For authenticity, I checked my Instagram feed seconds before putting fingertips to keyboard. About 10 thumb scrolls in my findings concluded with 7 selfies, 1 video of a girl batting her eyelashes, a travel photo taken some place tropical, a couple and ironically, a quote reading “do it for the after selfie”.
No bluffing. It’s as if Instagram knew I was coming to observe; although I had no doubts I would find something relating to what I’m about to say. Is social media and 21st-century culture turning us into a society of digital narcissists?
It’s true that in this day and age we are the most connected we’ve ever been, yet the most disconnected at the same time. Reality TV kick started it all off, then came the explosion of social media; celebrities loved it so naturally, we all loved it too. Now we don’t just have to watch the rich and famous parade aspects of their lives all over the internet, we can join in and host our very own 24/7 ‘me show’ for all to see. Except … nobody really cares, or do they?
The theory goes something like this. If I post a picture of myself from three weeks ago in gym gear, (preferably before 9 am, so when the rest of world arises they can suffer a crushing pang of guilt upon opening their app), then that must make me healthier than and superior to everyone else. The likes roll in, and I feel better about myself even though I’m technically living a lie.
Instagram especially seems to be the top-shelf, glossier, spruced-up versions of our lives. Where we put our best self(ie) forward. What it doesn’t show is the part where we’re sat slobbing out in the most un-instagramable way possible, lusting after other people’s bodies, clothes, blogs, cars, lives and whatever. The sad part? They’re probably sat doing the exact same about someone else.
Sometimes it feels as if the radio waves from our electronic devices have literally crawled into our brains and made us crazy. We compare ourselves constantly to other people who are ultimately faking it, by doing things for the sole purpose of a photo, or they’re twisting the truth. Whether it be a girl posting a happy, smiling picture of her and her boyfriend, or a selfie of someone looking one million dollars; it’s important to remember that people can look like they’re living the dream in a photograph, but in reality, they aren’t. The camera can’t capture the fact that the ‘happy couple’ hasn’t slept together in months or, that the person in the selfie is filled to the brim with self-loathing and it took them 50 minutes just to choose a picture they actually liked their self in.
Even something as simple as food seems to be scrutinised and put through the paces. Only 5* restaurants, fancy cafés or precisely placed food items (definitely an avocado) margined in by cutlery make the cut. The only thing that left-over pizza in tupperware will be cutting is your ‘online coolness’.
On my ventures through all social media platforms, there was no shortage of extravagancies. There did seem to be a lack of maxed out credit cards or unpaid overdrafts screenshots though, and definitely no record of the hours spent slogging it out at work all week. That air hostess’s life may seem like an Instagram bonanza; Dubai one minute, Australia the next, but where’s the part where they’re serving out peanuts for 15 hours straight? Or suffering from severe jetlag, sleep deprivation or homesickness?
If it doesn’t make people look at you with green eyes, then it should probably be done quietly, in all your boring glory, without a digital trace … at least that’s what I’ve gathered anyway. It’s just like when you were a kid and would insist on running round in circles, banging that pan on your head, shouting “look at me, look at me” until someone eventually gave you a sign of approval. Maybe there’s always been a narcissist in all of us, and social media is just the scape goat?
Everyone in the world has probably taken a selfie at some point, even my mum, but why? Is it because we think we’re uncommonly pretty and need to bless the World Wide Web with our Godly facial features? Or is it to remind our friends what we look like? … Maybe for some, but not for most. For most people it simply makes them feel good about themselves and that goes all the way down to our biology. A ‘like’ releases dopamine in our brains; the same chemical that’s released when people take a hit of Heroin, apart from a selfie never killed anyone.
On the other hand, why is it suddenly a bad thing to have a bit confidence in yourself, or to be proud of something you’ve worked hard on? Every day I am inspired by an image of fashion, art, a quote, an idea, a blog post, or even just somewhere new to try a cool looking milkshake. I think social media is an asset to our society, not a curse. Can you imagine how useful it would have been for back in the day? Picasso would have had one of the best Instagrams going, Henry the 8th’s Tinder bio would have been worth a definite screenshot, Anne Frank could have been the first blogger, Roman Emperors would have caused riots in the comments of Facebook status’, and well, Freud, can you imagine his Twitter feed?
So what, if a bit of attention makes us feel good? Yeah, I guess it is kind of peculiar, but no more peculiar than having someone paint a portrait of you. Vanity isn’t a new concept; it’s always been part of human nature, even way back in the day. Social media isn’t likely to go anywhere, and the alternative is to stop using it or, post the more mundane aspects of our lives like dirty dishes, sitting in traffic, work meetings and pictures of our morning face. Who would honestly want to see that?
There are already so many things in life that make us feel bad about ourselves, so why should we have to feel bad about attempting to make ourselves feel good? It could be considered easy to become consumed but most things are okay in moderation, and with that in mind, I say keep on sharing the self-love, whether others like it or not!
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