For 8 months my boyfriend and I have been travelling the world. Its been full and fun, a huge learning curve and on the whole, nothing short of a dream. And despite the many ‘gram’ worthy experiences and stunning locales, it most definitely hasn’t always been easy. Hand in hand with the world at our feet we’re ‘living the dream’. Raw, whole and beautiful, and a far cry from perfect.
If it wasn’t ‘perfect’ to share with for her 1.5M+ followers, it wasn’t good enough.
Which brings me to this blog entry. After listening to an insightful podcast earlier today that interviewed a bright and brave young Australian lady who is a med. student and an Instagram ‘influencer’, she was also finding her path to recovery from an eating disorder. The article resonated with me for various reasons, some of which I’ll discuss another time. Though specific to this post were her comments around Instagram and admitting to (previously) sharing images and personal anecdotes in ways that portrayed only a level of perfection. If it wasn’t ‘perfect’ to share with for her 1.5M+ followers, it wasn’t good enough.
And this got me thinking. The connection between the digital age, content strategy and our state of being. The pressure to strive for a level of perfection that plainly doesn’t exist, without a lens. From the clothes we wear, to the food we eat, the way we travel, how we raise our children, and so on. There’s no question that social media has hijacked a previous authentic human-touch and replaced it with a constant of glossy highlight reels. And though our better judgement calls out make-believe, it’s all too easy to feel a pang of guilt because our reality isn’t nearly comparable to those that we scroll over on our screens and supposedly aspire to.
We spend a good part of our lives connected, trawling an infinite of products and profiles, feeling as though we ‘know’ people and that the influx of virtual beings are our ‘friends’.
We live in an increasingly complex society. ‘Influencing’ is a seriously paid gig and its flipped the ways in which we read and consume content, as well navigate our previously simple day-to-day. We spend a good part of our lives connected, trawling an infinite of products and profiles, feeling as though we ‘know’ people and that the influx of virtual beings are our ‘friends’. Truth be known, as they drip-feed us likeable content and speak to us in stories, we flock to their fingertips (hence ‘influencer’) and listen to all that they preach. Perhaps it resonates, and perhaps doesn’t, but we’re increasingly burying our heads and in turn are becoming progressively lonely, as well, questioning our value.
The podcast dialogue gave credit to social/marketing strategy and ways in which these platforms enlist tools that very easily enable its users to manipulate images, ensuring that our online self-portrayal is none other than perfect. For example, advantageous lighting and angles, a library of edits, scheduling and throwbacks. Not to mention the teams of people working alongside these powerful personalities to assist in building their brand(s). The host went as far as saying that specifically for some ‘fitfluencers’ (fit influencers), there are certain times within the year in which they’ll ‘shred’ for the camera. Capturing a sequence of unrealistic photographs to last for months on end. And yet, social platforms in this light are like a guilty pleasure. Our common sense reminds us that what’s before our eyes is fiction, yet we’re so engrossed in their power and superficial attraction, that we keep coming back.
In the months that we’ve been away, I’ve had several conversations with friends, old and new, about the pressures and successes that social media creates. From beautiful new mums doing their utmost bests’ (and totally queening in my opinion), to the free-spirited travellers, established bloggers and so on. In all the corners of the world, the many honest chats revealed similar feelings and experiences between us. That being, that social media and the significant presence/success of others sometimes made our own feel inferior to those who seemingly had their sh!t together more so than we did, – the ‘influencers’.
It’s about reminding ourselves as social media consumerists that what happens beyond our fingertips is where the magic’s at.
This is not about finger pointing or placing blame. They (the influencers) have worked hard to build impressionable content and strengthen their effect. And whilst we know it should be authentic, it’s business. But it’s about reminding ourselves as social media consumerists that what happens beyond our fingertips is where the magic’s at. For instance, the people met, the conversations shared, the laughter had, the places travelled, a baby’s smile; and those small nameless everyday moments that pass us by ever so quickly yet bring us great pleasure.
Our continual wired lives that are nothing short of perfect are dangerous to our sense of self and feelings of worthiness. They’re shiny, well curated and ‘aspirational’; yet critically, they lack an inherent human attribute, – emotion.
It’s a fickle time. Increasingly there is more awareness and support to mental health. An international day dedicated to asking our peers if they’re OK even. And we’re constantly reminded that it’s OK to not be OK. Yet for me previously, and perhaps other’s too; the frequency and speed in which social media permits (and encourages) us to share (or show off) our effervescent lifestyles creates somewhat of a feeling for competition amongst us all. Our continual wired lives that are nothing short of perfect are dangerous to our sense of self and feelings of worthiness. They’re shiny, well curated and ‘aspirational’; yet critically, they lack an inherent human attribute, – emotion.
It’s all very well to post content that’s enhanced with a filter or alike, to share beautiful imagery and experiences with others for the joy and simplicity that comes with sharing and story telling, (which I really enjoy); but to hide behind an artificial facade and seek validation from the online realm is worrying. Which too, I’ve been guilty of and is something I see often. Engaging in the many timely and unhealthy practises to build followers and small communities, as well obsessing over ‘likes’ and various analytics per post.
As humans, we’re designed to feel. To converse and interact with others, to co-create and to touch.
And so, in this increasingly connected world where we remain a text, an IG post and/or a status update away from each other, we need to remind ourselves what’s really important. For one, honest content. Foremost, the incredible person behind the lens. Because without them at their best, this beautiful world of sharing and connectedness is without. In the case of the podcast that I listened to, this brave young lady wasn’t OK, in fact was dangerously unwell. Yet on measuring the ‘success’ of her IG account, you wouldn’t know otherwise. There have been times when I haven’t been OK, and I could count on two hands when others’ in my circle weren’t too, despite them (and I) keeping a strong face online.
As humans, we’re designed to feel. To converse and interact with others, to co-create and to touch. Gone are the days when we were social on social media and had actual conversations with friends. Instead, the (many) platforms have shifted their focus to business tools and we engage them to promote our personal brand(s). So moving forward, let’s shake things up and shed more light to our true selves in our content efforts. Raw, whole and beautiful. Less than perfect, yet perfect all the same, because it’s real, relatable and infuses emotion. Better still, let’s just place our phones down and have an honest, whole-hearted conversation free of distractions. Because, there’s something incredibly rare and uncomplicated in that.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear if this post resonated with you, or if there were times when the pressures of social media affected your sense of being too.
If you enjoyed this, take a look at a previous post that discusses similar issues and social media’s ability to augment the truth.