Social media is a funny thing. It allows us to connect with people from across the world and establish new connections with incredible human beings who help us grow, who inspire us, who can teach us something new, or who can simply share an interest with us and turn those interests into bonds and friendships.
As 20-somethings, most of us grew up hearing the dangers of social media as we begun our journeys on Myspace and LiveJournal, long before we migrated to Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, TikTok, and the millions of other social networks accessible to us today. That great risk was exposing ourselves to dangerous people. Our parents and teachers would say, “Don’t befriend strangers on the internet because they could be pretending to be someone they’re not.”
But what happens when it’s not just those “dangerous” people who are pretending to be someone they aren’t?
There is something far more threatening about social media than just the thrill of talking to a stranger: losing your own sense of identity.
Who are you, really? Is it the woman in that mirror selfie you posted this morning – you know the one? The picture you’ve tweaked and pulled into different photo-editing apps, and then spent another hour deciding on the perfect filter to compliment your skin tone. The one that ensures you’re giving off the perfect perception of yourself so that the world only sees the very best side of you.
This, alone, causes a skewed sense of how we view ourselves by constantly stacking ourselves up against a fixed version of others. It forces us to use social media to appear in a light that may not always be truthful.
But I’m not here today to talk about how social media forces us to compare ourselves to others, which is undoubtedly harmful. Rather, I want to talk about the harmful effects it can have on YOU to always filter what you share.
Before I dive in, let me preface this by telling you why I’ve decided to write this. For the past 5+ years, my life has been very public and my name is very uncommon. Because of this, a simple Google search brings up this website, my LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, books I’ve read and shared on GoodReads, articles I’ve published in college for HerCampus, posts I’ve shared on Medium, my poetry website, information from when I was the yearbook editor… you get the picture.
But while I was always very public, I’ve censored myself and what I decided to share. Especially on social media. I wanted to come across as this person who always had her life together and was on top of everything and in control. Showing any signs of vulnerability, or realness, made me feel too exposed – which is ironic for someone whose entire life lives online for the world to see.
“Showing any signs of vulnerability, or realness, made me feel too exposed.”
Because of this fear of vulnerability, I’ve spent so long shaping my social media presence to only show the best version of myself. In turn, I put myself on this pedestal of sorts. It made me less human and more like this idyllic perfect woman. One who is strong because she chooses to only show herself putting up a fight and never standing down. One who is independent and living on her own and working in the city. One who is driven and has a great career and goes after what she wants, regardless of obstacles. One who is attractive because she always has the perfect filter and has mastered the art of putting a smile on her face no matter what.
But what about the human side of me? The parts of me that aren’t so beautiful to look at? The parts of me that aren’t always strong and brave and lovable? Why do I keep those hidden? Why does showing vulnerability have to equal weakness?
Here’s what I’ve learned: it’s doesn’t.
I’ve spent so much time refusing to show weakness and now, when I’m currently struggling in ways that words might not ever be able to properly capture in a single blog post, it’s all backfiring on me. I’m afraid to be who I truly am. To share how I’m truly feeling.
Instead, I’ve been hiding from social media during this tough time. Tucking myself away and only sharing my quote – messy – unquote side on private accounts or on my poetry site where I can hide behind a façade and pretend like it’s not really on display for the world to see.
But who cares if people who follow me realize I’m only human at the end of the day? That I don’t always have everything put together? That my thoughts are messy? That my brain is scattered and I deal with the same anxieties and mental health struggles as anyone else might face? That I don’t hurt as deeply as others? That I’m not always perfect?
So I’m challenging myself, as well as all of you, to do this: start wondering why you only post the sides of yourself that are ideal and admirable. Because, in time, you’ll learn to realize one very important thing: the vulnerable and the messy, the real and the emotional… those aspects still make you beautiful, and strong, and brave, and, most importantly, lovable.
The world deserves your authenticity. You deserve to feel authentic. In everything you do and every single picture or post that you share.