My mental health vs. social media
I’m dealing with the fallout from going on Instagram after a four-week hiatus. I couldn’t sleep last night. Am I comparing myself? Am I jealous of these perfect women?
I mean, I could promote and make a name for myself. I could probably get a few followers. I could blog. Why don’t I? Because it’s not genuine.
I didn’t like the popularity contest in high school, and I don’t like it now. So why am I still so upset? I think it comes down to a toddler-like quality: I’m jealous of the attention. I want people telling me I’m beautiful. Or that they want my clothes. Or that I have a perfect life.
But does that actually work? Does posting perfect pictures and revelling in the comments make those things true? Maybe. But that’s just not the way to achieve my happiest self.
It’s becoming clearer to me that each time I log in to Instagram I am being smacked in the face with people’s best moments and strategically taken pictures, and it creates an illusion that their lives are constantly this way.
Do we even think that, or is it subconscious? Sure, we’ve all read the Cosmo articles and Pinterest quotes not to compare our lives to someone’s highlight reel. I used to remember this when looking at celebs and models, but now it seems like I am inadequate compared to my friends’ bright and sparkly lives.
It doesn’t show them waking up and being too depressed or anxious to go to work. It’s showing that they are having a latte in bed and practicing self-care. It’s not showing them guilting themselves into exercising and dieting because they feel ashamed of their body, it’s showing them with glowing skin enjoying a smoothie bowl afterwards. It’s not showing their need for alone time away from family, it’s showing them getting flowers “just because.”
I understand that these things do happen, however, it’s the illusion that they happen all the time that gets to me.
I could take pictures and arrange my food/hair/clothes just so for the sake of the perfect post. But I don’t want to because I feel like it’s cheating. It’s not real life. So, I don’t do that (anymore).
On the other hand, I am a hypocrite because I also don’t post pictures of my low times. Because it’s not glamorous. Isn’t social media supposed to capture real life? But people want to appear happy and perfect.
I bet if we were stripped of the social media facade and were forced to interact like the olden days — in person and (gasp!) on the phone — it would be very different. Most people don’t talk to their friends about the perfect bubble bath they took last night or that their husband brought home flowers.
No, they talk about real life. Like how you took that bath after locking yourself in the bathroom because your kids were having meltdowns, or your husband brought flowers home because you yelled at him this morning for not taking out the trash for the 20th time. Social media is usually not an accurate window into our lives. Is it more of an escape to pretend we are someone else?
Because of this, I feel like social media has won. But, I can’t live my life for anyone else. I’m going to move on. Sure, they’ll still be out there agonizing over the perfect filter, but I’ll be living my life for ME. Not for an audience. I am going to exercise because I want to be healthy and feel comfortable in my skin, not to get praising comments.
I am going to bake because I enjoy it (and eating the product, obviously), not because I want people to see I eat gluten free. I am going to enjoy nature, not for the perfect shot, but because it feels good to be outside.
And at the end of the day I will ask myself if I feel happy, and the answer will be yes. And it will be simple. Because my happiness is not based on anyone’s opinions or comments, just on my own feeling. And isn’t that what life is all about?
Andrea Ottoni is a registered nurse on a never ending journey to improve her mental health in Edmonton.