The problem with social media

By Steven Gillard


I have had it with social media. It was a good run. I’ll always have fond memories of subtly liking my crush’s statuses on Facebook, tweeting thinly-veiled cries for help, and sending a dozen Snapchats to all my friends every time I did something that could be considered fun. But I think it’s been beaten to death this summer.

My main beef is with Snapchat.  While sharing your life in brief snapshots is admittedly cool, it’s been abused time and time again by people who, for some reason, feel the need to document every single moment of their lives.  Friday night comes along and Snapchat comes alive: the app is bombarded with pictures of spirits and shooters and shots, videos of a crowded dance floor with thumping music and flashing lights. It’s supposed to show that you’re a fun person, that you like to have a good time, that you live in the moment.  But if you were really living in the moment, you wouldn’t be concerned with letting your friends know that you were.

Instagram, while a cool site for sharing pictures, has transformed into a vehicle for narcissism.

Girls sitting by the pool need to take a picture of their tan legs and mixed drinks just to let the world know they live a carefree life and own a pool. Guys who just hit the gym need to take a mirror pic of their bulging bicep to let everyone know they work out. Why can’t you just enjoy the sun or the satisfaction of improving your body? Why must the world know where you are and what you’re doing? A precisely angled, perfectly lit, flawlessly filtered Instagram photo has become the twisted, twenty-first century form of self-acceptance.

Take another common example: you wake up in the morning and look good. You whip out your phone, put on your best smile (or seductive gaze) and post a selfie online with a nice quote about loving yourself. But it’s all just a facade: if you were really doing so well, you wouldn’t need to broadcast it to the world. You wouldn’t need the gratification that comes with every “like.” Yes, you do look good in that selfie, but here’s the kicker: you don’t look like that in real life, and you actually have pretty debilitating self-esteem issues despite the Marilyn Monroe quote captioning the photo. Pretending to be something doesn’t transform you. At the end of the day, regardless of how your peers perceive you, you’re still who you are.

I went through a phase a few summers ago following a breakup with a high school girlfriend. It was a dark, dark time in my life, and I could do nothing but lie in bed and shoot pieces of my tortured soul onto Twitter. One minute, I was lamenting about the torment of irreparable heartbreak, the next I was describing my latest trip to the gym in an effort to show that I was, against all odds, fighting back against my cruel fate. Then I woke up one morning and realized nobody cared. The people who cared were the people I was already talking to through texts and on the phone – people who didn’t need to scroll through Twitter to know how I was feeling.

And that’s what I’m trying to say here: nobody cares. I can appreciate a beautiful picture of a sunset, or a Snapchat of your cat and even the long-winded sentimental post about your loving significant other or your late grandparent. That’s genuine stuff.  What I can’t appreciate is transparent, shallow content designed to highlight that you like to let loose, you have nice blue eyes, or that you go to the gym daily.  No matter how well you think an image or tweet or post embodies who you are, I promise you are still selling yourself short. Human beings are so much more than how they look in swimsuits and what they do on Friday nights; no matter how advanced technology becomes, a person’s essence will never be captured by a photo or Facebook post.

One of my goals for this year is to put down my phone. If I’m at the bar, I’m not going to send a Snapchat of my beer just to let my friends know that I do, in fact, party.  Instead, I’m going to keep my phone in my pocket and enjoy spending time with the people I’m with, or maybe even talk to a girl. If I’m at the library until 4 a.m., I’m not going to Instagram a picture of a thick book next to a cup of coffee; I’m going to continue working hard and let the results speak for themselves.

Sharing bits and pieces of your life to social media is fine.  It’s the posing and the posturing that isn’t.  If you have to point out that you’re fit or bookish or happy then the chances are you’re still inadequate in all of those things. Become who you want to be, and then people will notice – no social media necessary.

 Steve Gillard is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].