In our era of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, many people argue about how social media is leaving a lasting impact on the new generations. As social media becomes more and more ingrained in our culture, the question comes up: How is this virtual world of posts and likes changing how people act in the real world?
“It isn’t reality… and for teenagers there is less of an understanding that social media is not reality,” said chemistry teacher and Instagram user Susan Marcan.
When students see all these Instagram posts showing how exciting everyone’s lives are, they are made to feel like their own lives are inadequate. Because social media only shows the parts of students lives that they want to share, social media lives can seem deceptively perfect to onlookers. And when everyone else’s lives look perfect, students start seeing their own lives as boring, and not up to standard.
“They’re not working on being more interesting, they’re working on making themselves look more interesting,” Marcan said.
When social media appearances take priority over actual, real-life social ability, students start feeling pressure to excel in their media platforms, rather than in more substantial areas of their lives. Because we have a culture revolving around social media, kids are beginning to act certain ways to fulfill the picture of popularity as seen on Instagram.
Some students will go to the city, nice restaurants, museums, or hiking trails, and instead of valuing the actual experience, they’ll care more about the photo they get. Some even feel the pressure to hang out with different people, to increase their own social media popularity. Many students feel the need to dress in certain ways to entertain popular aesthetics. As Marcan puts it, “They’ll pose in front of a beautiful piece of art, but not look at the art.”
Social media values image over substance. On Instagram, it does not matter how nice or funny or smart you are, because people are judging a compilation of photos you’ve chosen to represent you, instead of judging you as a person. As a person scrolls down your feed, they are judging the parts of your life you’ve chosen to share, not necessarily the person you are in reality. Instead of liking people, we are liking media. And born out of this judgement, is a need for validation. Born and raised into believing validation comes not from a sense of self, but from the amount of likes you get, students are starting to change their real lives to improve their Instagram pages. Often, students will be more preoccupied with getting the perfect picture than enjoying their friend’s company. We’ll be more interested in how the view will enhance our photos than the actual beauty of it. Social media causes us to care more about the appearance of our lives than the actual substance.