I am not an influencer. Nor do I aspire to be one. Nevertheless, I like taking outfit photos for my Instagram. My following is made up of predominately family, friends and acquaintances who endure my habit. My little corner of the internet was a form of escapism. A place for me to document a particular outfit creation next to a stone wall outside of my house. Nothing too serious as you can tell. And I always thought I had a good relationship with that escape. I always thought I knew the boundaries and where not to overstep the limit, I never took it too seriously. My Instagram feed was normality. I don’t get paid to post a photo of my clothes, so why would I need to fake it?
Why social media is ruining your life
In her new book “Why social media is ruining your life”, author Katherine Ormerod tackles the issues that social media has created. In conjunction with the release of her book, a hashtag with the same name was created to showcase that not everything is as it seems underneath a Valencia filter. Katherine bravely posted a series of photos on her feed where underneath the smile, stories of marriage breakdown and job loss presided. On the back of this, many more women began to share stories about photos that told a different story than their first impressions might suggest. It was inspiring. A deep dive into everything social media refuses to teach us; no life is perfect.
After a quick scroll through my own feed, I was motivated to show that even without a following or 'influencer' title, you can be influenced to do the very same. There were three particular pictures in which I immediately remembered the exact feelings and total nightmares that consumed me at the time but where the photo showed a different story.
This photo was taken by my long-suffering boyfriend halfway on a journey from Dublin to Kerry. I was travelling a four-hour journey to spend a maximum of six hours there. I had work the next morning so had to catch an early train back up to Dublin. It was nothing short of crazy, but I was desperate and needed to go home. My house in Dublin had been broken into a week before while my roommates and I were there, and I was completely and utterly shaken. My memories of this time are clouded in tears, fears and panic. My feeling of safety had been destroyed but I decided to take a picture of me smiling in the middle of Junction 14.
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The Galway Races, oh how I adore you but I was miserable here. Even though my social media told a contrasting story, I would have done anything not to be there. If aliens had come from on high to collect me, I would have gladly gone with them. My relationship with myself and my body was at an all-time low. My friend took a succession of photos, and in each one all I could think was; I am fat. My day was spent being in foul form, comparing myself to my friends and strangers who were prettier and thinner than I, and taking photos to find the perfect slimming angle. I ruined my own day by being self-absorbed in a social media fantasy. But I still posted on Instagram, just to show the world I had a good time.
After the break-in, I went through a period where I was unable to be in a house on my own. It was daylight, but an hour previous to this photo being taken I was downstairs crying, terrified and convinced that there was intruder upstairs. However, I took a photo of my Starsky and Hutch get-up and posted it on Instagram where nothing was said about the tears.
Real vs Fake
In each photo, I was trying to escape my feelings and project a perfection ideal by using this tool to forgot. And social media is a tool. A tool that has created spectacular advancements, with rags to riches stories in abundance, but it’s also used as a mechanism to cover the not so picturesque happenings of life. Heartache and hardship can hide behind a smile in a square box. Not everyone wants their personal stories to be aired on the discovery page. It's not just those with a million followers who are trying to escape, people with 100 followers or less will do the same. The numbers don't separate feelings or protect you from adversity.
Katherine Ormerod's hashtag has taught me that nothing is as it seems online, and no life is faultless. If I'm feeling forlorn, I don't have to post a picture on Instagram just to prove I'm ok. Cross-border relations won't fall apart and followers won't cry. You and you alone are in complete control. Ignore the notion that everything has to be perfect. Imperfection can be bliss because its real. And don't believe everything you see as you scroll.
Social media has power, but you do too.