It is immediately clear that when you scroll through one of the many social media feeds you have that the selfie and snapping your life has become quite a full-time career- rather all consuming. One of my posting addicted friends made me think how bad it has gotten for some when I was asking her about her Instagram feed she remarked ‘most days I wish I’d never started on Instagram’ sounding like a junkie rueing her first hit. ‘The stress of taking the right images at the right time, with the right filters, with the right people, in the right clothes has become all consuming’.
Carefully constructing and editing social-media content to present a deceptively positive picture of your life has become a thing. Many of us indulge in it more than we realise, whether by untagging unflattering photos of ourselves, or by making free with the #blessed #lovemylife hashtags. Facebook-bragging was bad enough; Instagram has upped the ante to a whole new level, adding weight to the theory that a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’.
Hanna Krasnova, professor of information management at Humboldt University of Berlin recently told Slate Magazine (2013), ‘You get more explicit and implicit cues from being happy, rich, and successful, from a photo than from a status update’. And now some 70 million images are being posted on Instagram every day, with most of us eager to represent, or misrepresent, ourselves through a wide range of filters and artful curation to be leading to the kind of life that wouldn’t look out of place in Vogue.
Initially, this didn’t seem like a big problem. Sure, our sunsets were suddenly doomsday pink and our waists the size of Giselle’s leg, but everyone was having fun right? Wrong. I’ve noticed some of my friends feel the pressure to live two very different lives. Some admit they force themselves to undertake particular activities and attend certain events they deem worthy of posting, and others admit to scheduling their days around whether or not they think particular activities would impress their followers and garner likes.
Scoff all you like, but even if you are just a passive observer, things don’t appear to be any great shakes for you either. People seem to be spending a lot of their time suffering from FOMO, my friend sighs ‘I sometimes spend the whole not scrolling, wondering and obsessing over what I might be missing out on’.
There are many takeaways you might derive from that (maybe we have become bats%$t crazy?!), but although leading a double life online might sound all kinds of messed up, I believe it’s simply an extension of the kinds of story telling humans have been doing since the dawn of time. I think every single one of us has a tendency to to exaggerate, but a platform such as Instagram allows us to do it at a much larger level. I think it is more about ‘enhancing’ what you already have rather than ‘faking’ it. We’re all simply narrating the story the story of how people see us online with the clever use of a few pictures and then leaving it to our followers to join the dots and form their own conclusions.
For those feeling anxious about portraying the perfect life, it’s often about remembering you are in control of your social media, not the other way around. This way of life is certainly not going away, so adapting to it in a way that fits in with your world view is key. Perhaps it’s about paring things back and only posting what is authentic, or moving to another platform. But I think anyone who enrages in social media needs to remember the famous quote by Mae West: ‘Keep a diary, and someday it will keep you.’
How do you say no to double-life syndrome? Are you sharing authentically? Do you experience feelings of loneliness when scrolling through peoples’ feeds?