“I just passed my driving test! A friend posted on Snapchat. I replied ‘Congratulations my brother’ – with envy.
Of course, I was happy that my friend is now a qualified pilot – that’s a huge achievement for a 17-year-old – but I was jealous that it wasn’t me.
It was the ninth post I had seen in the past three months from someone the same age as me getting their driver’s license. And I hadn’t even taken my first lesson.
I read another notification that said “I just got a new job!” At the time, I pretended to be happy with it, but deep down it made me feel like a failure because I didn’t.
The coup de grace was when someone I didn’t really like told their Snapchat followers that they “couldn’t be happier in life.” To me that message was excruciating – not because I didn’t want her to be happy, but because I didn’t feel the same way.
Maybe I could live with a occasional post or two from people I know about the quality of their lives. But instead, it feels like a constant wave of sassy teens declaring all the amazing things they do.
With each new announcement of success, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter gradually break me.
It forces me to ask myself: what am I doing? Why do people seem so thrilled with their accomplishments? Why is it not me?
Social networks are indeed destroying my life.
Throughout the pandemic, the internet has been indispensable: it was my connection with my family and loved ones when we couldn’t meet in real life, and kept me up to date with what was going on in the world. – arguably, social media have been more vital than government media for abysmal and ambiguous press briefings.
On the business side, it can be a tool for networking, finding career opportunities and bond with people around the world for business benefits. Yet despite the positive elements of the virtual world, I can’t help but use it to judge myself negatively against my friends because everything looks like a competition.
Truth be told, I’ve always compared my weaknesses to the strengths of others, and in my opinion, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
From spell tests and sports days in elementary school to my GCSE results in high school, I have measured my accomplishments against those of my peers to help reinforce my dedication and commitment to improve myself.
But over the past few months, the comparison has done the opposite for me because I haven’t been able to “improve” due to the pandemic and government guidelines. Every time I ranked against my friends’ victories, it took a toll on my confidence, each one more brutal than the next.
This negative comparison habit began around March, when a friend posted how he “liked the pandemic” and how it made him a “better person.” This post really upset me because unlike him, I didn’t like the situation.
A survey by the Royal Society for Public Health asked 14-24 year olds in the UK how social media platforms impact their health and well-being. The results revealed that these apps and sites lead to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image, and loneliness.
Is it any wonder why I find endless updates so toxic?
Some of my school friends even had kids and got married – at 17 and 18. They’ve done amazing things before and seem to have their whole life defined, there is only one word to describe how I feel: envious.
Even though I don’t want kids right now, I can’t help but feel disheartened when I see people my age starting families. I often ask myself, “Am I doing something wrong with my life?
If you haven’t achieved something by the time everyone apparently has, it can make you question your worth.
Ironically, I discovered the term “impostor syndrome” on Twitter. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is the common feeling of not deserving of success and feeling like failure.
In a way, I’m grateful to social media for helping me realize that other people struggle with these feelings as well.
Impostor Syndrome affects me for three reasons: I am a person of color, I am a Muslim, and I am from Bradford, a place previously cited in the press as a “no white zone” and is externally perceived as a of the UK’s ‘most dangerous places to live’. These factors put me at a statistical disadvantage and make me feel that I am not doing well enough.
Due to the educational, social and economic climate created during austerity, there is considerable pressure on young people to be more successful. I am afraid that others like me will eventually burn out.
I feel like everyone’s living idyllic lives except me
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 60% of young people (aged 18-24) have felt so stressed by the pressure to succeed that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
I talked to my parents about how I feel on social media, and they always gave me well-meaning but predictable responses like, “This only shows half of what’s real.”
To some extent I see what they mean. However, when I scroll through my phone, it always feels like everyone is living idyllic lives except me.
Still, I am guilty of sharing my successes and happiness online. I was on vacation this summer in Glasgow and Surrey, and I spam my accounts with pictures. We all show our “wonderful” lives without realizing it.
Sharing my photos on Instagram seemed like a trivial thing at the time because everyone does. In all fairness, I didn’t take into account how others might feel about me posting how much time I was amazing outdoors. On second thought, I wish I could have depressed people seeing my vacation photos.
In the summer, I did something I never expected of myself: I decided to limit my social media use to a maximum of one hour per day, both for Instagram and Snapchat. My decision was prompted by a combination of how I was feeling and the fact that I needed a break.
So far, I don’t regret my decision at all. Of course, I am constantly tempted to break my rule but I know that if I do, I will be in the same situation as before. It made me feel a lot better – giving me time to focus on other things.
I think social media companies should put more emphasis on that not all photos are ‘real’, even if they appear to be, and reinforce that people are exaggerating their happiness. I used to make the mistake of not remembering it when I spent hours scrolling through my phone.
It is very easy to get carried away into believing that everyone’s life is as perfect as they make it seem.
Using and surviving on social media isn’t easy, but I urge you: don’t be fooled. Those who have a seemingly ideal existence struggle as much as anyone else.
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