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Your Life Looks so Perfect on Instagram: Social Media vs. Reality

A while ago, I wrote an article about how I deleted my Instagram pictures and started over as a way to boost my following and also learn how to stay present. What I didn’t expect was how people who I didn’t really know would perceive my updated gram. 

“Your life looks amazing on Instagram”

I ran into someone that I went to high school with, but hadn’t spoken to in a few years and the first thing she said to me was, “I always look at your Instagram, your life looks amazing.” I was taken aback by this because while it was a great compliment, it hadn’t occurred to me that people I don’t always talk to precieve my life as anything other than a hot mess. 

But then I thought about it, I spend a lot of time agonizing over what to post – what filter to use, if I look good, if I need to Facetune, and I really do try to emphasize the most exciting parts of my life on social media. It makes sense why someone would think life looks amazing online. 

Show more of actual reality

It’s been a couple of months since I ran into the girl from home, and Demi Lovato’s post the other day made me think of it again. Demi’s post was authentic and honest – she showed a photo of herself unedited in a bikini and admitted to Facetuning other photos similar to it. She got almost 10,000,000 likes. 

I’m finding that the culture around social media is changing and that people are starting to value and gravitate towards more authentic, honest posts rather than over-edited and surface-level posts. Most of my posts have focused on the vacations that I’ve been on and make it seem as though I’m always traveling. 

But that’s not the real authentic version of myself. I work every day, I’m a full-time student, my life isn’t perfect, and I shouldn’t feel like my social media has to shield people from that. 

Embrace our flaws 

I think that we should embrace our flaws and missteps and share them openly without shame, because at the end of the day everyone has them and people can probably relate to them. So much of the time, we all feel like we have to be “on,” showing a perfect life on social media as if somehow that will fix anything that’s actually wrong in reality. 

I don’t want people to think that my life looks amazing on social media. I want them to look at my life and think, “Wow, she doesn’t have it all together, her content isn’t perfect and I value how real her posts are.” Am I still going to edit my photos? Yes, and I may even still stress over what to post. But I’m going to work on challenging myself to be more open and authentic, rather than trying to sell a perfect version of myself that doesn’t exist. 

I am not as worried about losing followers as I was when I reset my gram. I’ve noticed that those who are more open online tend to gain more of a following because of their honesty. I’m not saying that I’m going to open up about my life on every post, but generally I am striving to be authentic about imporant aspects of it. 

Honest people to learn from 

To try and keep to this goal of being more authentic, there are some people – even in our area – who are already doing a great job that we can learn from:

@aminagolo: I had a class with Amina a few years ago, but following her Instagram brings me a lot of joy because of how honestly she talks about art, mental health, and failing.

@laurensanderson: Lauren is an up-and-coming music artist, but it’s not her music that draws me in – it’s her honesty with her followers about achieving your goals and not selling yourself short.

@jvn: Jonathan Van Ness is from Queer Eye, and he has been very open about his depression and starting a dialogue for people to express themselves any way they feel like. 


Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3

Payten Little is in her senior year at Iowa majoring in Journalism and Creative Writing. She was the Creative Director for Her Campus at Iowa and loved that she had the ability to curate article ideas for her team, but is taking a step back to focus on her final semester of writing. She hopes to soon move out of the Midwest and to the East Coast to pursue her passion in magazine writing or social media marketing. She believes everyone has a story worth telling and a voice that needs to be heard.
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