We all curate our lives to some degree. Only a few days ago I was a real hot mess, spitting and gurgling at my family over God knows what. Husband didn’t stack the dishwasher in the divine order in which it should go. The Boy still in toilet training, whilst also auditioning for some rock band as he incessantly bashes every surface with his drumsticks. That candid side of me would rarely come out in public and conveniently, I forgot to post a video/Snapchat of me losing my shit and frothing at the mouth.
I do however, need to address how social media has completely altered our lives in a way that is unhealthy and out of balance. Research has already shown that out of all social platforms, Instagram is the worst when it comes to mental health in terms of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. The data doesn’t tell us anything new, and yet, we keep on ignoring it, living our lives out of a pseudo-reality that is far removed from what our real lives truly entail. Not only that, the addiction and all-consuming nature of curating, comparing and competing over a digital platform takes us out of the present moment and into a place that can be dark and confusing.
I spend less than 10 minutes a day, if not, every few days on Instagram because I know long periods of trawling through feeds does not end well. I, along with every other ordinary human being who lives an ordinary life generally don’t feel uplifted and contented as a result of peering at others’ carefully curated lives. How quickly we can be sucked into this virtual world where you know in the back of your mind that it’s not even real and yet the FOMO alarms are sounding off.
Recently, I wrote up an article on social influencers and felt a bit shocked about the overload of narcissism and self-obsession. I couldn’t help but feel sad that this is the world we live in and somehow, I need to teach my daughter (she’s currently being baked) that her life’s purpose is far beyond perfection, pouts and pretension. My son needs to grow up respecting and honouring women, seeing them equally as leaders and contributors to society, not mere objects of botox, boobs and boozy nights.
So, in this open letter, I’m turning to the Social Influencers leading the next generation of men and women. With friends, fans and followings in the thousands and up to millions, you have a personal responsibility to lead our kids and lead them well. I’m asking the “Insta-famous” people to think about the messages they are sending our sons and daughters and whether it is grossly warping their sense of reality and self or if it’s inspiring them to love and embrace who they truly are – imperfections, flaws and all.
In order to help unravel how social media is heavily impacting us, I’m going to ask the tough questions that perhaps nobody has dared to ask. There will be backlash. Uncouth comments. Probably some trolling. But I don’t care, because I’ll take a hit for my kids, my sister’s kids and the tots that run around our ‘hood. Their future means more to me than anything, so with my brave face and soldier’s might, here goes:
Purpose and Meaning – are you teaching our kids to find purpose and meaning in overnight fame, money and power? The pursuit of these things has always proven futile, over and over again. Our kids will never learn about resilience, relationships and risk-taking if they just focus on being the next media sensation. Life offers no short-cuts to success for 99.99% of the population and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Contentment – are you giving off the vague sense of superiority by making your audience feel inadequate? We know what you show is only a fraction of what is real. Real people go to work. They also pay bills, cook and clean, and offer a meaningful contribution to society by connecting with family, peers and the community. Stop normalising glamour and glitz. Nobody lives on a perpetual mountaintop.
Value and Worth – do you openly disclose your filters, lighting effects, angles showing your ‘best side’ and reel of 100 attempts that was the pre-work behind your flawless post? Pretending to be perfect is exhausting, not only for you but for the rest of us who contend with the self-doubt that we will never be good enough. Do us all a favour and just show the real you. If anything, everyone will love you more for it.
Take a chapter out of the most honest (and hilarious) Instagram influencer @celestebarber and see how the people just eat it up because being juicy and real is something to be celebrated and enjoyed.
Materialism – if there’s one thing our society is good at, it’s filling our lives with more stuff. I see you showing off your fancy homes, luxury cars and designer pieces to fill your wardrobe. Who knows if hard-earned cash or debt up to your eyeballs paid for that. In Australia alone, debt levels are the highest they have ever been in history with the Reserve Bank publishing household debt figures equal to 190 percent of their yearly disposable income. Either way, the best things in life aren’t things. Instead of the excess and grandeur, teach our kids to live minimalistic and simple and to give rather than get.
Competition – the question of whether you’re posting for the sake of humbly sharing or to incite competition doesn’t go unasked. It seems like everything online is a competition, from the #fitmum that loses the baby weight quickest to the food blogger who gets more likes for his #lunchselfie. At what point were humans created to compete? If we spend our time comparing and one-upping, there’s no time to care for one another and show compassion. Our kids are looking to us to set the example when it comes to how we treat others. If we see everyone as competition, guess how they will behave?
As a teenager, I was lucky to not have to deal with the confusion and complications that social media brings. Though I managed to narrowly escape (see, there are benefits in being ye old duck), it is still very much a part of modern life.
For the young and impressionable, old and wise, we can all fall prey to the fabrication that fills our feed. Whether we are social influencers, parents, millennials, bloggers or celebrities – let’s all commit to being each other’s keeper and show a balanced and realistic side when sharing posts. If not for ourselves, but for our children whom we want to grow up being as healthy and happy as possible.
And, if you’re really feeling brave, have a go at chinning like this chick @chinventures who believes in helping others feel more comfortable and confident in their own skin. Michelle Liu has learnt to not take herself and her Instagram squares so seriously, which we could all do with a little bit more.