperform, and even no-show to job interviews if they felt they looked ugly. Or fat. Mind you, this is completely independent of how they actually look, and how well they actually perform. Crazy, right? Not really.
I am one of those women. I opt out of, say no to, or downright flake on social and professional opportunities regularly because of how I believe I look and how that belief about my appearance makes me feel about my value. The modern obsession with social media only perpetuates these issues. We are in a position to constantly compare our lives/popularity/body with the very carefully selected –and edited- images posted on instagram or facebook. What are we seeing? Is this feed actually someone’s real life?
Let me be very clear about what I share: My photographs form a highlight reel. They are the result of three, four, maybe five images taken. I reject the photos that ‘make my face look the way it does when my mouth does that thing I don’t like etc. etc.’ I use filters. I choose to share the really kick ass moments, moments I’m proud of, funny moments, social moments – the list goes on… but the point is, my feed doesn’t represent my every day. How damaging is it to compare the ordinary, day to day moments of our own lives to the inauthentic, overproduced images of peers, celebrities and strangers? These comparisons are complex, because as aware as I might be of my own critique/selection/edit process, I still get caught up in comparing myself to other people’s feeds as though they are real. And part of me really wants YOU to buy into the fact that MINE is real. Because how much more interesting would I be if my instagram actually captured my REAL LIFE.
Here’s a new perspective on my pictures:
- Epic active adventure – I can guarantee you I either whined, got frustrated, bickered with Aaron or cried (or some combination of the above) at least once during said adventure. Oh and I definitely felt like I sucked at whatever sport is depicted somewhere along the line as well.
- Social event with friends – At some point, I either dreaded the get together or wanted to cancel it. Nothing against my friends –they’re great- but because I had anxiety to some degree about how I looked, felt, and/or believed my life was going at that time. Aka I felt like a loser and wanted to hide. Probably because of comparing myself to someone else’s highlight reel. See how crazy this shit is?
- Romance – I love my boyfriend, and we have lots of lovey-dovey fun together. We also drive each other crazy. Sometimes things just feel “off.” We go through periods in which we feel disconnected. Sometimes I really need space. Sometimes he really needs space. We argue. We hurt each others’ feelings and make each other mad. We’re real people.
- Selfies/photos of just me – Where to start… very select moments. Carefully chosen images. Moments I am proud of. Moments when I feel beautiful… or strong… or athletic… smart… creative… you get it. But as to why I feel the need to show you…
What is this compulsion to self-promote? Is it about having something to prove? Is it modern day marketing? Is it really just about getting external validation through ‘likes?’ When did liking MYSELF stop being enough? I’ve got a gut feeling brewing that says my posts on social media are irresponsible too. They are crafted, they are phony, and they are embellished. I, along with some 200 million other instagram users, are creating and buying into images, personas and lifestyles that don’t exist – and measuring our own lives based on these fantasies. We are collectively perpetuating that which is damaging us.
I don’t have a solution. I don’t think facebook and instagram are going anywhere anytime soon. I do, however, think it is crucial to disconnect regularly. I believe it is vital that I have a reality check from time to time. To be really honest about what my life is actually like vs. what I “share” my life is like in order for me to recognize the same misrepresentation in what I see online.
Here is what is really happening today.
It is noon. I haven’t done much other than throw on big, baggy sweats, brush my teeth and make coffee. My bed is unmade, and my hair is a mess. I have cooked one breakfast to a crisp, thrown it away and started over (plus turned on the fan and opened all the windows to get the smoke out). I don’t have a job, and I don’t have a ton of money. Most of my daily activity involves working out, so I’m delaying it in order to have something do to with my Monday. I am not unhappy; rather, I have chosen to take some time off of “go go go.” Sometimes I get bored, but for the most part I am satisfied with this slower, unassigned period of my life.
Does my lifestyle make for interesting, likeable, posts online? Not really… I feel compelled to share it here anyway, though, because my suspicion is that there are a ton of people out there who have the potential to be satisfied with THEIR own lives too. People who WOULD be satisfied with their own lives if they gave up comparing it to what other people are essentially PRETENDING to be up to. Look, I am not saying that I am free of that habit, of those comparisons, of getting caught up in the fantasy… but in this (hopefully not too fleeting) moment of clarity the least I can do is try to keep “keeping it real” going…