The dark side of Instagram and social media

What you see is not always what you get. This statement certainly rings true of social media’s reputation in light of recent reports regarding blogger Essena O’Neill.

Essena’s change of heart towards the use of her Instagram account is somewhat refreshing in a world where ‘likes’ are regarded highly for no good reason at all. The constant need for validation and approval from strangers on our so-called perfect lives is cause for concern in our image driven society.

The problem here is when we fail to separate fact from fiction, a task that isn’t always easy to do when we are so often being convinced otherwise, and fall victim to self-doubt and our insecurities in light of what others are portraying on social media.

Since I made the conscious decision ‘to try’ with my Instagram account, and leverage off of Instagram’s popularity to build my personal brand, I’ve learnt a bucket load on what I perceive to be ethically moral and what’s not. Now of course everyone’s opinion is going to be different and what I’m sharing with you here is simply my point of view. I don’t wish to judge others for their decisions and actions and as they say, each to their own.

I’ve always felt I’ve had somewhat of an upper hand coming into this blogging realm thanks to my journalism, public relations and social media background. I know how the other side of the fence works and I’m not fooled into being a virtually free form of advertising for agencies and their brands.

I can admit though that perhaps for a short while there I did get swept up in some of the freebies that were coming my way. However when you’re obliged to post a photo of a product you don’t necessarily believe in you quickly learn to say no to what’s not right for you. To put it simply it just doesn’t feel right and since I’ve reevaluated my standards and set them much higher.

My whole objective has always to been to stay true to myself. I strongly believe in authenticity and giving my followers a genuine reflection of my reality. That’s not to say I don’t stage photos and manufacture situations, because let’s face it flat lays and the like don’t just magically appear themselves, but for me I’m all about expressing myself, my personality and my interests as organically as possible.

The likes and followers are a bonus, and if I can entertain and educate my readers with my words and inspire young women to strive to achieve then I’m pretty darn happy with that.

The problem with Instagram, and social media in general, is that people can so quickly get caught up in this obsession of being popular, of being a ‘somebody’ on Instagram. How many accounts have you come across that look exactly the same? It’s not hard to figure out what makes a likeable photo. But what does that get you in life?

I’ve had to deal first hand with the darker side of Instagram and social media. I’ve long been dealing with someone close to me who has let their jealousy get the better of them. In this instance I’ve been victim to their blatant copying and imitation of my content, as well as personal life choices, in order for them to conjure up this false ideal for themselves.

No doubt this experience has altered my views on the way people, and I myself, use Instagram and my eyes have well and truly been opened to the sorts who choose to portray their life as a picture perfect lie. But this is where you’ve got to remember that you’re not the one losing out for not having the perfectly curated profile filled with idealistic moments and objects. It’s these individuals who are living a false life and are solely relying on social media kudos from strangers for validation.

The vicious cycle of this is when people, young women and girls in particular, feel inadequate when consuming these false identities. I can only advise you not to buy into it, to not get lost in the FOMO (fear of missing out) moment and to value the positive and tangible aspects of your reality.

It’s this type of behaviour that I believe Essena is alluding to in her posts and how the likes of Instagram can suck the novice in as brands take advantage of a user’s perceived influence.

I haven’t reached these conclusions overnight but through my Instagram highs and lows I’ve been able to navigate my way through the noise and have come to a situation where I’m comfortable with what I’m doing. I’m not perfect and have from time to time can still get caught up in it all too but it’s nothing a good hard look in the mirror can’t fix to put me on the right path again.

I can only hope that you too can separate the fact from the fiction for sanity’s sake.

Here’s a photo of a piece of chocolate cake I took for realz.

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