In today’s world, our phones stay attached to our bodies like an extra limb. We live in a reality ruled by likes, follows, and some uncontrollable urge to document each waking moment right as it unravels. Social media runs parallel with real life, a platform for us to keep our family, friends and borderline strangers posted on each painstaking detail of what our daily lives entail.
We get to people-watch from behind a screen, keeping an eye on what the people we know are getting up to. And with this ability comes some unexplainable desire to outdo our peers; to post prettier pictures, to show off bigger achievements, to travel to more exotic places. This need to aestheticise our lives is becoming increasingly prominent, and it’s time to address it.
It’s no small secret that social media is, at the end of the day, a façade. I will readily admit that I too am constantly swept up in maintaining this elaborate illusion. When I have a night in with my friends, what an outsider would see from my Instagram story are photos of glossy lips plastering kisses on cheeks, bottles of Prosecco popping, and glasses clinking. What they wouldn’t see is the aftermath of this scene; my friends and I sprawled over the sofa in silence, applying filters, cropping out the hoover, and busily crafting the perfect pictures to post.
I’m entirely aware that I do this, for some inexplicable reason eager to glamourise my life regardless of its truthfulness. Free drinks reception before a formal? You can bet I’ll be posting a photo on my story, so that all my home friends think I’m some highfalutin student sipping on champagne every day. I seem to neglect to post pictures of the questionable, lizard-logoed Chardonnay that I regularly purchase for £3.50 on my Clubcard.
While I claim to be so woke about knowing social media is a lie, why then, do I still feel so bothered when I see on it other people supposedly having such a good time? As 2021 drew to a close, my Instagram feed was awash with photodumps and highlight reels of my friends’ years. I saw endless photos of beach trips, budding romances and carefree smiles. As I scrolled through these while sat at my kitchen counter, shovelling my mouth with pesto pasta straight from a saucepan, I couldn’t help but wonder where I’d gone wrong. Sorry, we were meant to be having a good year? While I speared tubes of pasta using the only surviving utensil in my student kitchen – a butter knife – I realised that I appeared to have missed that particular memo.
A good portion of my year was spent anxiously awaiting LFT results, getting excessively excited about interacting with the postman, or panic-eating cereal at 1am with an unfinished essay staring back at me. That was my 2021 reality. Instead, I scour through my camera roll and scrape together a collage of smiles, cocktails and sunsets. Because of course, I’ve got to let everyone know that my year was a blast. This mentality seems to stick somehow, despite me being well aware that everyone else lived the same unspoken reality that I did.
This incessant need to romanticise our lives has become trendy. Everybody does it. It’s so easy to get swept up in social media and believe everything you see. If I post a photo of myself in Gymshark leggings early in the morning, it would be easy to assume I’ve gone on a run. In truth, I’ve climbed straight back into bed. It’s 6am, pitch black and icy cold – no, I don’t want to slam my feet up and down on the pavement. But yes, I spent £40 on leggings, so I want everyone to at least think I’m putting them to good use.
Every year, we create an idealised synopsis of our lives to show the world. We give this chapter a glossy cover that doesn’t even begin to reveal what’s buried within its contents. In the same way that we delete photos of ourselves we don’t like, we discard the pieces of our reality we don’t want to remember and choose to showcase those we feel paint us in a flattering light.
I’m not saying we should stop, because it’s nice to remember the good bits. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that not everything we see is real, and we shouldn’t compare our lives to those of the peers whose existence we perceive exclusively through a screen.
Image: Austen Distel via Unsplash