I just wanted to do a little post today about not being fooled by other people’s social media profiles, especially in times of stress, and even more so when you are feeling anxious or low on those self-esteem levels.
Comparison is the thief of all joy, and, though I know it is wayyy easier said than done, we cannot go through our lives comparing our behind-the-scenes cuts with other peoples’ highlight reels.
As I stood smiling for the camera next to the sea when the photo at the top of this post was taken, I felt like anything but the happy-go-lucky-girl-out-for-a-day-at-the-beach that I was trying to portray. I’d had a panic attack in the morning, followed by a gym session during which I cried my eyes out while sitting at the squat rack because I was trying to convey how I was feeling to my friend Katie and just couldn’t hold the tears back any more, and the only reason we’d gone to the beach was because I was so emotional and hangry by the time Mr OneBigStressball got back from playing golf that I demanded to be near some water and so he made it happen. Maybe he was scared I was going to flip out and lob a hairbrush at him?
Anyway, we headed out to the beach for a late lunch and a walk, and sat on the promenade just looking out into the water. I love being near the sea/ocean. My ancestors in Hong Kong were 水上人, or ‘water people’ – they lived on boats and made their living fishing and mending nets – and I think it still runs in my veins. There is something so idyllic, so calming about being next to a body of water, and it’s quite sad that although Edinburgh is near some beaches, you mostly have to drive to them, so I can never just decide to go for a walk along the prom.
I didn’t want to waste a good opportunity for a photograph, so I asked for one to be taken of me, smiling as if I hadn’t been curled up on my bedroom floor just hours before seriously thinking I was having a heart attack because my panic attack was so rough. As soon as Mr OneBigStressball lowered his phone, indicating that he’d gotten the photo, the smile vanished from my face and we started to walk back towards the car.
At the time I thought nothing of it, but as I was scrolling through the photos he had taken of me to decide which one to put on Instagram, it just hit me how much of a ‘lie’ I was trying to sell by putting the photo online. I would have 100% put some sort of cheerful caption, but it would not be a fair representation of how that photo came about and how I was feeling in that moment.
Yes, the sea calms me. Yes, I felt slightly better for being there, but behind that cheesy smile was a woman who had spent her morning nursing the after-effects of a panic attack that had left her so emotionally and physically exhausted she couldn’t make herself lunch.
The picture I ended up posting was one in which I was facing away from the camera, and out towards sea. It was a much more accurate depiction of what I was feeling – in need of some time away from others – and I wasn’t trying to sell or fake any happiness that wasn’t there to begin with.
I know we are told constantly that we shouldn’t scroll through social media platforms and compare ourselves to what other people are posting online, but I also think that it’s important for us to take some responsibility for what we are putting out there as well. Happiness and smiles sell, and those are ultimately what you are going to get the most ‘likes’ from, but it isn’t a fair or true representation of what your day to day life is like.
I’ve noticed the differences in how many ‘likes’ I get from different pictures I post, and recently, there haven’t been as many as I’d usually try and get from a single post because I’ve been posting things that are a lot different from what I have done in the past. When I voiced this, someone said, ‘well, your Instagram has been a bit shit recently.’ Whether they were being sarcastic or not, it simply a) was rude. and b) made me realise that I have been placing way too much value on these likes and external validation from people I may or may not know.
I’m not saying that we can’t post happy things – I man, we use our social media platforms to share with the world our achievements, what brings us joy, and the things that make our lives sparkle. However, there is such a squeaky clean shine to the whole thing that I feel no one shows there rawness, their true emotions. And to be honest, that in itself makes me sad.
We hide behind our screens, using our filters and hashtags to put up a barrier between ourselves and the rest of the world, and it isn’t healthy.
There are thousands of social media accounts out there in the world. If getting these ‘likes’ and getting notifications with the little red love heart means forever chasing this shallow happiness that isn’t sustainable means I need to hide the ‘real me’, then I think I’ll pass.