On any given day, my social media feeds are flooded with inspirational quotes, status updates and photos of people’s perfect lives. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good “Believe in Yourself” quote in neat typography over a serene ocean backdrop every now and again, but the incessant, non-stop posting of these affirmations is something I find concerning. Something just doesn’t seem to add up. This generation’s tendency to shout out loud exactly how happy they are and how happy others should be, is something I refer to as “positivity pandemonium”.
You’d think this is all the result of our society becoming happier and happier, however if you look at the statistics this is simply not the case. According to an analysis of over 6.9 million teens and adults, depression is increasingly on the rise. People experiencing symptoms connected to depression such as memory loss, lack of appetite and sleeplessness are double and triple fold from their 1980’s counterparts. The use of antidepressants has also doubled within the last few decades. In addition, another interesting finding from the Human–Computer Institute at Carnegie Mellon shows that passive consumption of Facebook and Instagram feeds correlate with feelings of loneliness and depression.
So what’s really happening behind the scenes? Are people being sincere and actually living according to the quotes and life lessons they eagerly share? Are the highlight reels shared on social media showing the 80% or the 20% of their actual lives? Or do we now have an influx of social media actors – living out online personas that don’t actually match who they really are? In today’s world, it appears we have Instagram life and real life – and they don’t necessarily match. Yes, this is a thing.
In today’s world, it appears we have Instagram life and real life – and they don’t necessarily match.
When I look within my own network at some of the biggest offenders of positivity pandemonium, I observe a major disconnect from their online personas and who they actually are – there is no integrity with what is being posted and how they actually behave in real life. This insincerity is hypocritical and in a sense, manipulative. I know someone who boasted that the way she gets attention from guys who previously ghosted her is to make her Instagram feed show how much fun she’s having. I’ve been right at the scene of the crime witnessing her stage shots at parties and selfies with celebrities to show how awesome her life is. Her advice to me when I was going through a heartache was to strategically post shots of me with other guys and having a blast with no F***s given so he’d come crawling back (I ended up writing an article on rejection instead). While her Instagram life is FOMO-worthy, in real life, she’s struggled with creating and sustaining meaningful, loving relationships. We all know that an immediate social comparison can be the byproduct of observing other people’s glamourous lives on social media. But now, this desire to drive FOMO in others is actually an objective -with people posting shots with the intention to spark envy in others. Yes, this is also a thing.
So what’s the harm in someone sharing a positive quote, crafting carefully curated lives or raving about their last ‘magical’ experience? If these attention seeking individuals need to do this for validation, what’s the issue?
First, it creates a distorted sense of reality. In between “Everything happens for a reason” and “Be fearless” lies real life, which is not perfect, Valencia filtered and Facetuned flawless. Life is messy. Fear is a necessary emotion for survival. Reaching goals are not about magic, it’s about hard work, strategy and the occasional dose of luck and good timing.
In between “Everything happens for a reason” and “Be fearless” lies real life, which is not perfect, Valencia filtered and Facetuned flawless.
Second, the fluff is insincere and inauthentic. There are definitely people out there who have the credibility and the character that backs up the content they post, but for the most part, many self-professed spiritual gurus don’t. Anyone with a mobile device is now an instant publisher and can have influence – merit or no merit. Also, certain posts are shared purely with the intention for validation, fitting in and shaping public perception of one’s personal brand and agenda, and that’s really just a big lie packaged up in Helvetica. These small, everyday habits of presenting a false reality and an inauthentic persona (only to receive validation and bursts of dopamine with every like), reinforces an addictive and unhealthy pattern. Because at the end of the day, no amount of likes and Facebook envy will ever get us what we’re really yearning for: true acceptance, connection and love.
I’m not suggesting that everyone starts posting photos of the mundane and sharing complaints on their Facebook status updates, but I am encouraging that we become more conscious of what and how we consume social media. We are being wired by what we see on a subconscious level whether we like it or not. We also need to question what we are posting, and why. Are our intentions to make people jealous, get back at an ex or escape into a make-believe life? The seemingly harmless behavior of crafting a different online persona is rooted in a greater issue that may be worth examining.
Now I’ll leave you with this, “Dare to be yourself.”