Opinion: This holiday, let’s stop pretending on social networks

Why do we feel we have to pretend? Online, it’s starting to look like an annual vacation letter every day; not once a year in my mailbox, but 24/7 beautification instead of revealing what we really feel.

This holiday season, I have a simple wish. Innovators have given us great digital tools for smoothing out wrinkles and erasing blemishes. We can brighten and brighten up every snapshot, and social media can give us powerful ways to connect with our friends and family near and far. But we don’t need a photo filter for real life. Real life is messy. In fact, that’s what makes it interesting, challenging, and fun. So from 2022, can’t we end the great pretend and share who we really are?

This year, we’ve all seen social media officials appear before Congressional hearings to talk about the risks young people face on their platforms. The pressure to fit in is enormous, and the fallout is evident in everything from eating disorders to bullying and self-harm. We don’t need a whistleblower to confirm that the pressure is only growing and intensifying with social media. It’s obvious.

Social media can be a mirror or a magnifying glass, but most of all, that airbrushed life instinct reflects a pressure that doesn’t go away when you log out.

This has been especially true over the past almost two years of Covid. On campus, here in the heart of Northern California’s innovation economy, it’s not just about new clothes, new dorms, and new friends, but events that seem completely unnatural after 18 months of social distancing: be social, all the time. Too many people feel compelled to pretend – to their roommates that they are doing well, to their parents that they are doing well, to everyone – that this uprooting, especially after a year when many have been cocooned with their families, is going off without a hitch.

We’ve built a culture that encourages sharing all that is positive online with our followers, while offline we hide burdens on our own instead of unloading them in the embrace of real friends. Wouldn’t we lighten the load a bit if only we felt comfortable sharing how we really feel?

Students and young people are feeling the weight of it all. But graduation doesn’t take the burden away. Everyone from regular people to Olympic athletes and Fortune 500 CEOs feel relentless pressure to pretend that everything is not only OK, but actually great. Admittedly, this is made worse by the pressure to measure up to the distorted images of one’s peers on social media.

What if we all made a daily effort to share something genuine, even and maybe especially if it makes us more vulnerable?

Today there is a constant rate of criticism on social media. But I am tempted to consider the flip side and the opportunity. Every move and experience streamed live, tweeted, TikTok’d and posted to Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook is, more than ever, an opportunity to stop pretending and start being real – online and offline.

Maybe it was the Saccharin Vacation Letter that got me thinking about this so much this year. I wondered, what if you got a letter in the mail that just said, “What a difficult year!” Imagine the sense of community and solidarity we could all find in a letter that said, “We survived 2020 and 2021, we are lucky to be healthy when so many people weren’t there. also blessed, but we are very tired. “Wouldn’t that be a worthwhile vacation letter that you could relate to?

Whether you are young or old, online and offline, authenticity is the motto we all look for in our daily transactions. Perhaps we can set an example for young people this holiday season if when they come we share the good, the bad, and the ugly – with our true friends. Maybe that’s how we start to build a world where no one feels pressured to pretend. Now that’s a vacation letter I’d love to read and a social media post we wouldn’t want to see go away.

About Madeline Powers

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