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Does Social Media Present a Fake Reality?

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Does Social Media Present a Fake Reality?

Like most things, social media has its pros and cons. It can be a great way to share information with a lot of people quickly, to keep up with what is going in the lives of the people you care about, and even to stay informed about what’s going on in the world. You can connect with people near and far, and it’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, things aren’t always what they seem. I call this The Curse of Social Media.

When you spend a lot of time on social media, it might appear that everyone is happier than you are. Teens are especially susceptible to this. People are posting pictures with their friends of all the fun things they’re doing together, and you’re not always included. The girls look skinny and beautiful and the boys look so cool with nice clothes and shoes. They’re getting hundreds of likes, but when you post you only get a few likes. You’re constantly competing for online attention. It’s easy to get caught up in this altered reality. Yes, it is an altered reality.

Social media allows you to be selective about what you post and what you present to others. It is a constructed and altered reality, because in real life, people see all the aspects of you, but in social media they’re only seeing what you choose to show.

Since you choose to believe what you see as reality, it often seems that everyone else is happier than you are. You are human, and you have your ups and your downs, but every time you look at social media, all you see are happy people doing fun and wonderful things with people that they love.

Is any of this real? What is the truth? The truth is that nobody is happy all of the time. Nobody’s life is always rainbows and unicorns. But when people think of posting and communicating on social media, they typically only present the best of themselves and only positive interactions.

Also, teens are using filters to look perfect, but you know that nobody is actually perfect. You will typically see someone posting all of the fun things they are doing. What you don’t see, however, is the part about the big fight they got in last night with their boyfriend, or how one of their parents is an abusive alcoholic. Those realities are saved for only those closest to them and in real human face-to-face interactions, rather than some virtual reality, such as social media.

It makes sense that people only share the best of the best moments on social media. When given an opportunity to create your own reality, who wouldn’t choose one that is perfectly happy and successful? Most of us take pictures of exciting and fun moments, and share only those on social media. We check in and post updates about fun and wonderful things happening in our lives. Rarely do you see anyone post that they’re failing math, fighting with their parents, struggling with drugs or alcohol, or have endured abuse. Everyone faces problems in real life, but nobody is talking about it on social media.

So, how do you keep yourself from getting caught up in the fake reality of others and feeling down about your life? Here are some tips:

  1. Connect with people face-to-face as often as possible. Do not underestimate the importance of this. In order to really know somebody and to be known, this is necessary.
  2. Remind yourself that all real people live real lives. Real lives have ups and downs, joys and problems. People experience great things and awful things.
  3. Protect yourself from the myths that people present of their perfect lives by getting off of social media. The more time you spend on social media, the worse you feel. Stay off as much as possible, and use that time to connect with people in real life.

Girls who spend the most time using technology, a 2017 study revealed, were most likely to say they were sad or depressed nearly every day. They were also more likely to want to change their appearance, not enjoy coming to school and not participate in sports and other activities. If you are feeling really bad about yourself because of what you see others presenting on social media, there are some things you can do.

  1. Stop comparing your life to others; rather, simply live the best life you possibly can.
  2. Surround yourself with happiness and joy, people who love you, and positivity.
  3. Work hard to fix the things in your life you are not happy about. If you hate your friends, consider finding new ones. Improve your relationships at home and elsewhere. Break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend that you’re not happy with. Try something new, and find inner peace.
  4. Remind yourself what truly matters in your life. Is it materialistic things, like fancy clothes, shoes and electronics, or is it having those you love happy, healthy and safe?
  5. If you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. Call a friend, family member, counselor or someone else that you trust.
Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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