I Know Social Media Is Fake But It Still Hurts My Self-Esteem

I know that social media is a crock of BS, but that doesn’t mean it lacks the ability to make me feel like crap about myself sometimes. I logically realize that it’s all lies, exaggerations, and extreme editing, but it still makes me question both myself and the rest of the world.

We’re hardwired to compare ourselves to others. Yeah, we know we’re all special snowflakes and there’s no point in comparing ourselves to each other, but does anyone ever listen to that? Unfortunately, that advice isn’t helpful or effective. We naturally compare ourselves to others—it’s a survival tactic and it’s rooted in our evolution as people. Social media exacerbates this phenomenon tenfold, but I refuse to delude myself into thinking it’s possible to never compare. I’m only human.

I get stuck in this weird cycle of wondering if what I’m seeing is the truth. Sometimes I’ll find myself scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and I’m completely aware that I’m looking at enhanced stories, airbrushed photos, and complete lies. Other times, I find myself in this strange confusion of staring at someone’s profile or looking through their photos wondering what’s real and what’s fake as if I don’t want to admit that I know what’s really going on.

We’re probably stuck with social media for the forseeable. This is what gets to me. Social media is threaded into how we communicate, collect information, and share ideas. It’s the super lovechild of telephones, snail mail, and print news. It’s also becoming the lovechild of, you know, face-to-face interaction. When I think of it like that, I feel disgusted but I also realize that this is the norm we kinda have no choice but to accept.

FOMO is real (even though it’s fake). FOMO is such a strange concept, but social media makes it so real and much more pervasive. We live in fear of missing the next best thing, and we exhibit flakiness, commitment issues, and we generally avoid setting anything in stone. It’s disgusting that we allow this to happen, and even though it bothers me, I know, at times, I’m also guilty of it.

I don’t want to delete my accounts. I often hear about social media cleanses and removals. I’ve participated in a few of them and they absolutely have their merits, but here’s the thing: I like connecting with my family and friends through these virtual spaces. It’s easy, free, and can even be entertaining and fun. I’m not looking for a permanent detox here.

Lowlight reels can be worse than highlight reels. We’ve all heard that people post their best selves and highlight reels on social media. While this is true, I’ve also noticed a newer, more insidious trend that I call the lowlights. These are the posts and pictures coated in humble brags. It’s the “messy buns, I eat pizza in bed all day, look at my six-pack” posts. While highlight reels are relatively obvious, these “down-to-earth, low-maintenance” try-hard posts have a backward way in evoking strange feelings of envy.

Social media plays a huge part in social acceptance. Whether we like it or not, this is how we relate to each other in modern society. People stay glued to their phones, tapping, liking, favoriting, and uploading. I’m a part of it, as are most of us. This is how we garner acceptance and connection with other people. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it sometimes bothers me.

There are so many damn platforms. Once upon a time, it was awful HTML coding and selfies in the mirror with actual digital cameras on MySpace. Now it’s Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitter—and that’s just me listing the popular ones. It’s dizzying to try to keep up with all the different platforms!

It makes me feel like I’m not strong enough. This is a frustrating paradox I find myself falling into repeatedly. On the one hand, I rationalize the emotions I experience as a result of social media consumption. On the other hand, I also tend to become upset over these particular feelings. It’s as if I believe I shouldn’t have reactions or feelings whatsoever because I know it’s mostly a phenomenon of smoke and mirrors. But my feelings are real and I need to acknowledge and honor them. Ugh!

Like it or not, it’s what my generation does. I’m a Millennial and most of my counterparts and peers use social media. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of how much. I could pretend like I’m above the masses, but I’m not. I guess I’ll have to learn how to make peace with it somehow.

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