Is it problematic that my social media is a highlight reel?
My unsolicited take on work-life-social balance
With the exception of one post over the last 2.5 years, I would say my instagram feed is a highlight reel.
Do I see a problem with that? Honestly, no.
Like most of us, I enjoy when the content I consume feels authentic and real, but what exactly does that mean? For example, misleading through photoshop or facetune and passing it off as real is a no-go in my book. Other than that, I don’t see the issue in keeping our social media channels as a diary of sorts. And you wouldn’t share your real, full-of-gutter-thoughts diary with the world, right? That would be too personal.
Let’s hash this out for a minute
To me, the internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time, on the list with things like indoor plumbing and antibiotics. It has educated and entertained me in so many ways, in addition to the way it connects and brings people together. It would have been very hard for me to make the friends I have now if the internet and social media didn’t currently exist. On the other hand, the internet is also a trash place where a lot of shady and sad things happen. I also count myself lucky that when I was in high school, social media was still in its infancy and I therefore didn’t have to endure cyber bullying, just as one example.
There have been many articles in the last few years calling for social media platforms to be less idealistic and more vulnerable or authentic. But basically those words are only being used in the way of ‘share personal struggles so we can humanize you how we see fit’. One blog article I found against the highlight reel idea stated at one point, “If I’m having a bad day and I scroll through social media, I often feel worse about my day because I see everyone enjoying their life with no stress or struggles.” That sounds bleak, right? But others may find that scrolling social media on a bad day cheers them up or simply distracts them and gives them hope that things will get better. It all depends on your mindset and we should never, ever forget that social media only shows a fraction of someone’s life. Don’t fall into the trap.
FOMO is a hell of a drug, and similar to the statement above, the common argument is that if we’re comparing ourselves to our friends’ or influencers’ highlight reels, this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and make us feel worse about our own lives. To a certain extent, I think there is a responsibility on those of us consuming content to take notice of how others make us feel and follow or unfollow accordingly. When did we forget that people are only showing us minutes-long or even just seconds-long glimpses into their life? Is it easier to change our perspective, or should we fight to change society’s perspective as a whole? Or is the goal to meet somewhere in the middle?
“The judges want to see more of that vulnerability.” – every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race ever
If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’ll be familiar with this inevitable ‘critique’ they give a queen who is most likely doing well, just to stir up a little drama and emotion. As this article says, more or less forcing the drag queens on the show to share personal topics is exploitative. At certain points in the show, “If you don’t cry, you’re going home…[but] being more reserved about your personal life doesn’t make you a less successful drag queen.” The only way it feels authentic is if it’s coming from people themselves and not being pushed or prodded by outside forces, and I feel this way about opening up on social media as well.
I certainly welcome those who want to keep it real and post vulnerable and potentially ‘not so glamorous’ things. There are people who have posted openly about their struggles with fertility, their grief, their trauma, and many other things in the hopes of destigmatizing topics that were previously taboo, and I earnestly applaud them for sharing their stories. I just don’t feel like that is the place for me. I generally prefer to keep my corner of the internet a bright and fun place. Once you open up to sharing, you’re also opening yourself to criticism and ‘suggestions’ from people who think they know better. This can be rough on sensitive souls like myself! There are enough dark things happening in this world every day, and I would prefer to keep my personal struggles either to myself or within my small circle. And I don’t feel a shred of guilt for that.
How living in Germany has changed my perspective
I’m about to generalize a bit here, but I’m hoping you’ll agree with me. The majority of Germans are fairly private people. They keep pretty clear lines between their work relationships and their personal relationships, not to mention the fact that many of them I know don’t even use their real names on social media platforms. (#Datenschutz) At least in the corporate world, my friends and I have learned that colleagues don’t really socialize with each other outside of working hours. But it’s not only because they like to keep things tidy and separate when it comes to professional relationships, they simply have no desire to mix those aspects of their life because they may already have a core group of friends. At first I was a bit perplexed at this because the US American view is a little different, at least it was when I was working there – I often hung out with my coworkers outside of the work sphere.
After my initial confusion, I came to really respect and appreciate this more ‘German’ way of approaching working and personal relationships. It can be easier to turn your brain off from work in the evenings and on weekends when your friends are not also your colleagues. Being selective of the ways in which we spend our time has extended to my social media behavior as well. I think at my core, I still wouldn’t want to share lots of vulnerable things online, but integrating into the German culture has helped me lean into that more and accept it as a healthy way of compartmentalizing different aspects of my life.
When people stop being polite…and start getting real
But while we’re being honest about having our social media channels be a highlight reel, I’m also a bit of a hypocrite. I judge and grumble about some people who do the same. (Look at me being vulnerable in a post about how I don’t like to do it often!)
In my delusion, I’ve convinced myself that they’re doing it differently, though. They make a post from their next jet-setting excursion from business class and I nearly roll my eyes out of my head. But if I was in business class on my way to my next destination, I would DO THE SAME THING. Although to be fair, I would probably be using self-deprecating humor or something similar to cut the weird tension that would be me in business class. I’m very much a millennial for that.
At the end of the day, we don’t owe strangers anything. Even if we are present on social media but only allow family and close friends access to our content, we still don’t owe them anything either.
Of course real life is more complicated than that. But social media isn’t an accurate depiction of real life, and I don’t think we should pretend that it is. That’s easier said than done, but I think when we start to get caught up in everything we see on social media, we should take a tip from one of my favorite creators and ‘go outside and touch grass’.
And not post about it.