Social media. What’s so great about it? It’s arguable that social media plays a vital role in business marketing in todays society, and that the “networking” social media provides is key to success on both a personal and professional level. But what part does it play on a day to day basis for average folk like you and me? It seems that when we view someones “feed” or “timeline” we are met with a barrage of smiling faces, luxurious locations and general happiness and joy. But here’s the question… is it real?
What is the truth behind this photo?
Above is a picture of myself from September last year. What story do you think this picture tells? One might believe it is a picture of a pretty girl on a boat who is happy, joyous, free and loving life. She has a lot of things going for her and hasn’t got a care in the world.
Well this description would be a lie.
The girl in the photo was admitted into a mental hospital just a few short weeks after this picture was taken.
Now, this picture wasn’t posted on social media last year. I’ll be the first to admit that I officially “suck” at social media. For example, Instagram has been huge for over 5 years now. A quick look at my profile shows less than 15 posts. When I question myself as to the reasons behind my lack of social media prowess, the first two things that come to mind are: “I’m just a private person” and “I’m lazy”. The truth is, both of these statements do indeed have some contribution towards my social media usage. But the main reason? Gulp, the truth is – I’m insecure. There, I’ve said it. Now we all know if we look deep inside ourselves that most human beings on this Earth experience insecurity. But to admit it? To another human being? Pah! Don’t be silly. And that’s one of the key issues of social media today – you don’t see the struggles, the tears or the everyday battles thatlife brings. What you see is a world that only consists of smiles, laughter, good times and good lighting. And when you look at these images/videos/posts and feel like your life doesn’t live up to it? Bang. Insecurity.
A great quote from psychologytoday.com sums this up: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
An important note; I am not saying social media is the devil and is the sole reason behind the worldwide epidemic of insecurity in our society. On a personal level, I will tell you now there are much deeper reasons for my insecurity than Facebook or Instagram! But for the sake of this post, let’s explore insecurity AND social media further.
The English dictionary definition of insecurity is “uncertainty or anxiety about oneself”. Now I believe that in relation to social media usage, this insecurity can lead to two opposing affects. The first is an attempt to combat the insecurity by seeking validation through posts which display social desirability (for example – happiness, attractiveness, success). The second is to simply not post at all, in fear of not fitting in with the social media defined “norms”.
A photo of my wonderful family on my birthday – I considered uploading it to Instagram, but didn’t – why?
Here is a photo from my 25th birthday last month. The story behind the picture is that I had the most lovely evening – I felt truly loved, grateful and happy. Now I’ll admit that “let’s take a photo!” is not one of the first thoughts that comes to my mind as I’m living my day to my life. Infact, I do wish I took more photos, as they are such a fantastic way to capture memories of life and loved ones. However, on this occasion, I had truly had such a great time and birthday that the idea of a photo sprung to mind. In the taxi on the way home, I looked at the image and thought about posting it onto my Instagram account. Then something hit me. It felt a little like a shortness of breath. A lump in my throat, maybe. And then the thought came into my mind… “You look like crap”. Woah, I need to take a breath a second because typing at this level of honesty is slightly anxiety provoking (!). Ok, here goes. The truth is, when I looked at this happy occasion photo, the selfish beast by the name of Insecurity crept its ugly head and immediately told me that – I – was not good enough. And why was I labeling myself this way? It was because I hadn’t preened my hair and make up and, at 6 months pregnant, I had definitely expanded somewhat from my pre-pregnancy size. I must mention here, that I feel truly blessed that while I was out for this meal with my family, these insecurities did not cross my mind. But it has not always been that way. I wince slightly when I recall the times that insecurity crippled me every second of the day, both when I was alone and with others. I remember when every day I didn’t want to leave the house because I didn’t want others to see how “disgusting” I was – both on the inside and the outside. So I thank God that that is not my story today. But it does get hard. Some days are just “right” and I just feel at peace with myself and with the world. Other days, the insecurity can feel crippling and I can feel like that teenage girl who just wanted to hide from herself and from the world. Just the other week, I was at a social occasion where I’m pretty sure 90% of the women were a size 6/size 8 (I am a size 10 pre-pregnancy). That niggling “You’re not good enough” voice crept into my head and for whatever reason on that day I was lucky enough to hear the “Your dress size and body don’t define you!” voice in return, and carried on enjoying the experience.
Comparing myself with others tried to ruin how I felt about myself and ruin my day. It tried to ruin my SELF ESTEEM. And this, is what is at the core of the epidemic of social media and it’s relationship to insecurity. And so the question arises, what can be done to combat this problem? I feel like I truly have so much more I could write on this topic, but I’m aware of the length of this post already. If you’ve enjoyed reading and would like to read more on specific areas of social media and insecurity (for example – body image, monetary/financial success or popularity) please do let me know. I wish and hope for education in self esteem to be taught in our schools and in our society. Even more so, I wish that the current values and morals of our society would change from being totally self-focused, image based, greed-loving ideals to things that really matter like love, relationships and helping others. So often it can feel like a battle that can’t be won when you think to yourself, “What can I do?”. Well, I know what I can do is to try and live each day according to my values and trying to be a better person. One person can’t change the whole world but one person’s whole world could be changed as a result of the LOVE received from another human being. Love is what I strive for on a daily basis. God said that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”. And so I feel like to end this blog post, I want to reach out to anyone out there who struggles with crippling insecurity and who compares themselves and their lives to what they see on social media.
You are enough. Not as something you could be, but you, just as you are. Your worth is not dependent on anything that is exterior – the way you look, the size house you live in, the number of friends you have. Your worth lies intrinsically in who you are. You are worth something. You are loved. Even if you don’t feel it. You are no better and no worse than anyone else. You are ok, and you are you.
If you feel affected by insecurity and feel you need to speak with someone, please call The Samaritans on 116 123 if you’re in the UK or an equivalent self help hotline in your own country.