Unless you’ve been cave dwelling for a decade or so, social media is a part of your life. What started with email has expanded to include the very popular and always open Facebook and to include Youtube, Vine, Twitter, Instagram and others. At any given moment throughout the day, we have images and words from family, friends, and others barely qualified as acquaintances at our fingertips.
While we humans crave social interaction and acceptance, social media often skews our perceptions of reality leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, also known as Social Media Depression.
Chatting with other mothers at school drop off recently, I noticed one woman not contributing to the conversation. We were planning classroom/teacher’s gifts and had been busy studying Pinterest, baking, decorating and, of course, splashing our fabulous results on Facebook and Instagram.
How we are really feeling
After the kiddos had entered the classroom, we all said our goodbyes and, the quiet woman and I headed to our cars. I asked if she were planning to organise any gifts and she immediately burst into tears. Through sobs, she explained she was neither a crafty person nor a cook, and couldn’t decorate gingerbread to save her life. And even if she tried, the results wouldn’t be the stunning creations she saw all over the social media. “Everyone is like Martha Stewart’s $%^&#* Protégé !”
This mum isn’t alone with her feelings. She can’t be the only person who experiences inadequacy as a result of what she sees on the Internet. After all, we’re subjected to perfection every time we open our social media pages. We all have one or more friends in our social media circles who just seems to have everything together. Their life as displayed on social media defines perfection. Dad is cheerfully building a tree house, taking little Johnny fishing or bringing in fresh cut flowers. Mum, despite being 40, shows no grey hairs or wrinkles, jogs 5 kilometres a day through the park at 6 am, only to come back and make a healthy breakfast by 7am (every action photographed with a filter for Instagram of course!). As if that isn’t enough, the kids are good looking, say the cutest things, excel at school and participate in every possible after school activity etc.
Meanwhile in Normalville, I’m late getting the kids up, shrieking at them to hurry up (and consequently hiding in the garage from my neighbours in fear that they’ve heard my broken record playing all morning). My breakfast is slightly stale cold (or non-existent). The laundry pile is Mt Kilimanjaro high and the beds haven’t been made since Grandma came to visit.
Social media resilience
The reaction of the tearful mum at school and my thoughts after talking with her begs the question, why are we tied up in something that makes us feel bad? I’m sure many people handle the plethora of perfection just fine. But for others, it’s difficult to separate perfection from reality. 140 characters, a few lines on Facebook and 10 second video clips are simply not enough to give reality a chance. Being unaware may not be blissful after all. It may instead lead to SMD (Social Media Depression) if you believe that portrayal of perfection.
For me, the thing to remember is this. You simply can’t believe everything you see and read on social media. This shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone. Aren’t we all fudging our lives a little? I’m not about to post a 10 second clip of my husband losing his mind because the car won’t start or the tantrum that the threenager is throwing because I cut his toast the wrong way.
Instead, we post the top scores, the freshly baked cookies, the green smoothies, fabulous holiday adventures and yes, we add a filter to ensure no one sees wrinkles and greys. But none of us have a picture perfect life. We all have problems, issues or possibly even secrets we don’t want revealed.
The truth will set you free
Recently a friend’s cousin disappeared from Facebook after years of posting perfect family images and anecdotes. After the initial relief wore off, we found out her oldest son is seriously drug addicted and nearly died from an overdose. The sad situation brought out the best and worst in their family. Some were downright gleeful that their picture perfect life was a lie and others; well they just wanted to help out any possible way.
Do we avoid truth because we fear negative reaction? Maybe, but regardless, we must recognize truth is rarely 100% on social media and do what we were told in primary school. Stop worrying about your neighbour and do your own work. I think it applies perfectly to Social Media Depression. Now excuse me while I go bribe my youngest and beg my oldest to go stand in our garden and smile. #SayCheese
Marisa is a Senior Digital Media Analyst at seoWorks, a wife and mother to two young children. Fascinated by social media and a lover of it at the same time, she enjoys keeping up to date with evolving Digital Media trends. When she’s not tweeting, Google+ing, Facebooking or Instagramming you’ll find her trying to conquer the Mt Kilimanjaro high washing pile in between meeting the demands of her two little people.