Rebecca is a translator by day, and a traveler mostly at night. She is an expert on living with jet lag – and packing in tiny suitcases. You can read more of her exploits at RoughDraft.
You are on Instagram, as everyone else is in the world, right? You want to keep up with everything that’s going on in your friends’ lives, in the lives of your friends’ friends and in the lives of your several hundred favourite pop stars, photographers, travel and food bloggers. Even if you hate it, you often feel you are missing out on a major event if you don’t check your Instagram every twenty minutes. Even if you feel less attractive, less accomplished, less interesting, wealthy and grateful in general, you are still there, scrolling through those beautiful images feeling sorry for yourself for not having the hair, the body, clothes, cars, or super interesting lifestyle of people you wouldn’t know existed if it wasn’t for social media.
Aside from the many benefits it has brought, social media has been the number one originator of the impossible beauty standards which were once reserved only for TV and magazine commercials. To make matters worse, unlike the images and videos of the past decades, which portrayed models and celebrities, social media has moved ‘regular people’ to the forefront, making them the role models for perfect looks and lifestyles. In a world where everyone modifies their reality to make it look more fun and attractive, it becomes much more difficult for people to get a more realistic perspective, and distinguish between natural beauty and the curated and photo-shopped versions of it.
It is especially challenging for people who are more insecure and not as confident. Those who are not as emotionally stable may not realise that the images on social media, even when they are not edited, represent only the highlights of someone’s life, and do not include their less enjoyable moments of worry, anxiety, or depression. Ever since the rapid expansion of social media networks, many studies have been conducted in order to better understand the impact of this type of media on our mental and emotional health. One such study shows the direct negative effect social media has on our confidence. Namely, by using Facebook for one hour, our confidence drops by 5.574%. So, how does this happen and what we can do about it?
How social media ruins our confidence
As we try so hard to play the social media game and project a perfect image of ourselves to the world, deep down we may feel like we are faking it. This gap ultimately leads to feeling more insecure and less confident about ourselves. Social media makes us feel envious of others’ perfect lives and less content with our own jobs, relationships, looks, finances and lifestyles. This leads to a feeling of misery and feeling less worthy and accomplished.
Online conversations and observing life through screens slowly replaces real, face-to-face encounters and conversations, which leads to feeling alienated, anxious and depressed. As social beings, we crave human interaction which give us meaning, security and a sense of belonging. Reduced real life exchanges can wreck our relationships, confidence and can lead to severe mental health issues. Another way social media is ruining our confidence is by decreasing our productivity. By spending time in front of a screen, we still feel we are doing something, even if we are just being passive observers of moving images. Once we are less productive at work, our sense of purpose and meaning deteriorates, which directly affects our confidence. Moreover, it reduces our quality time in nature, with our loved ones, or doing our favourite hobbies.
How to escape the trap
Now that we are aware of the damages social media is imposing on our mental health, it’s time to find a remedy, while still staying on track with the world we live in. First and foremost, it is important to remember that social media is not real. The perfect lives we see on Instagram are just that – the highlight reel of people who’ve decided to share only their most amazing adventures. The beauty portrayed on social media is questionable, to say the least. Aside from highly retouched images, heavy makeup and excessive plastic surgery, Instagram beauty standards dictate uniform, exaggerated looks, completely disregarding the diversity and uniqueness of human beauty.
Once we decide that authentic and real is more beautiful than copied perfection, we will be able to appreciate our own looks, and feel good about ourselves the way we are. If there are still some things we would like to change, in order to feel better for ourselves, and not for social media, we can do it in our own way and make the most of our natural features. If you have some bad acne scars that have been bothering you for too long, or loose skin you can’t get rid of in any other way, you can find a good clinic and have it removed. The point is to make your own decisions based on love and appreciation for your authentic beauty.
Additionally, stay authentic when it comes to your social media feed. Don’t give in to popular trends and FOMO games. Stay true to your own taste, values and the people who inspire you for a healthier and quality time online. Lastly, and most importantly, make sure to restrict your time on social media. Start by measuring how much time you actually spend on it in order to get the harsh facts which will help you stick to your decisions. Make a clear schedule and stick to it, and you will soon see the rewards of spending more time in a day engaging in real life activities.