While writing this column, I’ll check my email at least five times, refresh my Instagram newsfeed twice, and exchange a multitude of Snapchats. Who knows, I may even post a picture of this pixelated Microsoft Word document to my Snapchat Story to show my friends that I’m actually being productive and writing my column.
Needless to say, I fall into the overwhelmingly large category of young adults who would consider themselves “addicted to the Internet.” Although this is something about myself that I have been trying to change over the past few years, time and time again, I’ve come up unsuccessful. I’ve simply grown up in the Internet era (although luckily I did spend at least a few years of my childhood playing with sticks outside before the complete Internet takeover).
Within the past one or two years, however, I’ve noticed a growing trend within myself, many of my friends, and those around me. With the steady rise of social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat over the past few years, there has been an increasing need among young adults to post everything they’re doing so that others can see. These activities may range from going to a party to staying in and watching a movie on Netflix to even walking the dog.
As the saying goes, “pics or it didn’t happen.” What was once a funny Internet phrase has turned into a philosophy that many young adults internalize, whether they realize it or not. Have we become overly accustomed to seeing our own lives and the lives of others plastered across various social media websites that we doubt the legitimacy of an occurrence unless it is substantiated by pictures?
Many of us in this generation feel so strongly that we need to “prove” ourselves to others that we’re beginning to feel as if we have to prove our own worth to ourselves. Even though most of us realize how unrealistic most pictures posted on social media are, it can sometimes be extremely difficult to justify to ourselves in the moment that we should not be comparing our lives to this. It can seem that all we’re thinking about is: “When is the next time I should post something on Snapchat or Instagram so that people know that I’m actually doing things?”
I have a friend who I consider to be one of the least social media addicted people I know. She once said to me, “Sometimes I feel like if I don’t post what I’m doing to my Snapchat Story, it’s like if I’m not even doing anything at all.”
At first I thought this was a bit absurd and ridiculous coming from someone who I looked up to as not being addicted to social media. After getting over the bit of sadness I felt from learning that she too felt that she was losing validity from not posting every bit of her life online, I began to realize the gravity of her statement. It was: (1) something that a majority of young adults would most likely somewhat agree with, and (2) extremely indicative of our current state of mental well-being as a generation.
To me, the strangest part about this entire situation is that it’s a paradox. Most of us don’t sit around crossing people’s names off of a list when they’ve posted something on social media to “prove that they’re doing something.” Most of us don’t even think twice if we noticed someone fade out of the social media sphere.
Some of us probably even think to ourselves, “Wow! Great for her/him! I wish I had the strength to delete my Instagram.” It would be absurd, even for one minute, to question if this person is “doing things anymore” simply because we aren’t exposed to them on social media. And even if we did somehow notice that they stopped posting, it would probably take a while to even pick up on it, and we wouldn’t think twice about it.
So why do we feel this need to live our lives simply to post on a Snapchat Story? We know that no one is judging us when we don’t update the world about our lives, yet we still feel this need to prove our existence to the world. Imagine all the time we could spend improving our own lives and the lives of those around us if we stopped worrying so much about portraying ourselves in the best light at all times of the day.
I know it is completely unrealistic to imagine a world without social media, especially since our phones are with us everywhere. It’s also important to keep in mind that great things have come along with social media. But at the end of the day, social media is just an entity created by humans, so we have the power to not allow it to dictate the way we live our lives.
Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphic