Social media: What you see isn’t always what you get

Graphic by Madison Crosley and Clarissa Cairns
Graphic by Madison Crosley and Clarissa Cairns

After a long day of attending class, working and catching up on homework, I like to unwind by scrolling through my different timelines from Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. There I usually find myself stumbling upon a picture from an old friend, celebrity or just a random Insta account.

One thing leads to another,  and before long I realize that I’ve wasted an hour gazing through a stranger’s news feed, gawking at photos this person has posted from over a year ago and mentally scrutinizing myself for letting this happen.

“Why didn’t I just move on? Why did I have to click on that picture?”

However, that doesn’t stop me from continuing to scroll to the bottom of her page, drooling over the fabulous life she’s leading, until I reach her very first post. That’s when jealousy sets in. I groan and immediately think, “I wish I was her,” or “I want her life.”

Along the way I compare my life to hers, mentally making a list of everything I need to do in order to lead a similar one. About halfway through, I stop and realize how silly I’m being for comparing my existence to someone else’s, someone I’ve never even met, and begin feeling sorry for myself. Yet I still continue to scroll.

But then I realize that wanting someone else’s life doesn’t mean what I think. The severity of that sentence means more than I even realized.  It’s more than saying “I want her clothes, her beauty or her opportunity to do hot yoga everyday.” Saying “I want her life” means you want everything that goes along with it.

What stares back through the glass barrier doesn’t hold the entire truth. You never know what’s being hidden behind that glass curtain. You can’t assume that everything going on behind the scenes in this person’s life is all sunshine and butterflies.  You don’t know what has occurred in that person’s past to have gotten them where he or she is now. You don’t know the value of the person’s relationship with parents or friends. This person could be surrounded by people wearing giant grins in their photos, but still go to bed feeling alone.

You also don’t know what that person’s future holds, how much money is in his or her wallet or what he or she feels on the inside on a day-to-day basis. All you know is what’s happening in the person’s online presence, telling their story and painting the picture he or she wants you to see.

When you utter that phrase of longing for other people’s lives based on what you’ve seen on their social media accounts, you’re expressing your desire for that version of themselves they’ve put on display, not the real them. There are so many stories that aren’t being told there.

Comparison is only natural, but please don’t waste time comparing your body and mind to another’s when you could be spending that time creating lasting memories,  sharing your talents,  spreading your wings and living for today. You’re unique and special, and God put you on this planet for a reason. Stop diminishing the quality of your life because you aren’t living that of another that you’ve only ever seen through a screen. What you see isn’t always what you get.

If you don’t start enjoying your life and realizing how lucky you are, you’re always going to wish it were different. The point is, almost anyone is going to have something he or she wishes to change. We all have our battles. We all have things we love and hate about ourselves. That includes the girl whose Insta account I spent more than an hour scrolling through. But the thing not many people recognize is that we have the power to change what we wish, or accept it for what it is.

You can’t determine that someone else’s life is better than your own based on one Instagram feed. Because the truth is, you never really know what anyone’s life is really like. So, instead of wishing that you had someone else’s life and what that person has created for himself or herself, focus on building and constructing an exceptional life of your own for all the world to see. Craft an amazing life worth living.

Oscar Wilde put it best, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”