“We are dealing with a huge self esteem crisis. These girls are able to scroll pictures of the highlight reels of other people’s lives, and they’re stuck with the behind-the-scenes of their own lives. They wake up and they look at their reflection in the mirror, and they compare it to some filtered, beautiful photo of some girl who’s really popular and seems like she has it all together. This is not what you and I had to deal with when we were 12. It’s so easy and readily available to compare yourself to others and feel like you lose”.
With all the recent outpouring against the harmful effects of social media, Taylor Swift’s quote (above) has never seemed quite so relevant. Only last week, Instagram model Essena O’Neill went viral when she re-captioned her old photos with the truth behind her glamorous pictures. With a following of over 500,000, many people were shocked to discover that the life they thought they were witnessing was very different in reality, with many of her new captions revealing that, in most of the posts, she only appeared a certain way after obsessively retaking hundreds of photos to capture the perfect pose.
O’Neill’s honesty has since inspired other Instagram stars, and even many ordinary Instagram users like you and me to come forth with the news that many of these pictures were not quick, candid snaps. While this may not be hard to swallow given that many ‘Instagram-famous’ models were mostly only posting images as a way of making money through sponsors, it is the amount of normal, everyday people that have come forward with the same confession that hits hard.
Many of these people have exposed that, for many of their selfies, they actually were not in as glamorous a situation as they made out, with one girl revealing that her picture before a night out was, in reality, one she took when she was too ill to go out, so she spent hours perfecting her hair and make up to just so she could get some likes on a picture.
But why are so many ordinary people doing this? ‘Insta-models’ may be nothing more than glorified commercials, but when people are lying about their own lives for nothing more than some meaningless likes on a page, it’s hard to see this as anything but concerning.
It’s understandable: when it’s become natural for people to post their lives online it’s hard not to exaggerate a little bit. Maybe you want to add a couple of filters, because that spot is ruining an otherwise perfect selfie. Maybe you’ll post a club picture with the girls and caption it “hilarious night out!!!” because you don’t want the world to know you cried in the toilets for 20 minutes when you saw your asshole ex. Maybe you’ll put up a picture of you in full makeup when all you plan to do today is watch re-runs of Hollyoaks. I get it, especially when it is these models with their fake captions who fill up people’s newsfeeds and make them feel a little inadequate in comparison.
If you see pictures everyday of the same girl looking flawless at the beach, out to lunch, with her friends, on a hike up the Himalayas, etc, it’s hard not to feel less naturally pretty or fun or active. While you have to witness yourself first hand, through the good and the bad, you’re only seeing the best of everyone else – because it’s not like anyone would post up pictures of themselves lying in bed with a double-chin and cookie crumbs smeared across their face.
We’re all constantly connected. While during my childhood I would could home from school and maybe be allowed to go on MSN to my friends for 30 minutes, now people are walking around with the means to see and hear from everyone they know all the time. 5 minutes of scrolling and look: Jessica is hanging out with all her friends, Michael is in London with his fiancé, Sam is swimming with dolphins on the holiday of a lifetime and you are…pressing ‘Play Next Episode’ on Netflix for the fifth time today.
It’s so easy nowadays to feel like you’re not measuring up to everyone around you. While you have to live through all the unattractive, boring parts of your own life and you only get told about everyone else’s highlights, it would be almost impossible not to. But rather than giving in to the FOMO and feeling like you have to resort to lying so your life looks better than it feels, remember: everyone is in the same boat as you.
And if all else fails, just remember that everyone poops.