We seem to be obsessed with crafting our social media profiles with gorgeous, sun-filtered moments of perfection. But we are fooling ourselves. The sooner we embrace our imperfections, the greater and happier our lives will become
Do you take 10 consecutive selfies to find that “perfect” angle? Or strike 20 different poses to ensure your cheekbones, eyelashes and hair look fabulous? Or play with filters and endlessly crop your image so as to appear “causal”? This is how we craft ourselves in the modern age. We are masters of visual illusion. And, yes, the camera always lies.
The internet is now a fundamental tool of communication, and with booming social media grabbing more of our attention, we have learnt to be masters of self-publicity through posed pictures, curated timelines, and breathless status updates. Indeed, if social media serves one overriding purpose, it’s to convince the world that our lives are fascinating, exciting and near perfect. This is known as image crafting. And to some degree, we all do it.
The detrimental effect
Why are we hiding from ordinary life? When you spend a great deal of time on social media, you cannot help but be influenced by the “ideals” of image crafting, so much so that it can be very difficult to find the same ideals in our own everyday lives. Take out your phone and go to your fave social media app. Now look at the five latest posts.
On my phone, right now, I can see:
- A kid playing on a scooter in the sun
- A couple about to fly off on holiday
- A couple kissing
- A couple on a summer holiday
- A friend completing a 5km run
Although these posts are from my personal account and are genuine people in my life, they will have undoubtedly been considered, checked and constructed before making it on to the social feed. Does your feed look like my feed? And if so, how are you left feeling?
If I was single, I would probably be feeling even more alone after looking at my latest posts. Living the everyday, ordinary life is not “social media worthy” anymore, not considered “exciting enough” to share with the digital world, and certainly not exciting enough to like, love or share. This has a significant impact on how we perceive our own lives and whether we deem a moment “important enough”, irrespective of social media. As I write this article, in my living room, on the laptop, with Moana playing in the background – I ask myself: should I take a snap and post it online? Or is this moment unworthy of sharing on Instagram?
Mistakes don’t happen
Social media is the perfect way to vet (or curate) what we want the world to see of us. Face it, we all have friends who micro- manage their image online, and we very possibly do the same ourselves. And heaven forbid we are tagged in a photo without our permission – friendships have been ruined forever by tagging. Image crafting reinforces the illusion that mistakes are not made in the real world, or happen to other people. Scroll through your Insta feed and you’ll notice that people don’t have tough times, don’t experience set-backs, and don’t suffer failures anymore. Instead, they have endless love, sensational happiness, breathless adventure, and a life crammed with excitement. This is nonsense.
First and foremost, we are all human and live in the real world. Failure is inevitable and something we all grow and learn from. Remind yourself of this fact when you see the next perfect “chilling with my girl squad” photo on your social feed.
If you told someone a problem that you’re having, chances are they would know someone (or even be someone) who is struggling with the same problem. Real life connections emphasise just how many people understand your struggle and have been in your situation. These are the genuine, true life connections that we need to help us learn, understand and grow in strength.
If you met someone on the street, you wouldn’t stop, pose, smile and filter! You would say hello and get to know them – social media should be the same
Spending time on social media looking at everybody’s “bump-free” life can be a lot of fun, but it’s utterly meaningless in the context of actual living, actual experience. If more people showed themselves honestly, and shared their true self, the level of online support and empathy would skyrocket. Why do we hide our frailties from the online world?
The texture of our lives is what truly makes us feel alive. Surely we should embrace our frailties and imperfections, rather than drenching them in sun-kissed filters and HD brightness?
Why be authentic?
Real life is impossible without human connections. Being yourself online will enable you to make genuine connections with people. If you met someone on the street, you wouldn’t stop, pose, smile and filter! You would make eye contact, show good manners, and so on. Social media should be the same. Forget image crafting. Instead, spend time being yourself, getting to know genuine people, and sharing authentic connections.
Also, we humans are savvy. We can smell integrity a thousand yards away. Equally, we can smell inauthenticity from the same distance. There is only one you in this world, so own it. You are the only person with your smile, your eyes, your laugh and your wrinkles – don’t hide or mask them. Being the real you is, secretly, what everyone really wants to do. So why conform with fakery? Remember, a like on Facebook, a heart on Instagram, a RT on Twitter won’t come running when you need a hug in the middle of the night. Focus on the real you and the real people who love you first. That’s reality.
How to be yourself:
When you show yourself to the world, people will naturally resonate with your actions. Take the first step and think less about the perfect angle, perfect lighting or perfect background and think more about what people can take away from your picture or post. How do you want them to feel? Empowered and uplifted or envious and disheartened?
Embrace the times when you fall over, make a mistake, dance like Beyoncé, or smudge your mascara from laughing so hard you cried. These are the true moments that should fill our mobile screens; the moments we should capture and share with the world.
No amount of filtering will change the truth we know in our hearts. The feeling of being yourself, and then sharing that self online, will encourage others to do the same. You are so much more than worrying about the number of likes you have on a photo that was filtered, tweaked and softened so that it hardly even looks like you.
Image crafting is great when we have a fairy tale, idyllic life – but for the other 99.9% of people, let’s be our true authentic selves and embrace the fact that we are all human and living a real life.