It has come to my attention, yet again, that social media is being blamed for an individual feeling lesser about themselves. Social media is placed in the middle of a constant blame game for self-hate, and people’s inability to maturely handle social platforms. I constantly hear the argument that Instagram users who have a large following are fake, staged, and sponsored monetarily by companies to promote products. My question when this argument arises is, so what? Why does it matter if someone has created a successful social following and is reaping the rewards? What is so wrong with accepting monetary benefits by promoting a product someone believes in? What do we care if a photo is staged? I’ll let you in on a little secret: they’re all staged! Every single photo on Instagram is staged to be Instaworthy. My biggest concern with social media is not that it is responsible for lowing the self-worth and self-esteem of many, but rather, why so many people allow their own identity to rest in the hands of finicky social platform users.
I will focus on Instagram, because this is the platform that has been receiving the most backlash lately. This particular social platform was created to build a community using photos. It can be used to encourage, share, inform, make people laugh, etc. There are endless reasons behind Instagram accounts, and none of them are wrong. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In my opinion, a photo on Instagram is worth a million. It takes time, effort, and a level of skill to gather a large following and gain popularity on this platform. When a photo is posted, users see the beautiful product that stemmed from a number of failed attempts. The colors and lighting may or may not be natural, and the caption could have taken hours, or even days to come up with. Problems arise because users are under the false impression that these perfect moments were captured effortlessly. I am not trying to say that nobody on Instagram has captured a beautifully candid moment, there are some exceptionally skilled photographers on the site. What I am saying is that generally speaking the posted photo has been the one brilliant one out of a camera roll of shitty takes.
Suddenly, when a user ‘catches’ their favorite Instagrammer editing a photo or using filters they act personally offended. Or, even worse, they go out to attack other users because they have not grasped what many already understand is just a glimpse into the lives of individuals. When I post a photo on Instagram, I have carefully chosen the pose, I have made sure that my hair looks decent, generally I am wearing make-up, and most of the time I am in a scenic area or doing something I believe people will find interesting. Speaking for myself, even my candid photos are staged. I can turn to my friend and say “Hey take a picture of me in front of this door, but I’m gonna pretend there’s no camera.” Ten minutes later I’ve posted my photo on Instagram and begin to get however many likes the photo may gather.
This leads me into a whole different issue that Instagram has brought forth. Likes have become the end all be all in some people’s self-worth. One day a photo gets 200 likes and suddenly the day has become brighter. That must have been one hell of an OOTD. The next day only 20 likes, should that photo be deleted? Should I never wear that outfit again? Maybe it’s because I wasn’t wearing make-up. These questions begin to trickle in really without warning or notice. It takes a level of maturity to be able to handle the fickle Instagram community. If you like a photo and you want to share it by all means, share it. After months of struggling with myself over why I wasn’t getting the likes or follows that I wanted I had to decide who I was going to Instagram for. My decision: I Instagram for myself. If I think that I’m in a beautiful place I take a photo and post it. When I’m feeling a selfie, I shamelessly post that to my page. I am not above searching for the perfect QOTD to use as a caption. In fact, I have a stash of them to use when the moment calls. What I am above, is relying on strangers on a social platform to determine how I value myself.
Nobody on social media posts every piece of them. When I follow an account, I follow under the knowledge that I am only seeing bits and pieces of these people’s lives. My two favorite yoga accounts (@jessicaolie) and (@the_southern_yogi) tend to keep it pretty real when they post. The perfect pose or flow is captioned with the disclaimer that it happened after a lot of frustration or practice. Still though, scrolling through my newsfeed I see only a flawless handstand or effortless splits. I have to consciously understand that these things did not happen overnight. It is concerning to me when I hear people desire to look like so and so or be jealous of this person or that person because they seem perfect. Nobody is perfect, but they can show us the perfect aspects of their lives. I am not suggesting that people need to share imperfect things on Instagram. That is for individuals to decide for themselves. I rarely share an imperfect moment, because I enjoy capturing the moments that strike me as beautiful or perfect. I am suggesting that Instagram users put things into a realistic perspective. 200 likes means nothing if someone is basing their entire identity in those 200 people. While 20 likes can mean everything for someone who is simply proud of a moment they managed to freeze for a lifetime.
Step outside the realm of social media and find worth in friendships, individuality, hobbies, adventures, family, anything other than nameless strangers on a photo app.