My Take on the Social Media Controversy

There's been a movement recently to speak out about the inauthentic nature of social media. See why I think we need to take responsibility for our own perceptions.

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.

social media controversy 2

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.

Questions:

  • What’s your opinion on the social media controversy? Leave it in the comments!
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25 Comments

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:45 pm

      I love it it makes me so happy!

  1. December 17, 2015 / 7:54 am

    I agree with you! Perhaps I’ll seem harsh if I say that sometimes, people find something (I.e. social media) to blame. But what it comes down to is how we react to photoshopped pictures, etc.
    I do see how that girl was trying to shed light on the subject, and appreciate her new “stance” on it.
    Happy Thursday!
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Become a Better Runner With Balance TrainingMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:46 pm

      I do enjoy hearing her experiences, but it’s when society then takes that and blames the whole thing as a whole

  2. December 17, 2015 / 7:56 am

    Great post I agree with you. I addressed this topic a couple of months ago on my blog and you are right we have to be responsible on social media.
    Ivanna recently posted…How I Used Running to Reduce AnxietyMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:46 pm

      Definitely!

  3. December 17, 2015 / 8:34 am

    I agree to a point. I think you’re so right that we need to take responsibility. But, I’m an adult and can think critically. There are 14 years old on Instagram who don’t have those critical thinking skills. (And who were the majority of Essa ONeil’s following). They literally see a photo and assume that person lives their life that way or if they eat exactly what that person posts they will look exactly like them. So we need to be mindful of that.
    Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…Thinking Out Loud #51My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:48 pm

      I definitely see that point of view and thought of it while I was writing this. In that case I think it’s important as parents to talk to their children about things like that and how things could be perceived on the Internet.

  4. December 17, 2015 / 8:46 am

    I totally AM WHO I AM on Social Media… No photo shop, just Instagram Filters… If anything – ha ha! I don’t sugar-coat. I am proud of who I am and I have nothing to hide and I truly hate what social media has come to in regards to people thinking they need to be perfect. It’s just so unrealistic!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Star Wars, The Cookie Force Is StrongMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:49 pm

      Totally. Ha I know you’re totally who you are. Girl you so cray 🙂

  5. December 17, 2015 / 10:40 am

    As an adult, I totally agree! I’m able to decide who is beneficial to me and who is just taking up space on my feed. I recently unfriended 200+ people from Facebook because the negativity/politics on my feed really upset me.

    I worry about younger generations, though. I wonder how all this inauthentic behavior affects them.
    Pragati // Simple Medicine recently posted…Edamame Pasta with Brown Butter and SageMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:50 pm

      I agree and that’s where I think the responsibility falls with parents and mentors to have those discussions with them

  6. Paula
    December 17, 2015 / 12:50 pm

    I appreciate your perspective on this! I work with Girls on the Run, and one lesson focuses on teaching girls to be savvy consumers of media. “What is this message trying to convince me of? Why? How does it make me feel about myself?” Learning to be critical of incoming messages is an essential life skill, whether you are applying it to research projects, news stories, advertisements, or basic day-to-day interactions with others. While we can certainly ask that people exercise more integrity in how they present their lives to one another, it’s equally important that we learn to identify and disconnect from things that do not resonate with us.

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:51 pm

      That’s so great! I thought about the younger children and feel that it’s so important for parents to have these discussions w them. I love that you’re another positive influence in their lives!

  7. December 17, 2015 / 1:47 pm

    I can say that I don’t have any issues with social media now that I’m an adult and aware that everything on there is smoke and mirrors, but I’m SO glad that social media wasn’t a huge thing when I was growing up because I’m not so sure that I would have been capable of making that distinction. I definitely agree that people need to take responsibility for what they expose themselves to and not put all the blame on external things, but at the same time, I don’t think that younger minds are able to identify that something that looks innocent and good may actually be harming them. It’s a tricky thing.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…thinking out loud #161My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:53 pm

      Yeah I understand that. I think it’s important for parents and guardians to have those talks w younger children to avoid any misconceptions.

  8. December 17, 2015 / 6:52 pm

    I completely agree! People are very quick to find a scapegoat for any issue, and by not teaching children (or even some adults) to think critically about what they see and take responsibility fosters this mindset of placing the blame on someone or something else. Rather than blaming social media or fitness magazines, how about the focus be on cultivating confident and critical-thinking young girls rather than just leaving them to be “impressionable” (which I realize are still generalizations and there is a bit of finger-pointing there).
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Achieve Your Goals with a Running Coach + Coaching Services GiveawayMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:54 pm

      I completely agree. Love this!

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 17, 2015 / 10:54 pm

      Totally agree!

  9. December 19, 2015 / 10:14 pm

    Regarding the controversy – I was surprised that it went SO viral. Maybe I’m jaded after seeing so many YTers become just one big commercial over the last few years.
    Carmy recently posted…Fit & Fashionable Friday: December Haul!My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 20, 2015 / 8:19 pm

      Yeah it’s always interesting to see what things spread like that.

  10. January 13, 2016 / 3:25 pm

    Every so often I scroll through my feed and really meditate on how I feel after seeing an image or reading the “caption”. If I feel encouraged, motivated, or just feel a sense of joy then I keep on following that person. If I feel uncomfortable or any sense of shame then I unfollow. It shouldn’t have been such a controversy.

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 14, 2016 / 11:32 am

      Agreed!

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