Social Media: A Fabricated Reality

Earlier this evening, as I do a few times each week, I sat down in front of my computer with a beer and some chocolate, ready to write about baseball.

Having progressed through a few hundred words, I reached that all-too familiar situation – ‘writers block’ – so took a break to explore social media. Here, I was soon distracted by a truly phenomenal video from South African musician Nate Maingard, titled, “Having A Super Rough Day…”

Maingard’s video was incredibly honest and emotionally raw. The points he raised were ones which I’ve flirted with exploring in some sort of depth previously, only to think better of it time and time again. I’m an incredibly guarded person and someone who provides very little insight into the musings of my mind. Having watched, and been inspired by Maingard’s video though, I decided the time was right to pen these nagging thoughts. Whether or not I’d leave this post forever saved as a draft, or proceed to publish and share, was undecided. If you’re reading this, I guess I got ballsy.

Throughout Maingard’s video, he talks about the importance of acknowledging, and accepting, feelings of sadness, at one stage referring to it so simply, yet accurately, as part of the cycle of life. He notes that nobody should, or could, be positive 24/7, and that negativity is a state everyone exists in at some point in time. Most importantly, he clarifies that it’s completely ok to feel that way too. While this information is hardly groundbreaking in nature and is widely acknowledged by all, one thing still yet to be accepted by the vast majority of people is the imbalance social media portrays, and the damaging affects it has on one’s way of thinking, often leading to emotions which ultimately cause feelings of sadness.

Recent studies have indicated that the average adult spends between two and three hours browsing various social media platforms every day. For younger generations (i.e. people in their teens, 20s and 30s) this figure is often even higher. In fact some teenagers have been known to spend up to nine hours a day exploring social media. Extreme usage aside, let’s work off the two to three hours per day figure, giving us between 14 and 21 hours per week on average. When time for sleeping is removed, this essentially represents the equivalent of one whole day per week. Pretty scary isn’t it?

The dangers of social media have been drilled into users, young and old, for more than a decade. Privacy concerns and issues around cyber-bullying are the most well-known and widely accepted two, however what about the rest? Tonight I’m going to explore some of the terrible dangers of social media and how you, knowingly or not, have probably been affected or will be in future.

As a recently turned 32-year-old, it’s pretty hard to remember life before social media. It’s existed since my mid-to-late teens and every major milestone in my life (finishing school, finding a job, buying a house, falling in love, etc.) has been shared upon it… except one, breaking up. Many of you reading this probably aren’t even aware that this occurred some nine months ago now, and therein lays the problem.

Social media has created a generation of braggers – people who typically share all the good news and positive stories in their life, yet none of the bad. I’ll be the fist to admit I’ve been one of these people, and I’m sure if you’re completely honest with yourself, you have been too. In fact, most of us are, and this leads to timelines filled with good news stories across an ever-increasing amount of platforms. Currently, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat lead the way, while others have slowly fallen by the wayside, most notably the original social media mecca, Myspace.

A quick scan of social media this evening sees numerous friends travelling the world, some buying a new house, some announcing the birth of a child, some celebrating an engagement or wedding, some looking forward to starting new jobs, and some celebrating sporting success over the weekend. Nobody though appears to be doing it a little tough. Even for me, as someone who’s currently in a pretty good headspace, I’m left wondering if my life is that mundane?

So where’s all the bad news?

The sharing of posts about loss (i.e. death of a family member, friend, or family pet) often occur, however that aside, there’s really not much else in the way of bad news shared on a consistent basis. For most people, sickness (physical and mental), relationship troubles, workplace issues, financial stress, or the breakdown of friendships are taboo topics – they’re very rarely, if ever touched upon. Yet these are the very real events occurring in the lives of most people, most days. While completely understandable, the hiding of these entirely normal life events from social media creates a fabricated reality and one which gives the user a false perception of the lives of others. As a result, they’re left wondering if they’re the only one experiencing such troubles, causing feelings of concern, anxiousness, jealously, and inadequacy, every time they log on – for, remember, one day per week on average. That’s an incredible amount of time to experience such thoughts and having them constantly reinforced, post, after post, after post.

Compounding this issue is that through the creation of social media, we seem to have lost the ability to connect with others on a deeper level. As the now common saying goes, “We’re more connected than ever, yet less connected than ever.” While not the case for all, the first thing many people see each day is the screen of their phone, and likewise it’s the last thing many people see at night. We’re constantly being bombarded with the positiveness of others, yet never truly exploring the negatives within ourselves. In a life before social media, when times were tough people would divulge in others close to them – partners, family, and friends. They would discuss at length, via phone conversation or in person, their troubles, and through conversation understand that these troubles and negative emotions are experienced by all at various stages in life. They’re completely normal. Nowadays though, this simply doesn’t occur, or at best, not on the same scale. This inability to share bad experiences, combined with the perceived perfect lives of others, creates self doubt and lessens one’s self worth. The ramifications of this can be disastrous.

Worryingly, the solution to this is neither clear nor easy to achieve. Society’s norms surrounding social media usage have been formed, are ingrained within each and every one of us, and aren’t likely to change any time soon. The solution is not to change what we’re posting as it’s inevitable that people will post photos and stories of more memorable times, and not share details of the tough ones. As such, the only solutions are to make a conscious effort to engage more deeply with those close to us, ensuring support and advice is offered when needed, and to collectively accept that life isn’t always amazing. As noted by Maingard, you can never compare your own life to that of others and that sometimes, it’s ok to experience negative emotions and sadness. When these troubled times do occur, I believe it’s important to remove ourselves from social media. This in turn prevents the constant barrage of people experiencing more positive moments than you – at that specific point in time – and removes the continual reinforcement of self doubt and lessened self worth.

The only person you should try to be better than is who you were yesterday, and if you can achieve that more often than not, there’ll be no need to compare yourself to anyone else. It’s important to remember that every minute you spend wishing you had someone else’s life, is a minute spent wasting yours.

“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain

5 Comments

  1. Stephanie Robertson says:

    So so so true! Well said Dan.

  2. Victoria Herbert says:

    Good read Dan!

  3. Stacey Brown says:

    Amazing piece. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Michelle says:

    This is a brilliant article! Very true and insightful!!

    I am also sorry to read about your situation. I’m sure that was hard to share since you’re a private person.

  5. Chris says:

    So true Daniel and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Comments are closed.