Anon asks: Hi Isaac, I have this weird problem. I look at Instagram every day and can’t stop thinking that everybody’s lives are so much happier and more exciting than mine. If it’s raining where I am, it’s sunny where someone else is, if I’m working, they’re on holiday, if I’m sitting on the couch watching TV, they’re having the time of their lives at a party. I feel like I’m going crazy! What do I do?
Mate, the thing you need to remember about social media is that it’s all an elaborate ruse to make you feel bad about your sad little life (which in reality probably isn’t that sad at all). You see, social media is exactly the same as advertising: It presents you with a problem, then offers a solution to make the problem go away.
Is your blue sky not blue enough? Does your skin not glow? Is your Eiffel Tower not silhouetted sufficiently in the sparkling Parisian sunlight? Simply up the contrast and USE A BETTER FILTER!
But more importantly: Travel more! Eat better! Work out more often! Make more money! Grow taller!
Trust me when I tell you that nobody is ever as happy as they appear in the photos, no food is ever as tasty as it looks in the photos, and even if a particular location is as beautiful as it looks in the photos, the girl who was taking the photo didn’t even get a chance to enjoy it because she was so busy trying to find the best angle and light to prove to her followers that SHE WAS THERE. Trust me, I just came back from Paris. I KNOW. (I was that girl.)
In order to understand what I’m saying, think back to the last time you were feeling not-so-wonderful about your life. If you’d been with your friends and one of them had pulled out a camera and said, “Say cheese!” you would have smiled, right? Does that smile symbolize your lack of worldly problems and the immense happiness of your existence? Not at all, it just shows that you smiled in a goddamn photograph.
The thing is, we’re all a bunch of hopeless liars. Somehow, over the last decade or so, we convinced ourselves that perfection is the only worthy thing in this world. The irony, of course, is that perfection isn’t even a little bit interesting. It’s incredibly boring.
Further, a constant state of happiness is entirely unrealistic. This is not an easy world, bad things happen. Relationships end, family members die, jobs are lost, hopes and dreams are dashed. But according to social media, everything is peachy 100% of the time. Don’t believe the hype.
I’m a perfect example. I’ve been writing this blog of mine for almost seven years now, and I’ve dealt with some pretty traumatic events — one extremely public firing from a job, three relationship breakups, friends dying, a near nervous breakdown — and for the most part, I’ve kept an extremely happy face to the world. Why? Because I bought into the hype just as much as the next person.
I flew back to New York from Paris yesterday, and while I was in the French capital I caught up with a few friends who were modeling in the Haute Couture shows. These girls are wealthy, they’re beautiful, they’re ostensibly the happiest people in the world, and guess what? Instagram gives them a complex, too. You are not alone.
And that’s what you’ve got to remember. You do not want somebody else’s life. We all have our struggles. And people who go to the biggest extremes to suggest the happiest of existences — or the most beautiful of Instagram accounts — know that better than anybody.
To paraphrase Taylor Swift, Instagram is a nightmare dressed as a daydream.
p.s. By now you must have read about Australian Instagram star Essena O’Neill’s crusade against the insidious nature of Instagram and social media. Watching her videos and reading her edited captions prompted me to republish this post that I wrote last year, and reading back through, not much has changed. I think it’s always important to keep in mind that if you’re scrolling through the feed of your favourite blogger or model, you can almost 100% guarantee that the photograph was staged specifically to show whatever is being shot in the best possible light — that, of course, is the role of a content creator. So view it for what it is — a pretty picture, and not much else.
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