As I sit down to write this post, I have a million thoughts swirling through my head. Not because I have a lot going on in my life or hundred-and-one tasks to complete and not because I have deadlines for work. In fact, if anything it’s the opposite, as I’m currently unemployed and therefore technically speaking, I actually have sweet f*** all to do.
No, the reason my mind is moving at a million miles per hour is solely down to the sheer amount of images it has consciously and subconsciously consumed within the last 12 hours.
There’s the L’Oreal advert on TV telling me I should try their new mascara to give me a `false-lash look’, there’s the billboard on the London underground telling me I should order from Just Eat tonight so I don’t have to bother cooking, there’s the front cover of Cosmopolitan sitting on my bedroom floor, asking me if I have fallen victim to the sudden rise in `porn face`, whatever the hell that is.
And then there’s social media.
On my journey back home from central London today, as part of my routine attempt to avoid eye contact with a single passerby for fear someone might ACTUALLY smile at me and I wont know what to do, I casually, mindlessly, scroll through Instagram and Facebook on my phone.
I say mindlessly but in all honesty, my brain is actually taking in quite a high volume of that `social’ media content. Now, if I had decided for some un-rational and outrageous reason not to scroll through my social media feeds on that journey, I probably would have proceeded to waddle on home, make myself some beans on toast, moan to my partner for not doing the washing up and plonked myself in front of my laptop to begin (for the 30th time today) applying for more jobs.
However, unsurprisingly, this is not the road I took.
Instead, after scrolling through Instagram, I came across the feed of the most beautiful bikini model I think I have ever seen in my life and yes, my inner MI5 agent practically tore itself from within me. I meticulously went through every single one of her photos (all 970 of them) analyzing, fawning, possibly even dribbling over them at one point. Was I appreciating her beauty, thanking the lord almighty that he has blessed certain individuals with the looks of a small flock of baby angels? Course I wasn’t. I was comparing, critiquing myself, wondering what life must be like to be that beautiful and that rich, to be that fabulous that people literally just give you free s***.
Then I began to wonder where my life had gone so wrong, why people weren’t giving me free s***, why I have such a disproportionate upper body to lower body ratio, why oh WHY can I not give up carbs and actually start going to the gym….
By the time I got home, Id already decided that toast was no longer an option, it was baked beans with a fat-free yogurt or nothing. Id also decided that I was a complete failure and that at 26, I should just accept that I was going to be unemployed forever and should start applying for benefits.
Aimlessly, I began reeling off all these newly-made plans to my partner, informing him that I was going to attempt to lose 12 pounds in 3 weeks and get myself a stomach so flat, he could eat his dinner off of it, to which his response whilst shoving his face with sweets was, `do you want a jelly baby?’.
Why, after a mere 15 minutes had I suddenly decided to make such life-altering decisions?
Because I’m human. I’m human and I’m susceptible to every form of marketing and white lie around me, whether I realize it or not. And that’s what social media is these days, one giant, photo shopped image-laden, cleverly marketed lie.
Back when I started using Facebook and Instagram, I utilized it for its original purpose. I connected with my real-life friends, those whom I had actually conversed with face-to-face. My status updates consisted of lyrics from `Taking back Sunday’ or, as I got older, how I had miraculously managed to get a 1st on my Business law essay despite being p***** off my face on cheap wine. My Instagram feed was also a reflection of my true self. I posted about once a week and it was pretty much just me eating chocolate or my cats lying in oddly sexual positions around the house. If you were to gaze upon my Instagram feed today, it would be a world away from those days. Now, its cleverly cropped meal photos, professionally shot images of me modelling clothes which my partner has both bought and taken for me (because in all honesty, I’m a broke ass b****). There are picturesque landscapes taken from my numerous travels which I had to work overtime to fund, then there’s happy, smiley photos of me and my partner which seem to automatically make people believe that we are riding at pure ease, on the sweet and blissful wave of love. Sure, we love each other but that doesn’t mean that we constantly live in this sweet state of bliss each and every day, in fact, there are times when we literally want to murder each other. That is life, that is relationships. And obviously, we’re both still here which is a good sign.
And its not just me who has fallen victim to the self-marketing cycle. Its everywhere. It’s the hundreds of people you follow on Instagram, it’s the A-list celebrities you see on the TV, its even the people you meet in that swanky bar on the weekend. We are all (or at least, most of us) just pretending to be something we are not; the only difference is that some of us can do it better than others.
After taking some time out to think and finally deciding that I would, in fact, have toast with my baked beans, I sat down and thought back to the beautiful bikini model that I had practically stalked on my way home and I began to see a very different reality.
This time, I saw a woman who probably lives off a diet of fruit and cauliflower cous cous, a woman who hasn’t so much as inhaled the sweet smell of carbs for years. A woman who wakes up at 6am every morning to workout for three hours in the gym before re-applying her make up and taking a thousand selfies before deciding upon a single one to upload. A woman who is constantly travelling to a new country by herself and is probably very lonely. A woman who is constantly being told by her `fans’ to wear something different, or change her hair. A woman who is meticulously scrutinized by thousands of her followers (and non-followers) and probably gets a lot of messages full of hatred and jealousy.
It really wouldn’t surprise me if, after all of that, she’s just as insecure as me (albeit with a 6-pack and a wonderful bottom).
The point is, she too is only human, she’s just managed to reach the peak of the `pretending’ epidemic and is now making some money out of it. She still laughs, she still cries, she still s****, she’s still human, just like me and you.
The mere fact that you made into this world alive and are still here today is an achievement in itself, if you have goals and objectives you want to achieve and, most importantly, you are still being true and real to yourself, then even better. But please please, don’t fall victim to this false advertising malarkey and don’t try to model yourself on someone else because that person really is just an illusion. There is not a single person on this planet who is perfect and what we see on social media is just a fraction (and a very well put together one at that) of someone’s day to day life. Its not fun all the time and its not perfect either, but it is our life and its up to us to decide how we want to live it, on screen and off.