Remember when we all thought Instagram was a fab new photo editing App? I distinctly recall a friend of mine (ah the elusive friend…) filtering-up a glorious snap of her bare breasts only to delete in horror after a colleague, one of her seven followers at the time, sent a random text saying ‘simply stunning’.
Fast forward almost 10 years (I know, WTF!?) and it’s a bum fight for followers (#followforfollow). Who’s creating the freshest most original content? Who’s being realer than real AF? Who’s life is so snap-fucking-tastic you spend the best part of your day trying to emulate their carefully tousled scatter cushions only to realise you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning and haven’t put deodorant on. Err hello, what about the real world!?
Minutes, hours, WEEKS spent coveting, commenting, hustling. But why do we do it to ourselves?
It’s well documented now that the creation of the like button was no accident. Our brain releases dopamine, the chemical associated with pleasure, in response to likes and comments and so some argue we are quite literally addicted in the same way as an alcoholic to booze. Scary stuff!
Personally, I think the issue lies in our human instinct to be liked, accepted by our peers, validated; now that’s addictive. The problem is we don’t actually know the majority of the individuals we follow, most of which are presenting their very best selves; stunning selfies made even more so by clever apps, interiors showing the best part of the living room, not the side covered in toys & crayon. Do we ever stand a chance of impressing these magnificent beings?
As someone who suffers from anxiety, sometimes cripplingly so, I’m forever guilty of projecting my negative thought patterns onto those around me. That’s hard enough when constrained to a tight-knit group of friends, open it up to the 800 million users and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, constantly insecure and never quite good enough. Self-worth has become so intrinsically linked with following; @mother_of_daughters or @susiejverill messages are somehow perceived as more profound yet we’re all just mum’s muddling through, facing the same daily trials and tribulations motherhood dishes out to everyone else.
This isn’t a criticism to those mentioned above, I follow them both and enjoy the daily window into their lives, more a wake-up call to myself. How have I allowed my happiness to become so dependent on a virtual reality? The number of likes on a post setting the tone for the day; a manic high or depressive low.
It’s time to take a step back. To share a life lived, not live a life to share.
NB. Clemmie Hooper, a professional and practicing midwife, may actually have a slight edge on the rest of us 😉