On social media, we create fractions of ourselves by manifesting accounts filled with snippets of our lives, using captions and photos to show our personalities. I used to think it was much better to be a fraction.
I would construe my personality as a gregarious person. I always had photos of my friends and me at an event, or out at brunch. People would see me as a masculine guy who loves to empower women, who break gender stereotypes, gender, and other related things, but I have my moments when I’m shy and vulnerable.
I could package my thoughts and articulate them neatly, freeing them from the tyranny of “like” and “ums.” In photos I was willing to take, I made sure to find the perfect nonchalant pose for my Instagram. I could choose parts of myself I wanted to display. The rest was discarded, whether intentionally or by default.
In the offline world, I can only be my self — a three-dimensional person who has a lot to say and can write my feelings in a journal. I put my headphones in to listen to music that I picture myself singing or dancing to on stage. I have goals on my to-do list and never let fear stop me. I wish I could be free of the baggage of reality. It took me years to find my different truth — it is always better to be me and whole. I still have many challenges and insecurities wrapped up in my mind, like all humans, but social media requires me to strip away opportunities for nuance in the process.
Social media is an illusion. We see people we admire, the careers they have, their relationships, wealth, etc., but we don’t know the backstory of every Instagram post. We assume based on the things they post that they have it all together, but sometimes people hide. This realization became apparent in many small ways. We are all flawed creatures who are trying to make it in this troubling world. The word “better” was imperfect. It’s uncomplicated, easy to digest, and embodied by catchy captions and a great aesthetic.
If we look at who we are on these platforms, we look at the people we’ve become. We will choose this over reality. We feed into the constant feedback, the amount of likes and comments, because we want to be somebody. Our social media is whispering in our ears: this is how you should always be. This is the cycle we can’t get out of because it’s what keeps us coming back again and again to the same thing.
The lies of social media are still whispered, but reality no longer feels like a weight. I don’t have a sizable number of Instagram followers. I don’t get a considerable number of Instagram likes or story views anymore. I grew to accept that social media is continually changing. People should know who I am online and who I am in real life. I’m now at a point in my life that I post something that means something to me; I share Instagram stories of people’s success and post interesting photos.
I realized that the more followers I accumulate on Instagram, the more people know me as the one who shares positive things. An obvious solution would be to reveal more about myself on social media more by offering up a comprehensive reality of my life. But there is another voice, one that whispers: be careful with what you post because you don’t want to ruin your career after one post or typo. Even when I’m controlling what I reveal to the world, I can’t control how other people understand or interpret my posts.
To this day, I still choose to spend a good deal of my time immersed in the digital realm. I need to be online for work and my career — which is true, but it’s a convenient excuse for every social media addict because it’s all the same. It no longer feels like baggage, and we are all in the same boat because there are questions left to answer and things we have yet to figure out about ourselves.