The Fantasy of Social Media (An Opinion Piece)

It’s no secret that social media has skewed our perception of reality. In fact, people talk about it all the time. However, largely what I see commentary on is photoshop and flat-out lying (you may see these as one in the same). Perhaps you’ve come across those pictures that show someone seemingly on a hike in the woods, but in actuality they are just taking a photo op in front of some trees in their backyard. Or the ones that show someone presenting themselves as if they’re on the beach, when they’re actually just manipulating the angle of a picture in front of a sandbox. Who doesn’t want to be seen as an interesting person, living an interesting life? Too often, perpetuating this image becomes more important than actually trying to live a life with genuine experiences.

Take this picture for example. You’ve probably come across pictures just like this on Instagram, Facebook, etc. Now at a glance, this is someone living their best life at the beach. But what would the reality actually have been? Maybe it was cold that day. Maybe they drove around forever finding a beach that wasn’t too crowded. Maybe they went home right after they spent 30 minutes trying to get a good picture. You don’t see behind the scenes, but you see the final image and draw conclusions about what kind of life that person lives.
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

But surely while those issues are prevalent, they’re somewhat isolated, right? I’m not sure. It seems to me that across the different subcultures on social media that there are simply different versions of the fantasy. Some people create the fantasy that they spend their lives being beautiful, travelling, and taking aesthetically pleasing photos. Others create a fantasy that they’re home looks like something out of a magazine. It’s clean, free of clutter, and always, always, always decorated to the hilt for each season. Then there’s the kicker of the perfect family. Everyone is attractive, well-behaved, and they’re always eager to spend time together as a family, living every day like they’re in a Hallmark movie. Across the spectrum people are selling a fantasy and people are following along wishing they could have the same thing.

I see this a lot in the online vegan community. It’s often very attractive, fit people who go to the gym in their designer outfits (and full make up) and then prepare beautiful food strategically arranged on simple, yet elegant dishware. But I was surprised to see it in the homesteading community as well. I’ve been jealous of many a stocked pantry with seemingly every food under the sun stocked in glass jars, perfectly organized to look neat, but still rustic. You still see the perfect homecooked meals, the adorable animals, and the lavish wonderland garden in their backyard. None of this is to say these people are lying. Quite the contrary. I believe people work hard to grow their food, raise their animals, and store their food. From the outside you often only see the end result. When you only see the result and not all the effort it took to get there, it creates a fantasy and the thing about fantasies is, they’re not real. 

I come across a lot of pictures like this. I just love the colors and everything is presented so nicely. But what I don’t see are the plants that have holes in them from the bugs that got at them. I don’t see people on their hands and knees, sore and sweating, pulling weeds. If you have a garden your produce should absolutely look like this and you should have time to harvest a variety of colorful veggies, wash them, organize them in a basket, take a good photo, and drink a cup of sun tea that you made yourself (while wearing a sundress and floppy brimmed hat) afterwards to celebrate.
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

My whole point with this post is this: social media isn’t real. You shouldn’t compare your home, your family, or anything else to what other people present as their normal. It isn’t anymore real than the photoshopped pictures of models in magazines. You don’t see people running around trying to vacuum up dog fur so they can methodically arrange pillows and throws for the perfect casual shot of their sunroom. You don’t see people taking 10 minutes trying to perfectly arrange their food on the plate and get a picture with the right lighting and angle (meanwhile they’re food is now cold). And you don’t see the late nights, the overwhelming moments of stress, the misbehaved kids, and closet filled to brim with junk. You don’t see the ugly. But everyone has it and you shouldn’t feel less than for having it too.

Surely this is what your table looks like every time you sit down for breakfast, right? You also probably have a cat that poses beautifully in front of windows with a soft light shinning in through lace curtains, but would absolutely never have a field day with a setting like this.
Image by Дарья Яковлева from Pixabay

One of the best things I ever did for myself was to change who I follow on social media. I stopped following celebrities and influencers with “perfect” lives. I tried to follow people I could relate to instead of people I wished I were. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by someone, but when I was honest with myself, I had to admit that these things had fueled jealousy more than inspiration. Comparing my normal life to the fantasies that others created was making me feel inadequate. I think while most people understand that individuals only post what they want to on social media, they often don’t truly absorb those implications. No one has a perfect life. Some people are just good at faking it. For me, I don’t want to be good at perpetuating a fake life. I want to focus on slowly building the life I want and I want to be inspired by watching others do the same. You’re in control of who you follow and what you put out into the world yourself. I would encourage you take the reins and use social media in a way that is actually benefitting your life and the lives of others. Your sense of fulfillment will never come from the lies you want people to believe about you.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“We won’t be distracted by comparison if we are captivated with purpose.” – Bob Goff

3 thoughts on “The Fantasy of Social Media (An Opinion Piece)

  1. I once worked where photography was so fake, the ice cream was mashed potato. I cannot be doing with “Farce Block” or “Twit” or “Instant Scam”… Picking real fruit off of real bushes and eating a cucumber straight off of the plant, that’s keeping it real!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even when you know what you’re seeing isn’t real, it’s almost easy to forget when it’s so normalized. Being in nature and working with my hands really helps to bring me back to earth and reminds me what’s real. I’m so glad I figured that out, even if it took me a while.

      Liked by 1 person

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