We dwell on our failures; we rarely relish our successes.
This is human nature and a massive issue I encountered in terms of motivating myself during university. Why then, do our “online” selves have such an opposite mentality, sharing updates that only portray our lives in a positive light?
I recently had a very unique experience as the result of a focus group: speaking to a handful of individuals who had zero social media footprint. Zero. Take that in. In today’s world, that means typing your name into Google and finding the odd mention, but nothing “straight from the horse’s mouth”. The very thought is earth-shattering to someone like me, who makes a living ensuring that there are pages and pages that contain my work and my brand.
I had the opportunity to ask them why. Why ‘disconnect’ yourself from all of the people who are interested in you, personally and professionally? One respondent’s answers were so brutally honest that I wanted to share it (because that’s what I do with my online persona). I know sometimes we forget what follows is the nature of online sharing, and it doesn’t take a social media professional to recognize it:
“Social media is all about bragging. All you see are engagement announcements and baby pictures. But that’s not an accurate picture of anyone’s whole life. My grandmother died last year, but you would never see me share that. Why? Because it’s not the type of thing you gloat about, it’s not ‘worth sharing’ but it was a huge part of my life. I just can’t get behind the idea of this unrealistically happy partial picture.”
I played devil’s advocate and asked him about all of the people that would have wanted to condole with him, to offer their sympathies and be supportive. He responded that the moment was private, meant to be shared solely with family, and that those few were contacted personally because that was the right channel, given the gravity of the news.
Far be it for me to poke holes in his logic or argue any further. It had come down to opinion, to personal preference. But his message was something we should all be reminded of, especially if you’ve ever felt insecure or downright depressed after browsing your Facebook feed. What we see through Instagram pictures and Facebook statuses is not life, it is selective sharing. People choose the updates they want to broadcast as a means of providing an update, spurring conversation or garnering attention. Most of the time, it’s positive because everyone wants to celebrate successes (when was the last time you saw “Just got my third DUI” posted as a status update). In fact, can you think of any negative update you recall seeing on your feeds?
What’s important to take away is that no one’s life is perfect, but many people’s social updates are. So the next time you’re feeling like you’ve dropped the ball on your professional or personal development, remember that text in bold above. Channel your insecurities if you can, because anything that brings out the best in you is worth exploring, but inherently know that the online environment that has become a second home to most Gen Yers is not real life, it’s curated content.