You life better on Instagram – social media toxicity

In today’s world we have two lives, the one we live in reality and the one we live in virtually. In 2020 it was stated that the average social media user spent up to 3 hours per day on platforms such as Instagram, twitter and the newest social addiction sweeping the world, Tiktok. So what is our obsession with sharing everything about us with the world?

Instagram is actually addictive, when those sweet red little hearts pop up on our posts, dopamine is released in the brain, much like when we smoke, take drugs or fall in love. So how does something that can make us feel so good be so bad? Like any addiction we are always waiting for that next hit, for the next high! But unlike smoking a cigarette the high we get from social media is little hits of approval from mostly strangers. Those likes and follows and 1m balloons all scream out, “They like me!” These people must be beautiful and successful and have so many friends, and why wouldn’t we want to be like that? I get 20 likes filling up my little dopamine belly and they have 1 million, they must be buzzing all the time, but the reality is, that belly in your brain will always be hungry for more and searching for ways to find it… this where things gets toxic.

Not only is social media addictive, the way in which we use it has become something out of a black mirror episode where everyone is trying to look like clones of one another, sharing the most intimate darkest details whilst sprinkling some gold dust on there and slapping a face smoothing filter over the top. I find it hard to grasp the irony of exposing everything and then trolling and judging anyone who does things differently. In the past 24 hours, I have seen someone being born, someone naked (nipples covered of course) someone talking about their partner abusing them. Many pictures of children who have no say weather the world see’s them or not. I truly believe the next generation will sue their parents over the exposures they post of them as children, there are people I went to school with who I haven’t spoken to in 10 years but in 10 minutes I can find out what day their kids were born, when they took their first steps, what school they go to, the list goes on… is this ok? I don’t know, we will have to see if it has any affects on their future, but you have to admit, it’s strange.

In recent years Influencers have become the celebrities of this generation, and there has been some serious influencing going on in the way we perceive ourselves, especially as women. Weather we like to admit it or not, we see these girls with perfect skin, toned bodies or even big bodies nowadays, then we look in the mirror at our pores and stretch marks thinking, “how can I look like that? “. We ALL do it! I was thinking the other day about how incredible these young women look, their makeup and hair is flawless with insane bodies, and then I realised I had never seen someone in real life that looks like that… Have you? It’s all smoke and mirrors, or more, accurately ring lights and filters. It is literally pretend. We follow trends that we hate and sometimes don’t even understand and with the world events of the past year, social media has become more and more political, and again we over expose our opinions then get hated for it, or someone else expresses their opinions and then we hate them. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there are some good aspects of being able to expose injustice but I think everything is done with huge amounts of hate and a great lack of understanding.

In 2020 the “Be Kind” movement became a trend in the wake of the tragic suicide of British TV presenter Caroline Flack. At the time I couldn’t help but feel angry about the movement because the people I would see sharing the quotes and images were all the people who I would see slating celebrities on a daily basis. Then 1 year later we have the Megan Markle- Orpah interview and seem to have come full circle again, hate fuelled by hate, anger and aggression towards opposing sides. Social media has become a very black and white mentality with no middle ground, you either agree or disagree and nobody has compassion for the other side of the coin. I don’t remember the world being like this a few years ago. Through a screen it’s like we have forgotten that there are people on the other side just like us. A few years ago I was having a difficult time and whilst getting my hair done, the girl who I knew vaguely asked how I was, and in part I told her that things were a little tough and her response to me was… ” no way, you look so happy on Instagram”. I will never forget that. To her I was travelling a lot, in a relationship, out with friends but I was actually deeply unhappy.

Fast forward a couple of years and it’s now cool to announce your flaws, to show your stretch marks and overweight bodies, share memes about how desperately depressed you are, and even so it’s done in a way that makes the viewer feel like their being educated, or like it’s a trend. It’s not a person videoing themselves crying because they’re scared of killing themselves. It’s an edgy photo of them telling you it’s normal to feel down and that they’ve been through it too.. and my issue isn’t the people sharing the stuff, its how social media has made us think that we need approval from people for all of our flaws.

We’re all just proper slaves to Instagram, then we complain about other people who are also slaves to Instagram.. then we share how happy we are even though we’re sad or how sad we are in an attempt to feel connected. We share what we ate, where we went, what we hate , what we love. Our relationships and friendships even our children.. and then we care so much what people will think about the personal information we just voluntarily told a load of people we don’t know, and they will judge it whilst thinking about how many likes they’ll get on their oversharing. Then we follow trends that we don’t like because everyone else does it. Without realising we fall in to the trap of wanting to expose ourselves just like everyone else. We can lie, we can tell harrowing stories of our deepest trauma, we can sell products we don’t use that make us want better skin, a skinnier body, yet women can’t show their nipples. It seems that somewhere along the line things have gone wrong.

I’m an artist, social media is a huge part of my work. I post photos that look cool in my studio or selfies when I think my makeup looks good, I understand the hypocrisy of me writing this and the paintings I have done in conjunction with it, but I am one of the people who is addicted to social media and I see it for what is it, but I will most likely keep my hands tied behind my back and go along with it, because if you have a business you won’t get far without it these days.

The celebrities, the influencers and the average person who wants to thrive in this virtual world without taking the time to thrive in reality and to fill up that starving dopamine belly. So we will put a filter on and buy in to the new trends, constantly seeing approval even if we don’t realise it. There are vast contradictions of the images we see and the realities we live yet we also give ourselves so vulnerably to the world without thinking about the consequences it will have on our own mind.. all for the approval of strangers.

by Gabriella Ranito-Baltazar

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