By Bhawna Sharma
Wake up, brush my teeth, and then check my Instagram stories followed by Facebook and Whatsapp is pretty much my daily morning drill. The fact that I check my online circles right after waking up, as do most of us, goes to show just how deeply social media is now ingrained into our quotidian life. It’s almost become a living, breathing cult of its own, fuelled by none other than our very own Instagram-obsessed generation and the need to post every moment on social media in real-time. I mean, how many of us can really go five hours without checking our social media accounts? Or better yet, when was the last time you had an actual conversation over breakfast with your parents?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong in social media itself. But what is worrying is our tendency to assume that having perfect social media accounts is the same as having a perfect life. Speaking from personal experience, almost all my friends at university have great Instagram accounts replete with stunning pictures of their travel diaries, academic and professional achievements, and relationship goals. But that’s not even half the story. Many of them, like me, have their own struggles in life, whether it’s homesickness, finding success in an ultra-competitive job market, or even just the pressures of getting a good GPA.
We’re always constructing an image of ourselves in relation to what others post on social media without realising that in the end, it’s just a screen (literally and metaphorically). And once in a while, the performance does break down: Australian instagram-influencer Essena O’Neill, who had more than half a million followers, famously quit Instagram three years ago and called it a “contrived perfection made to get attention”.
Beyond blurring the boundaries of what’s real and what’s not, our social media frenzy has also eaten into the very intimate quality that makes us human: patience. Thanks to platforms like Facebook and Instagram, we can instantaneously share what’s going on in our lives for our friends to see. Because of this instant gratification, people have lost the ability to initiate relationships in real life – even a date is just one swipe away.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how social media has changed the way we interact with each other. Studies have shown that beyond vanity and approval, social media has also made Gen Z lonelier and more susceptible to depression. As more and more lonely millennials seek authentic friendships through digital platforms, Singaporeans have jumped on the trend and launched new social apps such as Sup, Lunch Kaki, and Hey! to connect with people in real life based on their interests, location, and occupation.
Given the breakneck speed of technology, social media isn’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon. In fact, I don’t think we’re too far from Black Mirror’s nightmarish episode Nosedive where social media completely takes over our lives, the cracks of which are already starting to appear in social relationships.
But having said all this, it’s never too late to change the way we use technology. The problem right now is that instead of controlling technology, technology is controlling us. So the next time you’re about to open Instagram, or Facebook or Snapchat, take a step back and question if you really need to. When you’re out with your friends, switch off your phone and discover how much more there is to life than an Instagram story. And most importantly, stop using social media as a yardstick to evaluate your life because everyone has their own story.