“When will it be my turn?”
“Why do her curves seem so right in her bikini?”
“If I go to the gym, will I be as toned as he is?”
“Why am I not as smart as they are?”
”Will I ever get my big break, too?”
“Will I ever find the love of my life, get proposed in a fancy beach by the sunset, start a family of my own, and have a kid as adorable as my friend’s that I can post on Facebook?”
Chances are these questions might’ve crossed your mind while scrolling down your News Feed at some point in your online life.
You have your friends who post “essays” of their accomplishments and realizations every New Year’s Eve in an attempt to reflect on their annual journey without sounding like they’re humble-bragging.
Then you have “Thank You, Lord!” messages from your friends after ticking off each milestone, photos of your batchmates getting married… you get the picture.
And to make things worse, even your friends’ parents (or sometimes your own parents) start joining the bandwagon by showing off their kids’ valedictorian medals.
Everybody has insecurities, and social media can feed them if you’re not careful.
After all, it’s really easy to get carried away with Likes and your friends’ public approval, and with everything that you see plastered all over social media, it’s incredibly easy to feel unhappy with your own life compared to the happy faces that you see on your screen.
With everything in our reach, we’ve reached an age where we tend to consume more than we can give, which leads to entitlement in our part.
So how can we change this? If you find yourself feeling bad about your friends’ social media posts and you’re starting to question your own worth, here are some things you should remember:
Everything that you see in social media is heavily staged.
Surely, you’ve probably scrolled down your Instagram feed and checked out all your friends’ perfect photos and marveled at their looks, outfits, and even their own vacations.
But you do know that they’re all scripted, right? Women (and some men) are guilty of this as well. Capturing a “perfect” photo usually takes a minute, and that doesn’t only include looking for the best lighting conditions, putting on your make-up or rehearsing your most natural poses.
Sometimes, people do this because they use their social media accounts for work. For instance, politicians curate their feeds in a positive light, and freelance actors use their social media accounts to promote their work, while others create portfolios of themselves on Instagram.
Do they do this so they can brag to everyone about their looks or their talents? Not necessarily – possible collaborators and future employers chance upon people’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles as their basis for future opportunities, and having a “clean” social media account can also grant career opportunities if needed.
People only show what they want you to see.
Nobody posts their mishaps, vulnerabilities or really bad photos of themselves on Facebook, so of course, they’re bound to show you their “best selves”. Likewise, there’s a very slim chance that you or your friends would post photos of themselves with a pimple in place or show your friends what you look like without makeup on.
This, in turn, creates an unspoken competition among social media users, where people keep posting the best version of themselves in exchange for more validation.
It’s easy to control what you what you want other people to know about you. On Facebook alone, you can can easily lock Facebook feeds so that only you can choose to write on your Timeline and stop embarrassing relatives from sharing embarrassing photos of yourself during birthdays. You’re even given the choice to allow your friends to tag you in a certain photo.
You’d probably see happy smiles of families plastered all over your News Feed, but you probably wouldn’t know about their quarrels the night before. You’ve probably even had a friend who’s leaving well-processed photos of himself to hundreds of bespectacled friends who don’t know any better than to compliment you for landing what appears to be a modeling stint, only for you to learn that they’re merely photos from a casual photoshoot.
People usually veer away from all sorts of negativity online (which is why you tend to see so much positivity making waves all over your News Feed, simply because they supposedly make other people happy.) Chances are, people would laugh at you or find you ridiculous if you’ve posted a video of yourself sobbing over a break-up. Conversely, most find it a “call for attention” whenever people post depressing posts on their feed.
It doesn’t help that social media algorithms affect what you see. Facebook algorithms, in particular, have certain mechanics where your posts are automatically boosted on top of everyone’s News Feeds whenever you share a milestone and people shower it with “Congratulations!” comments every so often.
On a darker note, this also means anyone can manipulate what they post online, regardless of its authenticity. So be warned: you shouldn’t always trust everything that you see online.
You can’t judge a person based on what you see online.
The happy person that you see online might not always be as positive as they sound at a glance. That one friend who keeps posting political posts isn’t always as aggressive as they seem. Another friend might sound too reserved online that makes them sound robotic, only to learn that they’re completely energetic and unusually talkative in real life. Conversely, that one friend who posts depressing stuff on their feed may not always be sad as they seem. People often separate their online personas from what we’re used to each day.
Likes and Shares are just numbers.
Facebook and Instagram Likes can be faked, by the way. They can also be bought. And followers can also be paid. But at the end of the day, these are all just numbers that are there to help promote a certain brand. After all, no technology can ever beat real customers and real friends.
Therefore, if your friends have actually made a business page for themselves just because a lot of people seem to keep Liking or sharing their posts, don’t worry – contrary to what they want you to think, they don’t really matter in the real world.
Followers and “friends” don’t always translate to actual relationships.
Feeling bad that your friends happen to have more than 3,000 friends on their Facebook accounts? Or are you feeling worse that your own cousin has thousands of “followers” while you’re only “following” a handful of folks?
Chances are some of those friends are merely friends with acquaintances or a long-lost batchmate that they were never really close to but decided to connect for the sake of that common connection.
Similarly, these people do not necessarily mean they translate to great support in real life. Sometimes, the ones with 400 Facebook friends or less are the ones that tend to have hundreds of actual real-life friends while the ones with thousands of friends on their profiles barely even talk to these people.
Again, by the end of the day, these are just numbers. They may seem a lot to most but not every time.
Online conversations are not always real.
How we talk in social media can easily be misinterpreted. It’s incredibly easy to sound formal or upbeat in social media compared to how you really talk in real life. Again, anything in social media can be altered to lighten up the way people see you. After all, social media is a great way to mask who you really are in real life.
So now that we know why social media can bring that insecurity into light, is there a way to make it stop?
Fortunately, there are ways to help you forget these insecurities, and they can be tempered – or even eliminated completely – if you do something about it from your end. And trust me, they’re not even that hard to do:
Unplug from social media every once in a while.
If you’re starting to feel the insecurities creeping into your system, go offline. Now. These insecurities won’t go away as long as you keep refreshing your news feed.
Get off social media. Turn off your gadgets. Hide them elsewhere. Then do something else. Go outside, read a book, start a passion project or play with your pets. Do anything that will get your mind off social media.
If you really need to log back in, stay away from your News Feed. It might make you feel a bit self-conscious but sometimes using your own profile as your “landing page” can help you concentrate on yourself and lessen the temptation of comparing yourself to your friends.
Or if you really can’t resist leaving your phone or laptop alone, download a productivity app. They usually have features that will either render your phone unusable for the next hour or so.
Don’t force yourself to be positive if you don’t feel like it.
The temptation to join the bandwagon and post your own highlights will always be there, but forcing yourself to be positive when you don’t feel like it isn’t okay. Remember, not everything that you see in social media is real.
And honestly, it’s impossible to be 100% happy all the time. If you don’t feel like congratulating your friend now, you can always do it later.
Know that everybody is human.
It may sound simple and tacky but understanding one’s insecurities means fully appreciating and acknowledging your emotions. Feeling insecure? Acknowledge it. Embrace it. Know that everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s okay to feel vulnerable every once in a while.
Know that everybody’s struggling with something, and just because some of your friends seem to have made it big on social media doesn’t mean they’re not going through hardships of their own. Choose to look at life from a bigger perspective, and once you’ve fully acknowledged that you’re not alone in your struggles, be compassionate with yourself. Forgive yourself.
There is life outside social media. Believing in yourself is all it takes.
Once you’ve come into terms with your own insecurities, here’s one thing to keep in mind when you’re still going through a rough time: you are enough. You are just as capable as the people that you see. Keep practicing self-compassion. And be gentle with yourself. That’s when you start acquiring the power to achieve as much as the people on your feed who love broadcasting their success to everyone.
And remember: there is life outside social media. And there is still plenty of time for you to make it big. You are not defined by what people see in a screen and what you see should never define what you’re capable of. Concentrate on the bigger picture at hand. Then you’ll be able to conquer your own insecurities as well.