Do we live our lives through social platforms? Have we become so obsessed with the picture perfect lifestyle that we’ve lost focus on what really matters? Have we created a new form of digital addiction? Nat discusses.
I’m sitting on a beach in Dubrovnik listening to a group of 20 something travellers behind me. They have spent the past hour snapping pictures of each other in bikinis at different angles and in different poses to then spend another 20 minutes discussing which pic works better and which Snapchat filter to use. We are surrounded by turquoise sea, beautiful landscapes and it’s 34 degrees, but for these ladies the main priority is capturing the right shot to portray the perfect picture of their #bikinibody.
It’s hard not to judge, but then we’re all guilty of it. We have a habit of being nosey by browsing other people’s profiles or wasting valuable time snapping pics to post on our own. Trying to take a great picture of our food to have it go cold by the time we actually eat it. Faking laughter to perfect that ‘natural’ shot. Spending an hour having your boyfriend capture the perfect ‘surprised face’ shot. We want to project a picture of a happy, healthy lifestyle, full of wonderful moments and fun activities, but when does it become more than just sharing nice moments and start becoming an obsession? At what point does this habit turn into a problem where it actually consumes our day to day lives?
A recent BBC study into the effects of social media revealed that Instagram and Snapchat currently rated the worst social platforms for young mental health. The poll asked 1,479 people aged 14-24 to score popular apps on issues such as anxiety, depression, loneliness and bullying, bringing to light a new culture where some teens find themselves unable to adapt to social situations in real life as they have become reliant on their online persona and community.
The poll also touches on body image and how social platforms could have a negative effect on a user’s perception of the perfect body with many obsessively trying to mimic the looks of fitness bloggers, influencers and celebs who post heavily edited content to their millions of followers. Although this is one of the negative impacts of social media, it’s nothing new – it’s simply a shift in the media used to display this image of perfection. Instead of flipping the pages of a magazine with photoshopped models or watching modified ads on tv, we simply see this content online instead. But is this content too readily available?
Isla is in her early 20’s and explains she got hooked on social media as a teen when she was going through a difficult time in her life. “The online communities made me feel included and that I was worthwhile. However, I soon began to neglect ‘real life’ friendships and constantly spent all my time online talking to my friends there. I fell into a deep depressive episode aged 16, which lasted for months and was utterly horrible.”
However the report does also explain that Instagram, for example, was also found to have a positive effect in terms of self-expression and identity with YouTube considered to have the most positive impact on mental health, followed by Twitter and then Facebook.
Shirley Cramer, chief exec of RSPH who carried out the report said: “It is interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well-being – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”
In 2015 teenager Essena O’Neil quit social media claiming ‘it’s not real life’. The Australian teen had over 612,000 Instagram followers and made a living from sponsorship and ‘self promotion’. In a radical move O’Neil deleted 2,000 pictures and rewrote captions to remaining content revealing the manipulation, insecurity and work behind them. In various interviews she described social media as a “contrived perfection made to get attention” going on to confess “it consumed me”.
“Why would you tell your followers that you’re paid a lot to promote what you promote? Why would you tell your followers that you literally just do shoots every day to take pictures for Instagram?” she said in a 22-minute vlog posted to YouTube, titled ‘HOW PEOPLE MAKE £1000’s ON SOCIAL MEDIA’. “Like, it’s not cool. No one thinks that’s radical, or revolutionary. Yet I, myself, was consumed by it. This was the reason why I quit social media: for me, personally, it consumed me. I wasn’t living in a 3D world.”
On the flip side, although this may not work for everyone you could look at Vlogger Zoella and fellow social media stars like her who we can all agree are consumed by social media, but have happily built a career and successful business using social platforms, even branching out as brands to create products and publish books. These people could be seen as an inspiration to many touching on real life issues and hard hitting situations.
What gets to me personally is losing special moments to social media. Weddings, gigs, holidays, even births… Are we forgetting to cherish the special occasions real life has to bring because we are engaged on our phones, too busy trying to capture that moment for the world to see rather than living in it? Again this is something I am personally guilty of and feel this is something I need to improve on in the future, starting with our wedding, where we will be asking guests not to take pictures to post online of the ceremony itself, but to just enjoy the ceremony and take snaps after.
As a blogger social media plays a huge role in our everyday existence. It is indeed a wonderful tool to reach a mass audience, but it’s how it’s used personally that is the cause of discussion. From the birth of TWOP to this very day we try to give a very real and very true reflection on issues rather than mere snapshots of fabricated happiness. Not for one minute do we condemn those who do want to run their accounts in this way, it’s just simply not for us and not true to the nature of To Work or Play. Being real and having a happy work / play balance is the heart of our ethos and this includes our use of social media.
So I guess the point is to spend less time living in #FOMO, trying to project a vision of a life that isn’t in fact true and more time living in the moment, collecting memories and being true to yourself. Maybe even have a digital detox and every now and then switch off? The choice is yours.
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