by Ilana Kisilinsky
The digital age has made the world a much smaller place. We are able to reach out to people from around the world, bringing different cultures and places right to us, and yet, we still feel unfulfilled, constantly searching for ways to make our lives better and more satisfying. This is because social media has created an alternate reality — one in which everyone’s life is always fun and exciting. There is always a party, a concert, or a vacation, happening, where there seems to be no sadness, no loneliness, no just hanging out in your apartment binge watching Friends by yourself. The social media experience that our society has created requires one to present their greatest and ideal self; anything else is unwelcome.
It is difficult for one to see their friends posting on Snapchat and Instagram and not feel excluded. People sense social isolation because they see others from every aspect of their lives doing fun and exciting things, while, at that moment they are alone looking at their phones. When one sees pictures of people constantly hanging out and making new friends, they can begin to think that there is something missing in their lives. It can make one feel like they are living life the wrong way because they don’t have nearly as many friends as that girl they worked with at camp two summers ago. Social media highlights social butterflies and promotes the unrealistic goals of what life is really like.
People go online and find themselves scrolling through countless photos of perfectly dressed people who seem to be having the time of their lives. This phenomenon can cause people to question their own lives and wonder if they are good enough. “I realized that people share mostly positive pictures on their social media accounts,” said Eli Goldberg, a senior at Yeshiva College. “Not everyone shows how they really feel when they are by themselves, because they are embarrassed of how people will react. Just because someone looks happy on social media doesn’t mean anything. I know people that live a fake life on Facebook just to be cool.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge recently sat down with Prince Harry to discuss the burdens of social media and the difficulties it presents for today’s youth. “You’ve got so many things to worry about now, whether you are struggling for exams, whether you’re struggling with home life, struggling with friends, and then you add the social media angle,” said Prince Harry. “It’s always sold as though everybody else’s life is perfect — that’s the problem, and therefore, you think, if everyone else’s life is perfect, there must be something wrong with me,” he continued. This reality is especially harmful to young people. They are trying to grow up, figure out who they are, and how they fit into the world with the immense pressure to document it all online.
While it may be easy to blame all of this social anxiety on the big green monster that is now social media, we as a society need to recognize that we allowed it to take over our lives. There is no one forcing us to post, snap or tag; it is our decision. “I saw what social media was doing to me,” said Jason Kohanbash an accountant at a PR firm in Brooklyn. “It was turning me into a jealous person who was constantly reevaluating his life. I would go on Facebook and then immediately think back to see if what I had done that day, or that week, held up to the impossible standards we create. It was scary, so I decided to bite the bullet and delete my Facebook account. I now have to make awkward eye contact with people on the subway but I think I’m healthier for it.”
This feeling of being alone and inadequate is created by us all. The majority of users of social media buy into the alternate reality that it has created. Adina Kisilinsky, a freshman at the University of Maryland, explained how “the things that people post are phrased or filtered in a way that makes them seem like they are the best form of themselves and that they are as happy as can be. This creates a spiral effect of people constantly needing to show others that they too are happy, all the while knowing that this level of happiness is unattainable, leaving them feeling faulty.” The way we as a society see and use social media is causing us to want a life that is unreachable. People become fake versions of themselves hoping that it will get one more “like”.
This monster will only remain if we continue to feed it. The only way we can make a change is if we take control. It is up to us, the social media generation to bring us back to reality.