Social media is a shadow world. It is filled with false propaganda and snapshot images carefully, timely and strategically posted to pull the wool over our eyes.
It never used to bother me all that much. I used to browse occasionally on social media sites, see what people were up to, maybe drop a comment here and there and move on with my day.
I used to thoroughly enjoy browsing around social media. It made it easy to keep in touch with friends that traveled away. It made it easy to stay in contact with people throughout the day without having to call or text them. Social media was like a treat. I would log in, check out to see if anyone messaged or commented on something I posted and then comment back to keep a conversation going.
Oh how quickly all of this changed. In fact, I went through three phases of social media.
Phase I – learning the ropes and connecting with friends. During this period I was simply trying to fit in. I wanted to be part of the “in crowd.” Everyone was doing it and using it so I would too. I played the game. I would make a post or comment here and there and I tried to enjoy the connectivity of social media.
After a while I just couldn’t wrap my brain around why I cared so much what other people were doing. So I left my social media pages alone, often going weeks, sometimes months without ever logging in and browsing.
Phase II – A purpose. Phase I got old for me relatively quickly. Even though Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others have been around a while, I only stayed in phase I for a relatively short time. After a while I wanted to have a purpose for why I was using and logging in to all these sites.
My focused shifted away from what other people were doing and I shifted towards self-expression, motivation and mindful thoughts. Many of my posts turned to blogs that I had published and quotes that I found helpful at the time that I wished to share with followers and the world. However, phase II became extremely time consuming so I decided to stay away from social media for a while yet again.
Phase III – My current phase – Cynicism. Today whenever I log in to a social media site, it’s for a purpose. What I see now sickens me. The worst part is that nothing has changed except my perception.
Many posts contain smiling faces, happy people, people rallying for a cause, posts of people glorifying certain aspects of their lives. However now I’m a cynic. Is this reality? Is the one second picture of a couple smiling with their new born baby all smiles, happiness and fairy tales?
I have not had the blessing of starting a family of my own, but when I see those who start to do so up close, off the social media sites, it does not match what I see posted. I hear about the struggles of sleep, finances, the difficulties in physical relations after the baby is born, depression, anxiety and so many more issues that surround new parenting and marriage or couple relations.
Yet the one second Facebook post shows me smiles and how happy it is. Twenty-four hours a day according to Facebook posts, these couples are smiling and are loving couples. I just don’t buy all that. As Lee Corso might say, “not so fast my friend!”
I don’t know what makes me more ill. The fact that people need to post to the world every time they are happy or that some people believe all the hype.
Some go as far to even measure their own level of happiness to what they see on other people’s social media accounts. Well, I’m living proof that those false fairy tales and carefully chosen social media posts destroy lives.
I know it may sound silly, but it does.
As I mentioned before, so often do people compare their own life to what they see online. If they see a happy couple, even for just a second, they begin to question their own happiness. Rarely is further research done to follow up that one second snap shot of someone’s life to see if the other twenty-three hours and fifty-nine seconds of their day was all smiles, sunshine’s and roses. Yet, that one second now made someone feel insecure and unhappy because their smile isn’t as big as the smile they see online.
I’ve hit this pretty hard, yet subtly. Social media isn’t the only reason I have become a cynic. Other factors in my life has certainly helped me gravitate towards my cynicism.
To be fair, social media has opened doors in my past that normally would have not opened had I not been curious to browse around. Yet just as quickly as they opened doors, they also slammed them shut right in my face.
Today I approach social media with caution. My philosophy is that if we truly are happy, then we shouldn’t need to interrupt our happiness to post it for the world to see. Our own happiness should be its own reward. No happiness can exceed living in the moment. The second we stop living in the moment and post on social media our happiness, then we have cheated ourselves out of that moment.
The truth is most people don’t care what we do.
Sure they might toss us a thumbs up “like” and possibly a comment to go along with it, but do we truly need that validation to be happy? The happiest times of my life no one will ever see on any social media page of mine. The happiest times of my life have been spent with special people around me experiencing unique and unforgettable moments. They have been shared with friends and intimate partners. I have written and blogged about a few well after they have happened, but I have always chosen to live in the moment. I chose not to post the times of my greatest happiness because my own memories will last a lifetime. Plus, I don’t feel the desire for others to compare their own level of happiness and experiences to mine.
What makes me happy makes me happy. It might not make others happy, but it makes me happy. Life is too short to stop every time I have a smile on my face and post it for validation.
I used to travel a lot with a particular person. This person was fun to travel with because she didn’t need to take a picture every five minutes in a paradise-like location. I still remember her looks of content and happiness on her face as she soaked in the moment and everything around her. It amazed me that there was someone else out there who felt the way I did. Enjoy the moment when it’s happening, we will have the rest of our lives to remember and cherish this experience. Not once did I see her update any profile their entire week we were on a beautiful island. That has always stuck out to me even years later. We took pictures of course, and we have recollected on the past event in person occasionally from time to time, but we never felt the need to share our own intimate and exhilarating experience with the world.
So to all the people out there who live on their phones and measure their lives to the lives they see on social media, please go gently. Please understand that the vision you are seeing is an illusion. You may see a cherished moment, a moment of happiness or a great achievement, but no one update can truly define a person or their true feelings. They may for a second, maybe even a few hours, but that is not the reality.
The reality is that life is hard. Life is a struggle. Happiness rarely comes to us, we have to go to happiness.
I leave with this thought.
Let us think back on some of the happiest days of our lives. How much of that is displayed on our social media accounts? Did those posts make us more happy? Or did we feel the need to post them so others knew we were happy?
Now think about those same days and what we DIDN’T post. Are we upset we didn’t share those moments with the world? Did it diminish our happiness for that day?
If the answer is yes to any of those questions then we really don’t know what happiness is or how to be happy. Happiness can never be measured by a split second snap shot of a precious moment. And for those who compare their own life to the moments of others please know there is hope. We can always put our phone to better use and go out and live in the moment and keep the precious emotions that occur within us to ourselves. We can even share them with others that are physically with us in that moment.
Go ahead and take a few pictures. However don’t do it just because we see others doing this. Keep the pictures as a collage to look back on for ourselves. Because the brutal truth is once again, no one really cares as much as we think they do. So cheers to those that are able to separate the reality from the facade on social media, glance over our photos and never give them a second thought once they have scrolled past it. Cheers to those who truly understand the impact of social media. They understand our world will never revolve around them and our updates will never have the impact on others that some may hope for.
Let us not make social media blind us, because there will be times where there is no internet service and all we have is what is in front of us. Enjoy that. For that is true happiness. Enjoy the company of loved ones. Enjoy the majestic views and the deep emotional connections we can make if we stop comparing our own lives and emotions to what we think we are seeing on social media. Because I can promise one thing, what we are shown is almost never the reality of the image we see in our own heads.
Author: Adam Wilkinson