I’m writing this post after watching an episode of Black Mirror. Have you seen it?
The episode ‘Nosedive’ takes a look at the world if it were ruled by Facebook, where every interaction gets you a an up vote or a down vote. Post a picture of a cute cookie on Instagram, that gets you a like. Smile nicely at the woman at the checkout, more likes. You’re judged on an influencer score, so if you fall below a certain number you could lose your job and be considered an outcast by your friends and colleagues. What it results in is a society where everyone is obsessed with being ‘likeable’ and never really saying what they really think. It’s a scary thought but as the world becomes more and more obsessed with social media and ‘likes’, it’s also not a stretch to imagine a society like this.
For a long time I’ve been thinking about how social media is really just a form of narcissism. Isn’t it kind of weird that every time we do something, we feel the need to share it with other people? It’s like, “Hey guys, look at me, I’m having the most amazing time!”
I’m almost 30, so I can remember a time when we didn’t have mobile phones. I was in university when Facebook first came out. But the weird thing is, I’ve forgotten what it felt like to go for dinner and not be taking pictures of the food. I’ve forgotten what it felt like to have to call my Mum from a phone box when I needed a ride.
Nowadays everyone knows what everybody is doing, all the time! And to be honest it’s a bit unhealthy.
We live in a shiny happy world where we’re all expected to post positive things. If you’re not posting an inspirational quote or a picture of yourself having fun, then you’re just labelled as someone who moans and complains. We see happy, smiley pictures of other people and we think that they must have it better than us. Either that or we’re being bombarded with political propaganda and “Buzzfeed-style” sensationalist messaging.
My entire Instagram feed is filled with beautiful people in amazing clothes in ridiculously glamorous destinations. Their nails are perfect, they match their outfits to the scenery and they post pictures of experiences most people could never afford. That’s so bad for self-esteem! It makes us compare ourselves to each other and feel inadequate.
Sometimes I think if I see one more bikini body post or one more picture of macaroons I might cry and throw my phone down the toilet.
But how real is it all?
I’d argue not very real at all. Sometimes social media just feels really fake.
Nowadays Instagrammers are being sent clothes, they’re being sent products and they’re being invited to hotels or destinations for free. You see the beautiful pictures, but you don’t know if they had a good time, not really. You don’t see them posing for 100 photos to get that one perfect shot.
As a travel blogger I play my part in it too. I’m on Instagram, I’m part of that world. Friends see my pictures and think I had an amazing time, but they don’t see the work that’s involved. I previously gave you an insight into what press trips are really like and while they may look glamorous, I’m often absolutely exhausted. I’m being chaperoned around, which makes it impossible to have a truly authentic experience. I posted lots of great pictures from Japan but in fact I was suffering from the flu and feeling generally burnt out.
The truth is sometimes social media feels like an exercise in vanity. When I first began blogging it was about sharing my thoughts on the Internet and I really enjoyed it. It was about my writing. But the social media side of things, the ‘influencer’ generation – that’s something I hadn’t bargained for.
Now there are 1000s of bloggers and everyone wants a piece of the action. It’s become about advertising, about ‘lifestyle’, about beautiful people sharing everything with the world. I can’t help but wonder if suddenly everyone will revolt, stop using social networks, go back to their Nokia 3210’s and ‘influencers’ will be out of a job.
Or perhaps we’ll end up like the girl in Black Mirror:
For now I’m sticking with blogging because it enables me to have the freedom to be my own boss, but I do sometimes long for a life where I don’t have take a phone with me or use social networks. Honestly, if this wasn’t my job, I wouldn’t post anything to Instagram, to Twitter or Facebook. Maybe this year I’ll have that one vacation where I take a true digital detox.