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Social media limits our authenticity

Social Media can isolate individuals from the real world.
Graphic by Isabelle Lhuilier
Social Media can isolate individuals from the real world.

We are Gen-Z, and we are perfect. Or at least that is what our Instagram feeds would tell you. We, high school students, are not able to expose our true selves in person, so instead, we strive to portray an “ideal life” through Instagram.

As I scroll through my Instagram feed, I notice the colorful salads and smoothies on Instagram stories and pictures of people enjoying their time on the beach. It all seems to be perfect. 

We order the “prettiest” food rather than what we actually want to eat, and pick a spot on the beach that will give us the best photo rather than the best tan or most shade. However, we do not just create bubbles of illusions on Instagram, but also in our daily lives through relationships and interactions.

Today, success is measured by comparisons to others’ expectations, both in what they know of us, and in what they see of us.

Last week, I was hanging out with friends when I heard them talking about the extracurricular activities they are participating in and the vacations they have planned. I sat there quietly, noticing how fake and in-authentic they were portraying their lives to be. 

The expectations we hold for ourselves are influenced by the media. No longer are we just comparing ourselves to our peers, we are now also comparing ourselves to celebrities, bloggers, and social media stars.

Although they might actually be doing these activities and going on these extravagant vacations, I wondered what the motivation was for the conversation. Were they vocalizing these things to make themselves feel better, or because they felt they needed to prove something to me? 

This led me to think more deeply about all the interactions I have had with people. I felt confused about whether I was working hard and doing my everyday activities for myself, or for a picture of what I’m supposed to be. 

Among my friends, we only discuss positive topics, but I know that no life is perfect all the time. For example, no one mentioned the arguments they had with their siblings, a bad grade, or the stress of homework and upcoming tests. But, I knew we were all dealing with these things. 

Prior generations picked up landline phones, called up friends and had genuine conversations about the challenges of being a teen; they laughed, and sometimes even cried. They were able to have real conversations because there was no social media wall. People would bond with unfiltered authenticity. They recognized that everyone has flaws, and that this is okay. They were able to do things for themselves, not for their social media feeds, focusing on how they actually were, rather than how they hoped to be perceived.

From interactions I have had with people from all around the world, I have noticed that we are all striving for a “perfection” that can be seen by everyone online. But really, what is perfection? And if we don’t know what is, how do we define its limits to consider how far we have to go to reach it?

The expectations we hold for ourselves are influenced by the media. No longer are we just comparing ourselves to our peers, we are now also comparing ourselves to celebrities, bloggers, and social media stars. We even somehow compare the glamorous lives of our dogs to those of other puppies. 

This not only affects how we live our lives but also impacts our self-worth. We are all human and go through struggles in our day to day lives. If we talked more about these on our social media platforms, maybe we would learn that perfect doesn’t exist and come to be a happier and healthier generation.

A way to take off your own masks and then start to unravel others’ is by being ourselves and having open conversations with friends about what makes us sad or stressed, in addition to chats about what brings us happiness and makes us feel good. 

By hearing what is bothering each other, we will realize that what we are all going through is normal. I have heard that I should “be myself” many times in my life; however, it is only now that I’ve recognized what that actually means, and how I could be better about doing it. 

So what does this mean for us as students? How can we change our culture and figure out who we are, so when people say to just be yourself, we know who that person really is, not just who that person projects themselves to be on Instagram? 

After countless interactions where I have been able to see through the masks people put on themselves, I have realized that there are many possible ways to be who I truly am without mirroring perceived expectations.

I have found that it first comes down to a statement: admire, don’t aspire. It’s alright to look up to people and admire aspects of their lives, but we have to draw a line between looking up to someone and wanting to be someone. 

Secondly, we need to be more honest with each other about both the good things in our lives and the bad. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to not get As all the time or to be rejected from something – in fact, it’s not just okay, it’s normal, and it happens to all of us. If we talked about it more, perhaps when these things do happen to us, they will all feel less consuming and terrible. 

Finally, the most valuable thing I have learned is to focus on true relationships. The people you feel comfortable around are the ones who you should be surrounding yourself with because then, you are more likely to expose yourselves as who you truly are. You are then less likely to put on your invisible mask and feel the need to portray your life as it is on Instagram. 

So, remember to take off the mask, get out from hiding behind a social media feed, and Facetime your friend to talk about your failures, concerns, and worries; live life as it really is.

This article is an extended version of “Social Media Limits Our Authenticity” in Issue 2 of The Standard Print Edition.

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About the Contributor
Gabrielle Meidar, Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Print
Gabrielle Meidar (’23) is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Print of The Standard. Her journalism career kickstarted in the Middle School newspaper, The Scroll. Since, she has served as the News Editor: Print and Lead News Editor for The Standard. She has been featured in the Jewish Chronicle and predominantely writes about topics that are stigmatized.

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