School does not teach us everything. In fact, I think it misses out on some pretty important subjects. There are things I wish I had known about. Things I wish had been discussed. I see this as my chance to talk about them.
I remember creating my first ever Facebook profile. I thought it was spectacular. I carefully chose a webcam picture of myself and my friends being quirky af, Topshop GEEK tops, and 3D glasses with the lenses pushed out. We looked phenomenal. Icons, I thought. I spent hours choosing an inspirational quote to use as my cover photo. I added cool indie films to my interest list so that people knew that I was ‘different’. I wasn’t like those other girls. I was an original.
When my profile was complete, I scrolled in admiration. Who could not want to be friends with me, I thought. As I started to compose my friend list and scroll excitedly through my news feed, I found myself instantly comparing my own profile, and therefore life, to these other people. Some of them I knew really well, others barely at all. I would find myself jealous of them. Of their days, or holidays, or parties. I slowly started to post more often, and shamefully, in the attempt of making those people see that I also had a great life which I was happy to show off. I wanted near strangers to be jealous of me. Why? I honestly don’t know. Facebook became a melting pot of jealousy, pressure to exude a perfect and desirable life and creating unrealistic expectations of myself.
I wish I could say my relationship with social media has drastically changed since I was 13. But I’m not too sure it has. It’s true that I no longer post things to make other people jealous. I don’t really think about the person on the other side of the phone screen seeing the post, or tweet, or picture. I just post things that I want to. Things which I want to document and share. However, something I know I do every single day is compare myself to other people. I scroll Instagram and catch this internal dialogue daily:
“Why aren’t you sat outside having a fancy picnic with your friends?”
“Why haven’t you been more productive like them?”
“Why doesn’t your feed look as aesthetically pleasing as theirs?”
“Why doesn’t your body look like that?”
Social media is one of the single worst things to happen to our generation. While it offers excellent opportunities for connections, business engagement, and fan culture, it can so easily lead to diminished self-worth and dissatisfaction with your own life. A life that may be perfectly okay but is always made to feel somewhat inadequate. A few weeks ago, while I was sat having a break from Uni work, I started to scroll through Instagram and caught myself having the intrusive thoughts listed above. My mood went from an 8 out of ten to a 4, without actually speaking with anyone or getting up from my chair. It’s ridiculous. This prompted me to have a cleanse. Not a skin-care cleanse, but a social media cleanse. I made a promise to myself to only follow accounts that either a) make me happy, b) teach me something or c) are people who I love and care about. Anyone else was a goner.
At school, we were taught some things about social media. We were told not to befriend anyone we didn’t know. We were told about dodgy people, and cybersecurity, and the importance of having good passwords. We were taught about cyberbullying and how you shouldn’t say hurtful comments online. However, we weren’t taught how harmful social media can be for our own wellbeing. We weren’t told that scrolling for hours through the profiles of Victoria Secret’s models can encourage harmful exercise and eating patterns. We weren’t told that just because someone else had a productive day, yours is innately a failure. We weren’t told that most people choose to show only the good bits of their day and that you shouldn’t compare your entire life to the shiny bits of someone else’s.
These are things I still struggle with. But I like to think I can catch myself doing it quicker and then simply lock my phone and think about the things in my life that make me happy. Don’t let someone else, anyone else, especially someone you don’t know or have never met, make you question your own self-worth. Don’t give your phone that power. It doesn’t deserve it.