Last month, Australian model Essena O’Neil brought up the subject of social media controversy when she deleted over 2000 of her Instagram photos and changed the captions on several others to depict what really went on behind the scenes. She spoke to the dangers of portraying an inauthentic life and the impact it may have on impressionable young girls. While I admire her stance and I’m glad she has spoken out on her own experiences, I think it’s unfair to put the blame on social media as a whole.
Please note, this is my own opinion and yours may differ. That’s totally fine. What I think we as consumers of media need to do is take responsibility for how we perceive certain images. It is up to each one of us to determine how these photos, videos, and posts make us feel and decide whether that is something that we want in our lives.
I think we are all familiar with advertising. We all know about the extensive use of Photoshop on models, the perfectly staged shots, and the compensation that comes with marketing a brand’s product. If we can take those ads with a grain of salt, then what is stopping us from doing the same thing with social media?
It may be because I am surrounded by it on a daily basis, but I’m under no illusions that this is how people with a significant social media following spend their days. I don’t think that they wake up, have some coffee and a book ready for them, and then snap a quick, perfectly-coiffed “lazy day” picture. I think that any one who doesn’t understand this about the industry is being naive.
I understand that this may be easier said than done. If you had told me years ago that hanging up pictures from fitness magazines and eagerly awaiting the Victoria’s Secret fashion show every year was actually doing me more harm than good, I don’t know that I would have agreed with you. As hard as it may be to learn, we need to take the time to connect with how things in our lives make us feel. Do we feel empowered when seeing someone hit a new fitness goal or does it make us feel poorly about our own current progress? Are we inspired and energized when we see a great shot or are we left feeling shame about our own abilities and lifestyle?
My favorite social media application is Instagram. I follow a variety of accounts from memes to fashion to fitness. There have been a few accounts that I won’t follow or I have un-followed because I took the time to figure out how they were making me feel. The ones that I do follow and continue to follow are for the following reasons:
1. They’re artistic
I LOVE artful pictures. I love carefully crafted food shots and symmetry. I love pictures of Chicago. I’m not looking at pictures so that I can think man, why doesn’t my body look like that or why can’t I have a life that cool? I just love the way they look. Something about a tastefully done picture can make my whole day. It makes me happy and motivates me in a positive way. I guess this is why people love art? I’m not a huge one for museum art, but give me a well styled photo and I’d hang that on my wall any day.
2. Inspires creativity
This is probably the biggest benefit for me. I choose photos and posts on social media that inspire me to do better. My pictures have improved a great deal since I started putting care and effort into them. Different accounts give me different ideas for angles and shots. I love looking at pictures of the city because it makes me want to get out and explore in order to find new locations and scenery to share with everyone.
3. They’re my friends
While I follow a number of large accounts for artistic or laughable purposes, so many of the people I follow I know in real life. I love to be able to connect with them through commenting and sharing information. If they are people I know in Chicago, I learn about new places to go and things to eat. If they are out of the state, I get to see a different part of the country and I’ve also made a list of things to do if I ever visit!
Bottom line—ask yourself why you follow certain accounts. Is it to inspire and connect or is it to get wrapped up in unrealistic expectations? Would you have more peace of mind by simply removing those accounts from your life?
I know not everyone who posts on social media is doing it for the followers, the money, or the fame. Many of you simply want a way to connect with others and to offer snapshots into your life or your journey. Just like anything in life, think about what YOU need and remove those things that aren’t serving you anymore. It’s simply about personal responsibility and accountability.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.
- What’s your opinion on the social media controversy? Leave it in the comments!