Last week the internet blew up with support for Essena O’Neill, an Australian teen who had built a “career” for herself by posting photos in bikinis, on beautiful beaches, and sponsored outfit of the day posts. The 18 year-old Instagram “celebrity” announced to her 500,000 followers that she was quitting social media because of the negative impact it was having on her life, declaring that “social media is not real life”. Elle magazine called O’Neill’s enlightenment “captivating and thought-provoking” and CBC News referred to her as “revolutionary” while I’m sitting here thinking: didn’t we already know that?
For as long as I can remember I have been using social media as an outlet to be
a smarter, prettier, more organized, more confident, funnier an enhanced version of myself. From talking to boys on MSN I would have never had the courage to talk to, to watching concerts I couldn’t afford to go to, to engaging in online conversations on topics my friends had no idea I even cared about; social media has opened conversations and experiences I otherwise never would have engaged in.
The truth is I think there is an authenticity to social inauthenticity. Posting a photo of the delicious lunch I ate today instead of the granola bar I shoved in my mouth between meetings yesterday doesn’t make me an inauthentic person. It is human nature to focus in on the interesting, beautiful, and impressive, and let the rest blur together and fade into memory. Wanting to show off your favourite version of yourself to the world (or 198 followers) and posting the photo where you and your friends look happiest, your house looks cleanest, or your meal looks healthiest, isn’t inauthentic, it’s authentically human.
Social media isn’t real life, but that’s not the point.
The point is to stop allowing “likes” and the interactions you have on social media define your self-worth. Self-love doesn’t come from the affirmation of others and your personal validation shouldn’t come from the number of likes you get on a #selfie.
If you get up at 5am every morning to work out because it makes you feel healthy and happy, and you want to show off your killer #beachbod on Instagram, I think you should. If you love fashion or saved up to buy a killer outfit and want to show off your #OOTD, post it. If styling and shooting pretty vignettes makes you happy, do it. Just remember you are still the same smart, thoughtful, special, beautiful, important person you were when you posted the photo, as you are at zero likes, at eleven likes, or at a thousand.
Social media isn’t real life, so don’t let it define yours.