Day in day out we’re busy constructing our ego, making sure that the image of ourselves that we send out into the world is a perfectly consistent thing we call ‘me’. Now, in the digital era, it has become easier and easier to build a solid me. But does this ‘me’ actually make me happier? I decided to put it to the test.
I’ve been using Instagram for over two years, mostly to share travel quotes that inspire me. I saw my IG as a collection of things that made me happy, something that was mostly just for me. But I started wondering what it’s like to have a lot of followers. In order to do that I had to create and fix my online identity: a hippy/gypsy/ yoga loving Buddhist who happens to love traveling and share wise words. I would upload selfies, travel destinations and inspirational quotes on the daily accompanied by a sickening amount of hash tags that fit my newfound image.
For the first few weeks I felt weird, pushy and completely pretentious. I had no trouble sharing the photos but the hash tags felt off. I didn’t want to pretend to be #awesome, or #wise. My friends might call me a hippie but I really don’t care if I’m a #hippie #gypsy or #wanderer. For all care I could be a #youngproffesional #ambitiouslittlelady or #justagirl. But as time went on I started getting used to asking for attention. I didn’t mind pretending my life is awesome 24/7 and it honestly felt great getting more followers and likes.
One of the first photos I ever uploaded was a sign at one of the churches in Oakland, CA where I was on my west coast travels. The sign read: ‘May your life be as awesome as you pretend it is on facebook’. But it is not. Spending too much time on social media ends up making me feel totally inadequate. Mostly because everyone is only sharing the good times. The fancy dinners, the parties, random acts of kindness. Our online personas are 99% built on convincing ourselves (and the rest of the world) how awesome we are.
But there is a hidden truth that we don’t share. Because it’s too painful. Because we want to protect ourselves. Because there are things we just don’t talk about.
On the day posted this picture:
But that’s not a part of me that I would want everyone to see, but sometimes life is like that. This is a very accurate depiction of me at that time and that doesn’t make me any less awesome. Au contraire, it makes me very very human, much more real than my Instagram me. I am done feeling embarrassed about that. I am done feeling like I need to hide that part of me.
After some time I felt it was time to try something new. I was going to put personal status updates on Facebook. I just didn’t know what. But before I knew it life presented me with two thrilling events to write about. On Friday night a man broke into my home and I woke up when he entered my room. That evening I wrote in fear because I couldn’t sleep. And before I knew it I had people calling me. Two days after I rushed to the other side of the country because my granddad had fallen ill and he sadly died within a couple of days. Again I wrote, sharing my sadness and asking for support. And that’s exactly what I got. Thus I found out that Facebook can be an amazing tool to share vulnerability, personal stories and support each other. Though sadly, it is rarely used that way.
Getting followers and keeping followers is a lot of work and as soon as you stop posting they’re gone. It takes a lot of time and energy to keep it up. After 50 or 99 likes on a photo, getting 23 on the next one feels like another failure. Somehow it feels like social media = samsara x1000000. It’s so speedy and it’s all about me, me, me. It heightens the feeling of loneliness and inadequacy. It heightens the me vs you mentality and it makes the pressure to be awesome all the time so much bigger. Because I am pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels depressed, sad, anxious and lonely sometimes. Yet, when I’m bombarded with pictures of people’s brilliant lives it so often feels that way.
Social media has all the potential to be a wholesome thing that helps people connect and share and be real with each other. But it is used as a superficial medium. I feel save saying this because I am one of those people who spends wayyy too much time online sharing pictures of cats and tagging friends in everything. I know better, I just don’t do better. (I’m still learning).
But I can’t help but wonder: What if we put all of the energy into something wholesome. What if we could get off our computers; if we stopped being impressed by likes and started being impressed by random acts of kindness. What if I stopped spending time on Facebook and Instagram and put that time into improving my embroidery skills? Because spending all of this time pretending, is absolutely not worth it.