I was chatting to a close friend of mine today, and she mentioned to me that she was going through some mental health issues. I was genuinely surprised to hear this, as I see her gorgeous smiling face popping up regularly on my Facebook feed, always accompanied by an in-love-with-life caption. It makes me smile every time I see her, and whilst most of me is simply happy for her happiness, a small part of me envies her colourful, fun-loving, smiley existence.
I mentioned this in fewer words to her, and her response to me, was “isn’t that what social media is for? ”
Her response threw me.
I don’t know that we, as a society, have given due thought to the long-term, serious, and far-reaching impacts of social media on the mental health of users; particularly young adults. People are not only constantly ‘on display’, but they are also constantly bombarded with the displays of others. It used to be that we lived in a world where the impacts of unrealistic expectations were considered, because of the nipping and tucking done during post production on models in magazines. Now, we live in a world where this unreasonable standard applies to all areas of life; and social media would have us believe that everyone seems to have achieved it. Everyone, that is, except us.
We present a false depiction of our own existence. We make it up. We filter it. We are literally able to take a ‘selfie’ and apply the rose-coloured glasses.
My issue with this, is that, whilst we are all striving to make our lives seem blemish free, we fail to see that we have reduced ourselves to the confines of how others’ may or may not judge us. Why on earth have we become ashamed, or worse, afraid, to be real?
We seem to constantly be striving to present a more perfect version of ourselves. A selfie with less wrinkles, with more contouring, with better lighting. We are trying to outdo someone else’s falsehood. We have become jealous over illusions. We are envious over relationships and lifestyles, that don’t even exist. And the irony here, is that research shows us that individuals with a strong social media presence are actually more likely to exhibit undesirable traits, such as narcissism and anti-social behaviour.
There is an estimated 1.2 billion people currently using Facebook, with almost half that number as being reported to suffer from a mental illness.
I am firmly of the view that, as a society, we take a selfie to fake a life… and I have tried through my blog posts and notes on my mental health journey to be upfront, raw, and unapologetic about what this demon looks like for me. I have also tried to use both photographs and text to tell the story. I believe both sides of life need to have their story shared; I believe you can’t have rainbows without rain, or sweetness in success without failure, or courage without fear. And, in the words of Blush, “real life is messy, and random, and sometimes ugly. It does not wait for you to click ‘post’ and it does not give a shit if you’re having a bad hair day.”
So, I challenge you… #nofilterforlife