Social media is today’s media. It’s where the masses turn for entertainment.
Radio had serials. Television had sitcoms and then reality shows. The Internet has social media.
Social media isn’t meant to reflect reality. It’s never been “real.” And it never will be. We’d get bored.
Our attention span demands highlights. We gravitate towards soundbytes. We want our problems to neatly resolve themselves in 30 minutes or 140 characters.
Too much detail. The routine is boring. We tune it out.
And here’s the problem. We’re raising a generation with unrealistic expectations.
So, this is and isn’t a post about pancakes. About images that are styled and well lit. About what we do and don’t share. And about how we share real life.
We’re so focused on how the media misleads children and undermines the self-esteem of girls that we’re missing the bigger picture.
But we don’t see that we are the problem now. Not some amorphous external entity we label “the media.” We, Joe public, are the problem. With everything we do and don’t share on social media we are the problem.
We want models on television, in magazines, and on the runways that aren’t airbrushed or unhealthy body weights. Yet with ads and fashion, illusion is obvious. We’re all in on the deception. At any time, we can pull aside the curtain and reveal how magic is made. We can show how Photoshop is used to create the illusion.
With social media, illusion is harder to detect. Text and photos appear “real.”
The danger is that the illusion lies in omission. And social media omissions aren’t as obvious as Photoshopped images of models.
Think about it. We’re conditioned to believe that reality television shows are real. Yes, the people in the show are saying and doing what is shown, but the order of events and context may have been altered to cause a reaction.
Social media is our reality television show. We curate what we share, consciously or unconsciously. We present information designed to cause a reaction. To like us. To support us. To buy from us. To hire us.
Our kids don’t know that this editing is occurring. Many readers of lifestyle sites aren’t aware of this curation either.
We’re missing how we’re conditioning our kids to believe social media is real. And in doing so, we’re setting them up to view their lives as less than an ideal. (Various studies have shown that Facebook harms our overall self-esteem.) As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Just like ads portrayed unrealistic, unhealthy body image, we, Joe public, are doing the same. Portraying lives that are unobtainable and that not even the content creator truly lives.
Today Gates and I shared a plate of pancakes. The pancakes were delicious. And Gates and I had fun making them together.
On Facebook I posted about the challenges I was having making the pancakes. On Instagram I refrained from posting, not having an image that was droolworthy or “on brand.” As I made that decision to not publish to Instagram, I realized we’re worried about the wrong social media images. Body image shouldn’t be our sole focus. We need to be talking to our kids about everything they see (and don’t see) through media. We need to be talking to them about what they share and don’t share.
So here, I’ve shared both the styled, well-lit images of pancakes plated and arranged on my parents’ China. And, I wrote a post that is and isn’t about pancakes.
Hopefully when Gates sees beautiful images she’ll not get frustrated that her attempts don’t look like what she’s seeing. That she’ll realize there is work that happens behind the scenes to create those images. And hopefully she won’t judge her work or her life by the impossible standards we're sharing as reality.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.