An Outside Perspective on Social Media

Last September, I decided to delete all of my social media apps out of the blue for an entire week. To some, that may seem like nothing, and to others, it seems like an impossible task. However, I saw how social media was getting into my head and wanted it whisked away for long enough to enjoy the world around me again— you know, the world that isn’t shown to you through a screen. The world that's unfiltered and full of flaws, unlike a majority of what you see online. I didn’t expect the time I took away from the apps to help me see social media for what it's become since its major outburst ten-or-so years ago, but alas, it did. So, here's a small glimpse of what my time away from social media showed me.

young woman holding phone on couch Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The first thing I realized while away from social media was the patterns. By this, I mean the patterns that form between a majority of the people you follow and how their social medias all begin to look the same. Don’t get me wrong, I'd be lying if I said I didn’t want my Instagram feed to somewhat blend in so people didn’t feel the need to look at their friend and say, “Hey, did you see what Gabby posted? That was weird, right?” I’m human. I don’t like the idea of others thinking badly of me, and I want to fit in just as much as everyone else.

In one of my classes, we're reading a book that pertains to accepting who you are and attempting to live a wholehearted life through doing so. The book discusses how humans, since the beginning of time, have felt a primal instinct to fit in and feel a sense of belonging. Knowing that this desire existed pre-social media is reassuring to say the least. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not obvious when people’s photos, captions, and feed themes all have the same look to them. Nobody wants to stick out, we all want to be liked, and most of all, we want the actual likes to show for it. Kind of funny, isn’t it?

selective focus photo of a gold iPhone 6s home screen Photo by Benjamin Sow from Unsplash

Another thing that was brought to my attention while taking an app break was social media's true purpose that we've all forgotten in the heat of its advancement: it was designed to allow everyone, including you and I, to be creators. Heck, we can be whatever we want to be on social media! We can be creators, influencers, fashion icons; we can express ourselves any way we want. After all, they're our platforms to do whatever we wish with. The issue with this mentality is that, like most of you know, words can be twisted to each person’s advantage— like I said, we can be whatever we want to be. While many take social media as an opportunity to express who they truly are, others see it as a one-way ticket to become a brand-new individual that, well, isn’t really them. It’s something that we've all come around to doing. Nobody on Instagram wants to see what we look like straight out of bed on a Tuesday morning, dreading the thousands of assignments that are due by midnight with no makeup, acne, and eye bags that show you were lucky to get six hours of sleep.  

When I take the time to think about social media, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of negative, toxic aspects of it that have hurt our generation more than we care to admit. However, I also think about what we're able to create and accomplish through these platforms and I am once again hopeful. We've been given an opportunity to connect with others through colorful lenses of imagination and self-expression, and while it has overwhelmed some of us, I believe that we have a chance at redemption. The traits of social media we've started to see as “toxic” can evolve into empowering ourselves and others.

That brings me to the last thing I've realized about social media: our mentalities on the connections in our lives have changed significantly. We post photos to make it seem like we have the best life in the world, with the best food, body, and friendships that nobody else can attempt to compare to. We take the risk of making others feel insecure or intimidated because we know that other people's posts make us feel that way, which leads us to post more about our ‘picture-perfect’ life. It’s a never-ending cycle, and it's hurt our connections with others because the person they see on our profiles isn’t the same person they see at the grocery store or when we're bummed out, feeling like we’re anything but perfect or worthy. 

woman filming vertical video of woman throwing confetti Photo by Amanda Vick from Unsplash

However, as I said, there is plenty of hope for us. In my opinion, it simply takes bravery that we didn’t realize we needed. We all need to be willing to be vulnerable on our platforms to show those who don’t know us personally that we have the best thing in common: we’re all human! Embracing our humanity is scary and flawed, but isn’t that what something like social media needs? We can show new sparks of imperfection that we all contain but keep hidden away. Do I believe it’s an instant cure? No, but I do believe it’s a step in the right direction– for me and you both.

Now that I think about it, it may be time for another social media break. It’s incredible what we can see when the beautiful images aren’t clouding our judgment.

person looking at instagram outside Photo by Georgia de Lotz from Unsplash