ESPN published a very heart-breaking story about a girl named Madison Holleran yesterday. She was a very loved, beautiful college track star, struggling with depression, though it didn’t get to an official prognosis. Nineteen-year-old Madison jumped off the ninth level of a parking garage on Jan. 17, 2014.
While I think what she was feeling was deeper than pressure from social media, the story centered around the evidence that the ideal personas and edited versions of our lives that we present on social media are affecting us in possibly negative ways. As we absorb the information shared by others, we feel the pressure to make our lives look cool and picture-perfect. The internal negativity that develops can affect how and what we think about ourselves and others, what we think about our worth, and how we think we SHOULD be. We forget that it’s ok to NOT be ok, that we don’t have to live perfect lives, and that our worth isn’t dependent on how many likes we get on an Instagram photo. We forget that it’s ok to share feelings of sadness and struggle. We think admitting those feelings are disappointing and shameful.
Similarly, we lose a certain closeness with the people in our lives. We think watching their lives from afar and liking a photo or writing a comment replaces a phone call or face-to-face meeting. We forget to reach out to the people we care about to make extra sure they know how we feel and that we are there for them no matter what. We let social media be an excuse to not check in with people.
Social media is filled with filters and a lot of people use them. I use them! I rarely post about feelings other than happiness and excitement. I make sure my photos are as good as I can filter them before I post. I spell-check several times. I think twice about whether or not I should post something. Sure, this is a true representation of who I am (optimistic and cautious), but I don’t talk much about the struggles. I don’t talk about my struggles – from traffic and thoughts about my career to what makes me cry – at the risk of sounding petty, vulnerable, pessimistic, or self-righteous.
Social media is only a tool that tries to improve our lives. Behind social media’s filters, we are all humans trying our best to live our best lives.
What do we do about this?
Let’s be easier on ourselves.
My life isn’t perfect and I know yours isn’t either. So, can we be a little easier on ourselves? Could we think twice when we judge our own worth against what we see on social media? Can we be sure to connect with the people we care about in real life as much as we connect online?
Let’s make sure our social feeds make us feel good.
I’m all for inspiration and accountability, but there’s a certain point when seeing someone’s post makes you think negatively instead of positively. If you’re starting to feel bad about yourself and when it triggers you, it’s time to clean your feed.
Let’s live offline.
The internet has a lot of pros. We find opportunities, inspiration, and connection there. But we can’t let how we’ll be perceived online to be what dictates how we live offline. Are you doing something only so you can show it online? What if you lived a day where nothing you did would be shown online? How would you live differently? Taking breaks from social media gives us perspective and rest.
Let’s foster community.
The best thing about social media is the community. I’ve met so many friends through it! Now, how do we make real, authentic connections with social media? Maybe it’s comments and messages that turn into real-life outings and conversations.
What are some ways you use social media for good?