The Reality Behind the Perfect Lives We See on Social Media

It’s no secret that social media is having a negative impact on our mental health. We are constantly bombarded with images of people living their best lives, and it’s easy for us to feel like we’re not good enough. Not to mention the torrent of negativity that flows within it. It seems like everyone is rich, skinny and has the perfect relationship – but this isn’t reality.

The truth is, most people only show their best bits on social media, and they’re using apps and even getting plastic surgery to make themselves look more visually appealing. Self-doubt is at an all time high, as are depression and eating disorders. In the last 12 months, we’ve started to see a positive shift towards gratitude, self-love and the importance of being real now that people are seeing social media for what is really is and the true reality behind it.

The History

There are reported to be at least seven billion social media accounts in existence today, with an estimated four new users joining the online platforms every second. From studies carried out in 2021, it’s been reported that the average adult had 7.6 social media accounts. That’s huge and it’s pretty safe to say that social media has become a staple in our lives – for better or for worse.

Social media was first created as a means of interacting with friends and family, and is great for staying in touch with people, particularly those that don’t live nearby. Despite it being an awesome method of communication, it has a dark side which is incredibly harmful to our self-esteem and mental health.

The Shocking State of Social Media

In a world where everything appears to be so perfect, it’s no wonder why we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others. Social media has forced us to alter our perception of what is real, and distorted the way in which we perceive beauty and success. This has had a huge impact on us as a society. Where’s the reality?

Every day, we see images of ordinary people living their best lives and we want to be them. I mean, who wouldn’t? These people that we’re seeing on our timelines every day have perfect teeth, perfectly sculpted bodies, perfectly smooth skin, wear designer clothes and drive expensive cars. We see this day in, day out and it’s this that forces us to subconsciously judge ourselves.

Nobody’s Perfect

Our reality has become so distorted that we perceive ordinary to be substandard and poor. We subconsciously accept constructed perfection as real. From filters to plastic surgery, anyone can make their appearance look perfect. And from photoshopping to rented supercars, anyone can make their life appear to be that of a millionaire.

Our distorted reality associates expensive clothes and a pristine appearance with wealth, when for the most part, it’s correlated with debt.

It’s Just an Illusion

We’re all aware that most people only show their best bits on social media and really, there’s no harm in that. Let’s be real here – it’s obvious why people would want to share photos of when they’re dressed up and looking their best, versus photos of them in their pyjamas with an acne flare-up.

There’s nothing wrong with choosing your best lighting, your best angle and using a cheeky filter but where does it end?

Don’t Go Broke Trying to Look Rich

It’s so easy to get sucked into the illusion of perfection and before you know it, you’ve cinched in your waist on Photoshop, you’ve blurred out all of your natural featues and you’re putting a pair of £700 Balenciaga Triple-S trainers on your credit card. Next thing, you’ve got a Range Rover on lease, you’re considering plastic surgery and you’ve got more credit than your salary pays you because you’re living beyond your means.

Everyday single day, people across the globe are racking up debt to live a life of luxury and it’s all for the ‘gram. It’s not sustainable, it’s not healthy and it’s not real.

You’re a hard working person and it’s great to be able to treat yourself from time to time but a lot of the people you look up to on social media don’t tell you that their first class ticket to Dubai was redeemed using Amex points, the Lambo they’ve been posting was a one-day rental and their designer clothes are fresh from China. They might appear to have money but don’t be fooled, perfection isn’t real and we all have our struggles.

Living within your means and generating future wealth is the new cool, and it’s everything that our community believes in.

Back in the Day

In recent years, social media has become a dominant force in our lives and most people can’t live without it. It’s great for keeping up with the latest in pop culture, seeing what your friends are up to and also, for networking. Beyond that is where things get messy. Social media gives us the instant gratification that we love – it feeds our insecurities.

Back in 2004 when Facebook first launched, people would upload albums full of photos, sharing everything that was on their camera (yes, an actual camera) from the night before – blurry ones, random ones, drunk ones. All of them. The fun factor back then was waiting to get tagged in your mates photos the next day. No-one really worried about how drunk they looked, if their hair was messy or if they were caught snogging a random person. The fun was being able to instantly share photos.

Photo uploads were simply memories of a great night, a great holiday or a general great time. Fast forward to now and people spend more time capturing a single, perfect photo in return for likes, than they do enjoying themselves.

Break The Cycle

It’s a lovely feeling when someone likes or comments on something we’ve posted. It makes us feel good and there’s nothing wrong with that. Social media becomes a problem when we rely on that gratifying feeling we get from it (in the form of likes and comments) and that’s how we get trapped in that constant cycle of needing to satisfy our insecurities.

We often pick up our phones and scroll without even realising. We’ve all been there when we’re on our lunch break, in a waiting room or on a bus – the first thing we do is pick up our phones and scroll. Where it gets worse is when we’re out with friends, out for dinner or out for drinks – instead of enjoying the company we’re in, we pick up and scroll. When we take a step back and think about it, how bizarre is that?

Do we even know what we’re scrolling for?

It’s so easy to pick up our phones and scroll. Before we know it, an hour has gone by and we’ve achieved nothing more than becoming further consumed and engrossed in the non-reality of other people. What starts off as a harmless habit, for many is becoming a silent addiction. It’s not until we break the cycle of comparing our lives to others that we can start to appreciate what we have, be grateful for our blessings and learn to love ourselves for who we really are.

You’re Amazing

To be born human, you are 1 in 4 trillion. You’re basically a walking miracle! How special does that feel?

Don’t beat yourself up for feeling insecure, we’re all guilty of wanting what we see – whether it’s someones perfectly white teeth, a perfect hairline, a big house or 5* holidays. We’re human, it’s normal to feel this way but you don’t need to measure your worth in likes and shares to validate who you are. Think about it, celebrities and influencers that you see online living (what appears to be) a perfect life are probably just an insecure as you are.

In recent years, the self-esteem of us all has taken a bit of a battering and just this week (as I was writing this), singer Charli XCX has announced that she’s stepping away from social media as the constant negativity has taken a toll on her mental health.

How Do We Fix This?

Unfortunately, there is no easy fix and weaning ourselves off of endless scrolling takes some work. However, it’s work that’s worth doing. Social media isn’t all bad and going cold turkey doesn’t have to be the only resolution either.

Do Not Disturb: most smart phones will have a function such as the iPhone’s Do Not Disturb mode, which gives you a time-out from notifications. You can even tailor which apps you get notifications from during this time, and even which contacts you can accept calls from. This gives you peace from interruptions without needing to turn off your phone (which isn’t always practical for people to do).

Digital detox: being constantly bombarded with the rings and beeps of notifications during every hour that we’re awake can be exhausting. We often don’t realise how much of a toll this takes on us until we completely take a step back. Digital detoxes are perfect way to unwind and regain focus. Without the distractions of our virtual selves, we’re able to reconnect with our real selves and loved ones. A study carried out by digitaldetox.com reported that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day! But as they so finely put it, “we need to disconnect to reconnect.”

Log out: from time to time, it’s good to log out of the apps that distract you most. This way you can retain focus and live in the moment without being disturbed by notifications. It also stops you from getting trapped in a scroll cycle. This way you can control when you’re using social media and avoid becoming trapped in your virtual reality within your phone.

Control what you see: if you know you’re still going to use social media every day, you can make changes to the type of content you’re consuming. Start by looking at the apps that you regularly use and delete the ones that serve you no purpose. Then, look at the people you follow on the apps you choose to keep. Unfollow the accounts that make you doubt yourself, that make you go on online shopping sprees and those that you don’t pay any attention to. Replace these with accounts that inspire you, put positivity on your timeline and add value to your life.

Below I’ve shared my top 5 Instagram accounts for wholesome, positive content.

Jay Shetty: one of my favourite people on the ‘gram and (in my personal opinion) the king of self-care! This guy knows exactly how to pick you up when you’re feeling down in one simple post and will get you loving yourself for you who really are.

Good News Movement: these guys give an alternative view to what’s going on in the world. Instead of bombarding us with negative news events, they share global stories of positivity, acts of kindness and general good vibes.

thegoodquote: everyone loves a motivational quote and they’re good to see when scrolling. Add some positive spice to your timeline and get the reassurance you need around the common struggles of modern day life.

Natasha Sandhu: if you’re sick of seeing photoshopped bodies that make you feel like shit, give Natasha a follow. She shares her lumps, bumps and cellulite, making you realise what a normal, beautiful body looks like. She even puts a spotlight on the tricks used by celebs and influencers that make their bodies look “perfect” and get us doubting ours.

The Dimi Family: for daily affirmations that spread love and positivity, this is a must follow account. Their infectious good vibes are delivered with a twist, by their bubbly, vibrant, 2 year old who has the biggest personality. What’s better than happiness delivered though the innocence of a toddler?

All You Need Is Love

You’ve read this far and probably realised that what the world needs is for people to be happy with what they have, be less materialistic and have gratitude. It may sound like I’m insinuating that this a you problem – that’s not the case at all. The cure to understanding the dark side of social media lies within our hearts.

Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools that we hold. Practising gratitude allows us to shift from a negative to a positive state and it might sound kind of cheesy but reminding ourselves of what’s good in our lives is good for the soul. When we focus on what we’re grateful for, we can’t focus on what we don’t have. It’s honestly a game-changer. Social media makes us become our own worst critics, and we need to learn to love ourselves for who we are – imperfections and all.

The next time you start doubting yourself, put down your phone and say some affirmations.

  • ❤️  “I am a good person”
  • ❤️  “I know my worth”
  • ❤️  “I do not need to be perfect, to be great”
  • ❤️  “I believe in myself”
  • ❤️  “I choose to be happy”

It’s time to make a change and this starts by being real on social media, as well as focussing on gratitude, self-love and self-worth. The world will be a better place for it. 

“NO-ONE CAN MAKE YOU FEEL INFERIOR WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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