Have you ever counted how many mornings you've gone without checking social media in the first hour after you wake? If you are one of the few who never do, I salute you, because I’m the worst for it. Especially in the past few weeks with such disgusting acts of hate happening on a regular basis, I check my phone the moment I wake up with the hope of no more tragedy. But I won’t lie to you and pretend that is the only reason: I am a massive advocate of healthy living. I wake up and meditate at least 5 minutes before I get up before making my bed and having a wholesome breakfast. It sounds #healthgoals right? But then add in the thoughts swirling around this mystic brain of mine; why didn’t they reply? Why are they so unkind? And, of course, the 10-minute check of my social media accounts for that miracle I’m still waiting to happen.
Social media is a complete bittersweet materiality. On one hand, it allows friends to connect in seconds rather than having to travel 20 minutes to their house to say ‘hey, how are you today?’, it enables long-distant relationships with friends or lovers to prevail, and it may have even got you your job, your house or your reputation (be it good or bad). It can let people like me, who has always dreamt of having a career in travel photography, to pretend I do, as well as being an outlet for hidden demons you couldn’t bear to say out loud. Perfect, right? Well, not quite. Then there is the other side of the coin. The social media that breaks families, friendships, careers, that reveals to the world your ‘night-before mistake’, the ‘I wasn’t that drunk, was I?’ and the ‘I didn’t think they were still friends’.
I want to talk less about the daily diary that is Facebook and turn towards the hidden malignant spirit named Instagram. I’ll put my hands up in admitting that I don’t think I have ever uploaded a photo onto my account that is 100% real. I have never taken a photo of my tears with the caption ‘Goodness, life is difficult’ because, if I’m honest, I’m scared that’ll make people run a mile and it would also stain my page of beautiful sunsets and memories of my travels. But why? Online, we are all in a world in which sadness, hate, hurt and judgement no longer exists. But that isn’t reality. We are human. We all cry, we all struggle, we all get hurt, so why not share it with the world? Instead, we see photoshopped images of girls and boys with steel-cut abs (if that’s even a thing) and avocado on toast with perfectly poached eggs (just how?) because that is what people are pining for from social media. They seek escapism. They want to be transported to a world in which all the hate and sadness is removed and only beautiful landscapes and beautiful people exist. But life thrives on the negatives, for without them we would not grow, we would not learn, and we would be stagnant, inanimate.
According to various media outlets, the rise of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and various eating disorders have correlated with the growth and boom of social media. Children as young as 6 years-old are developing body image and lifestyle issues as a result of Instagram displaying images of body goals and the people society deem to be the idea of ‘perfection’. But this is NOT real. We all have hiccups and little imperfections. These imperfections make us unique, make us beautiful in our own way, but nowadays this resonates with little to no-one. We are no longer celebratory of the differences that make us who we are because social media tells us that this is not who people want you to be.
Who knows, one day I may wake up and that charming man I’ve been waiting to come into my life may have asked for my hand, I may develop my goal beach bod, or may have been asked to travel somewhere exotic free of charge. But if we want to be real, dreams and ambitions happen because of hard work and resilience. Social media is not going to solve all your problems. You aren’t going to lose ten pounds by scrolling through pages of abs and avocados on Instagram - these goals come from switching off and setting off on a journey of discovery hard work and painful, sleepless nights. That’s life I’m afraid, REAL life.