Can you imagine living through this pandemic without technology? Not being able to socialise face-to-face OR remotely? Happy we’re coming out of it and even happier that so many people used lockdown time to share their inspirational experiences across the different social media platforms. However, the unfiltered reality of what we see in social media looks much more like every day’s reality than the ethereal perfection it tries to convey.
In this digital era, it can be difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. It’s important we understand the information we’re consuming so we don’t end up feeling less or even guilty about our own achievements. So as part of our Young & e-Mature campaign promoting healthier online habits, here are a few tips to help you get started on “digesting” what you consume from social media:
The “avatar” effect
Instagram and Snapchat are great social media platforms. The range of available filters is phenomenal to help you achieve great quality imagery. But that’s all they are: unrealistically filtered portrayals of a reality that isn’t as bright or vibrant as its filtered version.
It’s difficult to ignore it when our “avatar” is a version of ourselves without wrinkles or acne or anything that we consider a “flaw”. There’s no point trying to minimise the impact these filters can have on mental health. Just consider Khloe Kardashian’s latest meltdown over an unfiltered photo of hers emerging online. This is why it’s so important to keep reminding ourselves that these platforms do not represent reality. Don’t compare yourself to others based on a public profile and don’t try to become your own “avatar”.
The perfect body
This isn’t new! Generations of men and women have sacrificed their physical & mental health – and at times their lives too – attempting to achieve unrealistic body “ideals”. During lockdown several diet plans and fitness routines circulated online. No medical supervision required. It’s not difficult for such routines or plans to get out of control and unfortunately eating disorder cases surged during lockdown.
According to Beat anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, so this is not a subject to be taken lightly. The truth is, everyone is unique and what’s suitable to one individual may not be suitable to another. Most likely those plans and routines are designed by people trying to sell you a product (not with your interests at heart). Before you commit yourself to achieving someone’s magical health goals speak to a health specialist. There’s nothing wrong about a second unfiltered and professional opinion.
The body positivity
Body positivity was a great step towards acceptance and love for one’s own body. However, there has been criticism as it adds pressure to ignore a dominant and powerful beauty ideal. For someone struggling with body image having to be resilient and accepting a beauty ideal that isn’t the mainstream can be a struggle.
Being ashamed of our own bodies, but forcing ourselves to accept it may lead to feelings of guilt. Similar to the previous topic, the issue with body positivity for me is the absence of health focus. Rather than focussing on the body, we should focus on the health and support individuals achieving a healthy physical and mental self.
The shiny happy people
Happy faces and sunny days inundate social media. It’s difficult to take it in when you’re browsing someone else’s happy moments in between endless meetings, stuck in a dark room. But most likely that’s what happens every day.
The happy faces may be deceiving. We’ve all read news about famous people who always looked happy, but unfortunately did not succeed fighting depression. So, next time you see happy people online whilst at work don’t feel down. Instead, if you know them, reach out. Who knows their positivity is contagious and it’ll make it easier for you to go through your work day? Or, maybe they’ll thank you for reaching out as they were in fact needing a shiny happy person at that moment.
The fancy jobs and opportunities
With lockdown came furloughs and redundancies, but also a number of new emerging businesses. As businesses adapted to the new normal, different opportunities materialised. The thing to remember is: none of that was easy or smooth, regardless of what you read on social media.
Just like photos, people tend to “inflate” their professional profiles and posts. It’s not uncommon for people to embellish their relevance at work, professional/academic achievements or even the nature of their job. No one simply changes career paths from one day to the next without some level of planning (trust me – it took me a long time to make my decision). So, don’t feel bad if it feels like everyone is getting a promotion or living the high life at work. Most likely their unfiltered self is going through the same anxiety and frustration as you – they just embellish it better than you!
I hope this helps shed some light on what’s circulating in social media. Take everything with a pinch of salt and never compare yourself or feel guilty over anything you see or read. Growing up in the 90’s, every girl (including me) wanted to have that heroin chic look so characteristic of the decade. I’ve had my share of unfiltered guilt from simply eating an apple during those days. Right now, the only guilt I want to feel is knowing I paid £3.50 for a 99…