Filtered Reality

Michal Spanjer, Editor-in-Chief

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I’m not one to talk about the negative aspects of social media. As someone who spends most of my free time scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or even Facebook if I’m really bored, it would be hypocritical of me to start listing off everything wrong with social media. But even I, a self-proclaimed social media addict, haven’t gone oblivious to the way all of the expectations and notifications mess with my head.
According to an extensive 2015 study by Pew Research Center, 71% of American teens use multiple social media networks, and 24% go online “almost constantly.” The continuous stream of information flooding our brains, as ideas of who we’re supposed to be swarms around us, slowly chips away at our self confidence.
The effects of social media on mental health is well-known, and well ignored, by teens. We watch YouTube vlogs and Snapchat stories and try to compare ourselves to meticulously edited and filtered representations of someone else’s life. A large majority of influencers on Instagram and YouTube have ideal bodies, seemingly perfect relationships and financial stability that allows them to pose in pictures around the world. Viewing only the high points of the lives of these social media celebrities, we tend to focus on our own imperfections.
Gazing at vibrant colors, wide smiles and beautiful scenery on Instagram feeds can take a hit on anyone’s self confidence. We absorb the beauty of the snapshots we see of others’ lives on social media without recognizing any of the underlying insecurities, but we can’t allow this false pretense of perfection to become our long term goal in life. Even finstas, or “fake,” private Instagram accounts in which people often post rants and pictures they deem unworthy of appearing on their real Instagram feeds, have exacerbated the problem. The lines between reality and of the idealism of social media begin to blur as we scroll through finsta posts, which we often view as more accurate representations of other people’s lives even though they are still only pieces of what others choose to share.
Granted, each social media network has opened opportunities for expression, building relationships and remaining aware of events that currently impact our world. Features like Twitter Moments create outlets to easily keep in touch with issues about which people around the world are talking. The mental health implications of constant social media use shouldn’t be reason to abandon the sites completely. I’m not advocating for everyone to delete apps from their phone or spend less time contemplating what to post; however, knowing the adverse effects helps people recognize when I’m comparing myself too much to an Instagram post.
The connected world has ignited a dangerous movement toward false reality. From Twitter wars to Instagram stories, we often subconsciously transform our personality to fit the model of how we observe others looking and acting online, and we lose a bit of who we are as individuals by surrounding ourselves with unfeasible expectations. Simply acknowledging the effects social media has on our minds can help keep our feet grounded in reality.

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