Social Media: That S*** Is Not Real

There are 4.2 billion active social media users around the world. And let’s be honest, you’re probably one of them. So that makes the two of us. Now, here’s something to really chew on.

social media
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Right now, you and I are staring at each other. I mean, yes, time and space have removed our ability to see eye to eye in the literal sense, but we’re kind of at opposite ends of the same screen, so doesn’t that make us, in a way, connected?

I mean, I’m here, sharing my unhindered thoughts with you, and putting them out into this big scary void that is “the internet.” Quick, queue the smoke machine! No, I’m kidding. I mean, I’m not kidding, but all these semantics are just *waves hand in the air* for show.

The real point I’m trying to make in all of this, or what I’m trying to get across to you, is that socials are the same. Except, in most cases, you actually are presenting your face and body, in quite a literal sense, just like that bad jab I made a minute ago about seeing eye to eye. In this case, it’s kind of true.

You probably know all this. I mean, granted that you’re on socials, which is presumably the case. But here’s something that you probably didn’t know:

China alone has an estimated 927 million active users. Just for reference, that’s almost a quarter of the global user base. India is next, with around 350 million, then the United States, with 233 million.

Most other countries fall far behind in numbers. Europe, in particular, shows exceptionally low rates, as is the case with Canada. But this is sort of beyond the point, which brings me back to what I’m really trying to say. With all of these people, connecting and interfacing becomes pretty hard to avoid. It actually defeats the purpose of being on these platforms in the first place. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to connect?

Social Media
UNSPLASH Karsten Winegeart

Well, here’s the double-sided coin. There’s a bright and shiny side to social media, which I’m sure you’re well aware of. But there’s also a tarnished side, which is just as relevant and real.

And that side of the coin shows mounting evidence for a direct correlation between social media and dysmorphic thinking. I mean, it’s not a huge surprise. These platforms are designed to be comparative and competitive by nature. But what’s worse, is that they’ve set a certain standard of beauty that’s entirely unreachable.

Young people seem to forget that these images are often airbrushed, styled, filtered, photoshopped, all the things to make the subject appear, quite literally, superhuman. That s*** is not real.

I mean, I know these practices exist. And I still pick at my own insecurities. It doesn’t matter that it’s not real, because that’s what’s being shown on the screen, and that’s what’s being observed as “beautiful.” And you realize, “hey, I don’t fit that standard,” and start to wonder why you’re suddenly feeling bad, and it really does become a vicious cycle based around self-doubt.

I will say – and this is going off on a bit of a tangent here – but I think a lot of this has to do with corporate capitalism. These companies are profiting off our insecurities. They know what they’re doing, and they know it’s making us feel bad, but there’s an expectation that we’ll harness those feelings to buy their products. “Give us money, so you can look like that too!”

And it makes sense, when you really start to think about it, because other leaders in terms of user base, China and India, are capitalist too. Advertisements are a huge part of these platforms, whether it’s through brand deals, influencers, or celebrity endorsements. They prey on our insecurities, and come out filthy f***ing rich.

And, yes, maybe they did offer a nice blouse or celebrity sneakers or blah blah blah. I know that you think you’re happy with that exchange, but it’ll only last as long as that product remains in season. Once something better comes along, you’ll have the same withdrawal, and you’ll pine for the next consumer item. And the next, without ever knowing that you’ve been duped.

It’s funny, actually, because I recently had a conversation like this with my father. I told him about a skin product I had purchased indirectly off TikTok, he turns to look at me and says, “Samantha, a fool is born every minute. Don’t be a fool. Do you know who said that? Barnum.”

It made me laugh, and I hope you’re laughing too, because you’ve probably done the exact same thing. In fact, I’m willing to bet you have. So here we are, just two fools, staring at each other through a screen.

It’s important to talk about these things, because they’re sort of “covertly overt.” I mean, these practices are so extremely prevalent and normalized that they really just go under our nose at this point.

As a user, though, I think we need to recognize when we’re being targeted like this. These things are personal and interactive, so don’t fool yourself. It’s harmful. The fully exploitive nature of social media is a big issue, and one that deserves a conversation. Are we seeing eye to eye yet?

Samantha Bertolino

Content Editor Associate

Samantha is a Connecticut native and an avid lover of reading, writing and poetry. She spent two months in Florence, where she studied business and the architecture of old chapels, in addition to developing a taste for espresso and tea.)

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