When you hear the term “alternative reality” or “parallel universe” our minds immediately jump to science fiction. It is a concept that many people speculate but in the end, there is no scientific evidence that such a place exists. However, there is something very similar that is, in fact, a reality and it won’t be found looking up to the stars. It is right here on earth, among us on a daily basis and influencing our perception of reality. It is our social media accounts.
Social media has become a place for people of all ages to escape reality and create their own perfect world. It is a world that can then be broadcasted to thousands, even millions, of people across the globe. For too long people have been looking through pictures on Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets and are assuming that what they are seeing is real. Young adults look up to “social media superstars” who have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers and aspire to be just like them.
They portray a carefree life of beauty, luxury and happiness that unfortunately, more often than not, is a false advertisement. The photographs that are being posted are an inaccurate representation of real beauty, real happiness and real life.
Recently Essena O’Neill, a teenager with thousands of followers on Instagram declared that she is “quitting social media.” Revamping her Instagram, the teen edited many of the captions on her photos to reveal the truth behind the circumstances of which the photos were taken before eventually removing the pictures from the Instagram account entirely.
The truth is that pictures on social media are just small snapshots of our lives. Imagine life as an enormous iceberg and the small portion above the water is equivalent to what we see on social media. There is so much more lying deep beneath the surface, unseen to those on top of the water. However, we look at this iceberg and assume that we are seeing the whole picture just like when we look at social media we incorrectly assume that we are seeing a whole and accurate portrayal of someone’s life.
What Essena O’Neill did was nothing short of extremely brave and bold. She is being the right type of role model that young people need; someone who is prepared to speak the truth about social media and the misconceptions of happiness and beauty that is carried in its wake. O’Neill’s edited captions gave an accurate portrayal of life, the good and the bad and that is what we need more of in today’s society.
On the internet, we can be whomever we want. We can post a picture of ourselves without anyone knowing that we really took fifty or so photos to get the perfect shot. Photoshop and editing then allow us to distort reality even further. What this leaves is an image that is not an accurate depiction of reality.
The problem arises when young people begin to look at these photos and tell themselves that this is what they need to aspire to in order to be beautiful and happy. They set an unreachable standard for themselves. When they are not able to achieve this they are left disappointed, discouraged and with their self-image tarnished.
Many people may read this and not understand why any of this matters. Everyone has the right to post whatever they would like on social media. This is their right and I do not disagree. There is nothing wrong with social media and its original intentions of sharing photos and information with our friends and family. However over time, somehow, this mass media outlet has spiraled out of control and turned into a validation of young people’s beauty, happiness and self-worth. This is most likely not the majority of people’s intentions but whether we like it or not it is being implied.
Validation of our self-worth, beauty and happiness should not come from social media. It should come from within us. We are all flawed human beings; none of us are perfect. However, it is crucial that we learn to love ourselves exactly the way that we are. We shouldn’t be evaluating ourselves based on how many likes our pictures receive on Instagram or whether we look like the people we are following. This is no representation of who we are or what we are worth as a person. Young people look up to social media celebrities and they aspire to be like them. Whether they like it or not people with thousands of followers on social media are role models.
We should not only start portraying real beauty and real happiness but also the struggles of real life. It is what’s real that is most beautiful, the good and the bad. The more we portray that message on social media the more young adults will learn to love themselves for who they are instead of striving to be an image that in reality does not exist.
check out this blog post on the HuffPost Healthy Living Section