By Lucy Stowe
On a whim, a friend and I decided that we wanted to take a week long break from all social media. We found that the negatives far outweighed the positives when it came to apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. It was frustrating seeing friends partying, socializing, and trying new things on what seemed like a daily basis. It made me feel ashamed of myself for not living my life the way I thought I should be. It was also extremely distracting and I found that I was procrastinating quite a lot just by scrolling through all my various feeds.
What I wasn’t fully aware of, however, was the fact that people’s posts about their activities were only tiny glimpses into their lives, and these tiny glimpses often formed a greater impression than they should have. Sure, I knew the two-minute highlight reel of their day from Snapchat but what I didn’t know were the moments they didn’t want to expose to the world in fear of disrupting the image they created for themselves on social media. Once I became fully aware of this distorting phenomenon, social media made me sick. All I saw were people flaunting for the camera, desperately trying to prove something they shouldn’t have to prove in the first place.
So I deleted all the social media apps from my iPhone and with a few clicks, I already felt an invisible weight lift off my shoulders. I realized that not only was I free from constantly knowing what others were up to, but I was also released from the social burden of feeling like I had to constantly update people on what I was doing. I no longer had to make sure my pictures were perfectly tailored to fit what was expected of me on all my social platforms. No longer did I have to interrupt a lively conversation between friends to get a staged photo that I thought would look completely candid. If anything, it was relaxing.
Without the burden of social media, I simply took photos for fun and snapped shots I thought were intriguing instead of taking precious time to capture a perfect photo. Instead of stopping a conversation mid-sentence to stage a photo, I engaged in conversation and took photos when it didn’t inconvenience anyone or simply when I felt like it. I no longer felt like a burden to others and I no longer felt the pressure to appear perfect.
In spite of all of this, I truly believe that social media was created with good intent. Underneath all the hidden meanings, theme-obsessions, follower tracking apps, etc., Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter can all serve as great ways to stay connected with friends and family members you don’t see often. In the midst of the technology boom, social media is becoming an increasingly prevalent domain to network and meet people in your field of study or work.
That being said, the pressure to be perfect is not one that started as a result of social media. The pressure to be perfect is one that has plagued humanity for an unnecessary amount of time but it is not one that we can’t overcome. An important lesson I learned from my short cleanse was that the sooner you start interacting honestly and candidly with people, the sooner the message will start to catch on with others.
While we may not like to think it, no one is perfect and no one will ever be perfect. The internet would be such a happier and more fulfilling place if people interacted honestly instead of hiding behind a facade of filters. Of course, the ways in which you choose to present yourself on social media are completely up to you and if you want to have an artsy Instagram, by all means, go right ahead. But the next time you scroll through your feed wondering why your life just doesn’t match up with the photos you’re seeing, take a step back and realize that a photo is just a photo. Life is so much more complex than a picture could ever attempt to define.