One hundred likes, one thousand likes, one hundred-thousand likes—will it ever be enough? How is it possible that we as a society have come to largely depend on the opinion of others in order to feel better about ourselves?
Growing up using Tumblr and Instagram, I remember what it felt like to feel validated and appreciated through a virtual like. It was a quick feeling of happiness that only returned after another person liked a photo. Now, I realize how that feeling has caused social media users to structure their posts based on what their audience wants.
However, what exactly do we want to see as an audience? When following a lifestyle account, for example, does one follow it because they can connect with the person who runs the account or because they want to live vicariously through the other person’s experiences? What people do not see are popular social media influencers that don’t show us what their true lives are like. Instead, we see a portion of their daily life, created by previously planned photoshoots and carefully-crafted image boosting content.
Back in 2016, Essena O’Neill, an Australian lifestyle blogger with more than 600,000 followers, abruptly quit all social media platforms and launched a campaign on how social media is not an accurate representation of anyone’s life. In an interview with TIME Magazine, she explains her rise to fame as standard because “people listen to pretty blondes.”
O’Neill’s followers saw her as this perfect girl, humbly showing her life on social media. Instead, she created a facade of her reality to make money on marketing products. As a result, she suffered from social media addiction, low self-esteem and perfectionism, leading to her eventual exit from those platforms.
These are the types of things that we should focus on more often when using social media platforms. While we may love being connected with our friends and family, it is also important to realize how our mental health is being affected by social media. It can be overwhelming to be exposed to so many different messages sometimes. I hope that in our classrooms and social spaces we can continue to talk about this fairly new presence in our lives, and the underlying effects it has on our mentality.