Dear Social Media, Stop Telling Me How to Love Myself
Every lifestyle blogger and their mom has shared a step-by-step guide to self-love with their followers.
Don’t get me wrong, self-love is important, it’s just ironic how the same medium that promotes unattainable living standards is telling me not to strive for perfection. For context, the #loveyourself hashtag on Instagram alone is tied to over 13 million posts.
Have we lost touch with ourselves to such an extent that we’ve created a demand for people to teach us how to appreciate reality again?
These mixed signals are hard to follow, but my real problem is this: why does such a large market exist for self-love? Have we lost touch with ourselves to such an extent that we’ve created a demand for people to teach us how to appreciate reality again? It looks like it.
There’s a link between social media and depression.
A popular report coming out of the UK (the one that said Instagram is the worst social media app for your mental health) states anxiety and depression rates have increased 70% in young people over the last 25 years. The suspected culprit? Increased use of social media.
A phenomenon called “compare and despair”– and it is as it sounds.
Although the report’s evidence does not define the exact cause of the increasing mental illness rates, research conducted in Ottawa suggests those who use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for over two hours a day are more likely to report poor mental health.
Viewing pictures and videos that are heavily photoshopped or staged can cause or exacerbate feelings of anxiety.
The perfectly curated images these apps offer are creating a phenomenon called “compare and despair”– and it is as it sounds. The study showed viewing pictures and videos that are heavily photoshopped or staged can cause or exacerbate feelings of anxiety.
So, is completely rejecting social media, a definitive aspect of millennial culture, really the answer to curing the spike in mental illnesses? Probably not. But the link between the two is significant. Social media has its pitfalls, and it’s up to us to stop ourselves from confusing internet reality with everyday life.
We have to protect ourselves.
In an age of alternative facts, we have to be critical of the media that is presented to us–even if it is just a fitness selfie. We are reaching a point in time where we rely on social media for more than just personal use.
In a study conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, 75% of the 2011 Canadians surveyed use the internet to consume the news, and 48% specifically use a social media application. The study also found that around 50% of Canadians put a high level of trust in Canadian news sources.
Back then, if I could have gone to the mall and traded in my legs for a pair of new ones I would have.
Not only are we using social media to create our own reality, but we are relying on it to accurately report the global state of affairs. No wonder the line between reality and the curated online world is becoming harder to see.
At seventeen, I didn’t think to critically analyze the media I was feeding myself–what seventeen year-old does?
For example, as a teenager circa 2013, my basis for reality was rooted in the posed workout, diet, and progress pictures I saw posted by the Instagram accounts I followed. And, if I could have gone to the mall and traded in my legs for a pair of new ones, I would have. Having a thigh gap was a trendy must-have, kind of like having a pair of white Converse or a Herschel backpack.
At seventeen, I didn’t think to critically analyze the media I was feeding myself. (What seventeen year-old does?) Thankfully, as the line between reality and what is presented to us on social media continues to be muddied, an important shift is happening in response.
Nobody’s perfect, nobody.
Recently, internet influencers have been breaking the social media fourth wall. Popular model Alexis Ren recently shared her story, and struggle, about dealing with an eating disorder that started after the death of her mother. Referencing her recent interview with Cosmopolitan, her disorder took full reign while she was traveling the world with her then-boyfriend, Jay Alvarrez.
Alexis, or anyone with a mental illness for that matter, does not have the obligation to share their struggle with the world.
Alexis and Jay’s videos and pictures highlight their spirited and exciting lifestyle while traipsing the globe; there is no trace of the darkness an eating disorder can cause a person to experience in them.
Alexis, or anyone with a mental illness for that matter, does not have the obligation to share their struggle with the world. However, as a prominent social-media figure with the ability to influence how young people view themselves, she does carry a heavy responsibility on her shoulders. Alexis emphasizes that it’s the tendency to compare yourself to people on social media that can make it toxic. She wants her followers to recognize and be aware of this.
Whether she knows it or not, Gabby’s openness is important to an online environment that is slowly becoming much more real.
Toronto’s own Gabby Scheyen is introducing her following to the person she is behind her Instagram feed as well. With almost 200 thousand followers, Gabby is a growing fitness mogul who is candid about her struggles with binge eating. Whether she knows it or not, Gabby’s openness is important to an online environment that is slowly becoming much more real. She smashes the notion of perfection into pieces by sharing her struggles and triumphs at the same time.
In conclusion, stop looking to social media for happiness.
I realize the irony that you’re reading this on the internet. But what the online world has eliminated is the understanding that good and bad things can happen to us at the same time. We are too often viewing people’s highlight reels through perfectly curated photo feeds, and they subconsciously make us believe that’s how life should be all the time.
We are not walking Instagram posts that are frozen in time on the “perfect” moment. We all have bad angles and rough days. That is the human experience–something truly worth liking. We shouldn’t need social media to remind us of it.*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.