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Social Media: How aware are you, really?

Alycia McNamara explores the impact of social media's false reality on us.

Social media is everything right? We wake up, we use it. We go on our breaks at work, we use it. Before we sleep, we use it. But even if we think we are aware of our social media usage, are we really?

Millennials and the so called ‘Gen Z’ generations consume social media more than they consume outdoor air. If you are just starting your 20s, like me, then you’ll most likely have gotten your first social media accounts somewhere around when you were 14. These days, primary school children have TikTok accounts…

"perfectly filtered images, flawless face tuned faces and aesthetic arrangements"

We have all heard the tales of how candid and ‘normal’ posts used to be when social media first started. A simple slice of toast with a cup of tea, an unaesthetic home baked birthday cake with a bad sepia filter or a picture of you with your dog after going on a sweaty run. A normal life. Many of us are too young to remember these days. When we joined social media, we saw it for what it is now, perfectly filtered images, flawless face tuned faces and aesthetic arrangements of well, anything.

The thing is, we might think that we are aware of these trends and this problematic representation of peoples lives on social media. We are constantly reminded of how false social media is, even influencers themselves tell their audiences they have ‘down days’ behind the scenes or that it took a ‘bus load’ of people to make them look as they do in their model worthy photos. But ask yourself, how do you present your own life? I think the truth is for most of us, influencers or not, we only post the best parts, the highlights. How can we call out the issue of a false reality in social media if we present this ourselves. How can we change this and make social media more ‘normal’ again if no one wants to show their boring Sunday sat at home, or their cheap frozen pizza for dinner which they burnt?

Many have also brought to light the affect social media is having and will have on the financial stability of these generations. The narrative across platforms is often one encouraging instant gratification, travelling, going out, spending money, having fun. Older generations who have used the platform have pointed out that it is impossible to save money and be financially stable while living this lifestyle. Yet many younger people find it hard to sit at home and save money in fear of missing out, the dreaded concept of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Not only this, social media has became a job, a career, a monetised platform. With this, content often cannot be kept natural and instead serves a purpose of advertisement which has to be approved by brands. Influencers in this position, cannot begin to post unaesthetic images, they would lose followers and thus their job, their income. The term ‘influencer’ in relation to social media is often seen as beginning at the end of the 2010s. Many influencers reject this title due to the implication they are able to manipulate or sway their audience. While many social media users aspire to be influencers, there are concerns about the long-term sustainability of the career path. Social media changes rapidly and in the 18 years it has existed since the founding of Facebook, the platforms have morphed into something completely different to what they first where when they began.

"Instagram makes people believe you can see the Eiffel Tower and there won’t be a single other person around…"

Another notable area of social media is how it influences travel. Most Millennials use social media to plan their trips, typing in their destination to TikTok or Instagram will result in thousands of posts telling them the ‘must see’ places and things to do while they are there. A recent TikTok trend saw users visit the Trevi Fountain in Rome and compare the perfect Instagram pictures visitors take to the overcrowded reality of the landmark. Instagram makes people believe you can see the Eiffel Tower and there won’t be a single other person around…

So, what can we do to combat this problem? And the false reality social media platforms and most importantly social media users present? Step back and breathe, in the real world. You don’t need to post every cool thing you do. Just spend time with your friends and enjoy it. Eat that overpriced pancake stack without posting it. Go on trips and take a disposable camera, capture the moment instead of taking 50 pictures and still not liking any of them. At the end of the day, when our lives are over, the best pictures will be the real ones, the genuine laughs, the ‘ugly’ ones which hold the real memories… Not the staged ones we breathed in for and spent 50 minutes editing on some kind of app.


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