Confession: I love social media. I am probably an addict. Strike that...since I'm confessing...I know I am addicted. Have a "spare" couple of minutes? My immediate reaction is almost always to pull out my phone: "Hmmm...what's up on Twitter today...?"
And I'm an adult.
How is this for tweens and teens and young adults today?
A friend shared this article with me this morning: Instagram Worst Social Media App for Young People's Mental Health. It's worth a read, whether you are a parent, or an educator, or a social media user yourself. I hope you'll reflect on it, and perhaps see yourself here...
I was a little surprised to see Instagram listed as the "worst" app here. In my experience, Instagram is perhaps the happiest and nicest social network of the several I use. The rants I see daily on Facebook make me dislike people I actually know in real life. Interactions with passionate and thoughtful educators through Twitter makes me want to be friends with people I don't know in real life. Snapchat? I keep trying to like it, and failing to understand it. (Because, as my tween recently pointed out to me for the 4279th time, I am old.) LinkedIn? I am a member, but I'm not sure it's adding value to my life in any measurable way.
But Instagram? That's where people share beautiful photos of their life and ridiculous memes that make me smile. It's where I get my daily "Oh, wow!" moment from National Geographic (@natgeo) and my daily education chuckle from Bored_Teachers (@bored_teachers). My college students tell me it's where they all hang out, digitally speaking. It's where the middle school crowd is headed as well.
Now that I'm thinking about it, it's definitely a curated view of the world. Everything on Instagram--and all the other social media platforms, for that matter--are a particular version of ourselves that we are broadcasting to the world, or to our select circle of friends, anyway. And in this, perhaps Instagram really is the worst. It's so visual, after all--designed for sharing images. And the images? Always filtered, always cropped just so, always displaying a particular view we want to show.
Maybe it's impossible to avoid comparison when we are looking in to other people's (curated) lives through social media. But this makes me wonder for myself: how often do I take a particular picture, thinking as I snap it, "Oh, this will look GREAT on my Instagram..."? I confess: this isn't far off for me. Of course I want to present my preferred version of myself, and my view of the world. But there's a danger in that too, isn't there? Because I think we all do this. We all show a version of ourselves.
And then, when looking at someone's curated, perfectly filtered image of their world portrayed through social media, how quick are we to compare our everyday to their Best Day? The Instagrammed perfection is not the reality...but do I subconsciously compare my roughest moments to their carefully-curated version of reality? The article above talks about this for teens...but if I'm honest about it, it's true for me too.
Are we curating our lives away? Should we be concerned about this?