Instagram…Positive or Negative was written by Kristen Sheft, a good friend of RBT Haley. She is one of the hardest working women I know with the kindest heart.
Every night, I am guilty of getting into bed and feverishly checking Instagram and Facebook to see if others, usually people I do not know and will never meet, have posted new content; new photos to pore through, new ways to fill my insatiable appetite for mindless amusement.
The scene plays out the same, typically devolving into an argument with my boyfriend. He chastises me, tells me to turn my phone off, and asks why I care so much about what other people are doing on social media.
My answer is always the same. I tell him how nice it is to keep up with friends and family while catching up on the latest fall fashion trends via the Insta blogosphere. After all, don’t we all just want to be #pinterestgoals?
But when I truly get to the crux of my dependency, the truth becomes more painfully obvious. I’m scared that my life does not measure up to the ones that play out on social media. With every scroll, every like, every hour spent online, I try to validate my existence through social comparison but ultimately fall down a rabbit hole of bitterness and depression.
Social media, while undeniably beneficial given its capacity to connect us, paradoxically hinders our ability to communicate. We equate a ‘like’ to genuine social engagement. If we comment beneath someone’s photo, surely that’s an acceptable substitute for picking up the phone and catching up with said person, right? Why make plans to meet for coffee when I can just post a brag-filled gallery of vacation photos so everyone can see what I’m up to?
Why do we do this? Why do we care so much?
I think as humans we live in perpetual fear of inadequacy, fueled by the belief that every other person in the world is having more success than us. So-and-so is in the Bahamas, and so-and-so is getting engaged, and so-and-so just got a promotion. We start to wonder why the same things aren’t happening to us and unhealthily obsess on others’ activity. That’s also when we try to delegitimize their success in an effort to prop ourselves up. We compare and criticize until we start to feel better, but all we’re ultimately doing is bereaving ourselves of genuine happiness.
Interestingly, while most of us know we shouldn’t feel this way, we can’t seem to mentally condition ourselves to think differently. More often than not, we fail to see that online content doesn’t accurately reflect everyday life. In fact, all we see are perfectly curated images and memories. No one ever talks about stressful events, failures, broken relationships, or other difficulties online, and that would tarnish our meticulously crafted facades.
Seriously, how dare we ever show vulnerability!