How many of you guys have spent hours coming up with the perfect Instagram caption? Cracked our heads over the right photo or filter to put on that so-called candid laugh? Maybe shoved your phone in your best friend’s face and ask, “Should I post this? Which filter should I use?”
Maybe you’ve even spent hours finding the right photo or filter to match your feed, for that ‘aesthetic’ feel because you’re so ‘creative’?
Forgive me if I sound a tad sarcastic. That’s because I am.
As a fellow millennial, of the perfect age to have millions of followers on Instagram and be a ‘social media model’, I’m frankly amazed by the unrealistic and borderline impossible expectations shoved down our throats by our fellow millennials.
Long, luscious hair, clear, flawless skin with not a pore in sight, a washboard flat stomach or a perfectly toned 6 pack with matching biceps, a designer wardrobe, sexy photos, or the perfect smile or pout seems to be the standard requirement to be anybody on Instagram.
If you’re just another Plain Jane or John Doe, forget your dreams of social media superstardom.
It’s not even the less tech-savvy older generations forcing us to project the perfect image of youthful joy and carelessness associated with your so-called ‘golden years’, but it’s your friends.
Because those who say retirement is the golden era is lying – everyone still living and breathing knows the world is now obsessed with your teens or early 20s years, years that you should be celebrating and spending by partying and drinking your nights (and days away) with equally attractive youths.
I blame the Internet. Like every ah ma and uncle’s favourite excuse: “play some more phone lah!” Unfortunately, your mom, dad, grandma, granddad, uncles, aunties and random neighbours/distant relatives are right.
Millennials (not to hate on my own generation) are infamous for being shallow and wanting everything easy and instantaneously.
But when did shallowness morph into this soul-draining dependence on others to validate our own self-esteems?
In a world of picture perfect Kylie Jenners and beautiful, seemingly inhuman Instagram models (*cough Lucky Blue Smith *cough) and picture-perfect bombshells, are you really to blame when you’ve been brainwashed since early adolescence to crave the attention of your peers?
Models who turned their A+ selfie skills (if only that was a class in college) and genetically-blessed, pretty faces into modelling contracts, paid sponsorships or their own beauty or clothing lines sound almost unrealistic (great, now they’re both famous, gorgeous AND rich!)
I was that wide-eyed, impressionable teen who didn’t know better and like me, you’ve likely been brainwashed into taking part of an Internet phenomenon beyond your control or simply because everyone else was hopping on the social media bandwagon.
The Instagram-world is driven by insecurity and the age-old yearning that’s probably existed since the dinosaurs, to fit in somewhere. It’s the most basic human instinct to be accepted and loved by everyone around you, personified into the form of beautifully captured photos, with the perfect ‘deep quote’ caption.
In fact, don’t even get me started on the fake deep quotes or deep song lyrics as photo captions on Instagram but that’s a whole different story.
When did ‘wanting to fit in’ become synonymous with ‘followers/likes per photo on Instagram’? When did wanting to be liked or accepted by your friends and classmates become equivalent to getting at least 3k followers on Instagram or 500 likes per picture?
How did our self-esteems get so irreversibly entangled with how many people comment fire emojis on your photo or say you look gorgeous?
Because face it, despite how some claim they don’t play the fame game, we all want to get more than a hundred likes on your photo within 2 hours of posting, because it gives you that little flush of pride, that little bit of satisfaction knowing so many people saw your selfie or a photo from your best friend’s birthday party and liked it. It makes you feel good.
It’s even easier to get sucked into the perfect worlds of other people. It distracts from your own lives for just those few precious minutes scrolling through someone else’s perfectly curated, aesthetically matching feed. Finding out exactly what they ate, where they went, whom they’re with, what they’re doing and what they’re wearing gets seriously addictive, especially if you’re a fellow female because your brain automatically clicks to ‘I WANT TO BE JUST LIKE HER’. You take fashion and beauty advice from Instagram models, buy the same clothes or get the same make up, just to look a little better than plain ol’ you.
C’mon, who didn’t feel secretly envious scrolling through Kylie Jenner’s Instagram feed, seeing her seemingly perfect life?
Social media has morphed into this dependence for millennials, where living without it seems impossible for many (I’m unfortunately yet another social-media-obsessed teen). And with it, comes the burden of having your lives and your self-esteem ruled by other people and their thumbs double-tapping a screen. Because as much as those likes make you feel good, it also makes you feel depressed when you aren’t getting them.
Having a selfie that you thought was bomb af, only getting 50 likes compared to your usual 150 likes, instantly plants the seed of self-doubt and sends your ever-so-fragile self-esteem plummeting.
You can start overanalysing the offending photo – did I really look so bad? Is my outfit not cute enough? Does my hair look bad? Trying too hard? Not sexy enough? Maybe I didn’t use the right filter?
Why are we so caught up in what other people think of us? And why in God’s name is everyone suddenly so desperate to be Instagram famous?
We’ve become a society defined by numbers – how many followers you have, how many people liked your photo, how much you get paid per advertisement. It’s become less truthful and more carefully curated content designed to spread fake positivity while hiding the ugliness of daily life.
It isn’t all laughter and smiles and fun, sometimes it’s messy, difficult and ugly.
And somehow, social media got all tangled up in what makes you feel good about yourself. Loving yourself should never come from how many likes you get or whether people comment in your photos with fire emojis, complimenting you or asking where you bought your clothes/makeup or not.
While it’s impossible sometimes not to compare yourself to Instagram models, remember that their lives may seem perfect but no one’s lives really are. Because once you peel away the pretty Lark-filtered exterior shell, you’re left with everyday people who share the same insecurities, problems and flaws just like everyone else.
They get a huge pimple before a huge date, just like you and I. They spend way too much money on food, just like you and I. Putting pretty people on pedestals, worshiping their every move isn’t healthy nor productive. Because let’s face the brutal truth – we’ll never have Kim Kardashian’s amazing ass, or Alexis Ren’s tiny waist or Lucky Blue Smith’s perfectly sculpted 6 pack; and obsessing over Kylie’s wardrobe isn’t doing you or your friends any favours.
Embracing your flaws and your less-aesthetically-pleasing parts of your life doesn’t mean your life isn’t as amazing or happy as anyone else’s. While some people paint this impossibly happy image online, you never know what happens behind the scenes. Someone who seems to have the perfect life could be completely miserable.
It seems a tiny bit ridiculous to me how people spend so much time creating the perfect online image, the perfect matching feed, the perfect caption, the perfect ‘candid’ photo or the right filter. Because frankly, life is beyond what’s shown on a screen.
You have your friends, your family, your job or your studies. It’s not whether you got as many likes for your selfie as that group photo with your friends.
My life is messy and difficult and sometimes downright ugly but no, I don’t feel the need to document my everyday life with the perfect photo. Coming from a fellow Instagram nut, I understand the craze, but I’m just happy not to be a part of it.
Having that perfect matching feed, or the amount of likes per picture or my follower to following ratio has never mattered to me and it probably never will. While I’m not crazy confident, I don’t hate myself either. I’m somewhere between loving and hating myself and that’s okay, because I know my self-worth and how I feel about myself will change as quickly as the wind (I am female after all) but it definitely isn’t hanging on whether all of my followers double tap on my photo.
Why are we handing over our entire lives, our happiness and how we feel about ourselves to a bunch of strangers? Why should ANYBODY have the power to dictate how you feel about yourself, either good or bad?
Our self-esteems and self-worth is so much more than a number, so why are we trivializing our own happiness in exchange for social validation?