Today’s post was going to be an update on how I’ve been dealing with my anxiety, something I’ve been planning on writing for a few weeks. When I realised it was International Mental Health Day on Wednesday I thought this post would be even more apt. But it was ironically that day that made me change my mind. Although it’s a great way of helping raise awareness of mental health issues, it meant that a lot of people were sharing their own stories of their own mental health problems, which, again, is a good way of helping to add to the evergrowing conversation around mental health. However, for me, I found listening to other people’s stories overwhelming and triggering. It was one of the first times I’ve really had to make myself to put my phone down and stay off social media for the day/night because it became quite a negative space for me.
This got me thinking about how much of my life I wanted to be sharing on social media. On my blog in the past, I’ve been happy to talk a lot about my personal experiences and, by doing so, I’ve been able to connect with people going through similar things, which has definitely been really positive. But after feeling so overwhelmed by hearing others’ stories on Wednesday, I began to rethink whether sharing so much really is the best thing to do.
The conversation around the ethics of sharing on social media has been growing so much over the past few months. From Katherine Ormerod’s new book ‘Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Life’, and the corresponding Instagram hashtag, to Pandora Syke’s recent article for Man Repeller, it’s definitely a topic that’s hot on people’s tongues. Much of the conversation around this subject argues that we should be presenting more honest perceptions of ourselves on social media, better reflections of our ‘real life’. I can definitely see how the facades of social media can be harmful for many people, seeing people live seemingly perfectly lives and feeling like yours just doesn’t live up is definitely a negative thing. But, for me, this just isn’t the case. I use social media as a form of escapism, just I use books, TV and other forms of media. I think this was why being faced with so many ‘real-life’ stories similar to mine felt so difficult for me. I like seeing a ‘glossy’ version of people’s lives on social media and I’m very, very aware that everyone’s Instagram feeds are a highlight reel of their life (although I do like seeing a bit of ‘real life’ over on Instagram stories). I like using social media as a way of pursuing my interests, from fashion to books to food and reading and seeing photos around these topics definitely helps me switch off and feel more positive. But as real people, should we be sharing our real lives on the internet all the time?
Most people at the moment, it seems to me, would probably answer yes. The word ‘responsibility’ comes up a lot when talking about how bloggers and ‘influencers’ should be using social media and obviously there is some sense of responsibility attached to the job title, like there is with any job. But should people really feel as though they have to share every single aspect of their lives with strangers online? Is it helpful if they do? I don’t have any answers. I don’t know how I feel about it. At the moment, I think maybe users of social media should take responsibility for their own usage, unfollowing people who make them feel negative and limiting their usage of social media if they know it’s not good for them. Because, for me, Instagram, most of the time, feels like quite a positive space for me (even if I waste far too much of my time scrolling) and I can only see it becoming more negative and triggering, personally, if people were to start sharing the more negative aspects of their life on there, especially if they were only doing so because they felt they had to.
I’m not advocating for social media, specifically Instagram, to be a completely honest or dishonest portrayal of ‘real life’, I think I’d like it to be somewhere in the middle, which, with most people I follow, is where I think it’s at now. I think it all comes down to personal choices in terms of posting and following. Maybe for me it’s positive to talk about some of my own negative experiences online but generally not helpful to read about other people’s? Is this contradictory? Yes. But is this ok? I think probably yes. Because if other people, like me, don’t feel good about reading other people’s struggles or ‘real life’ issues, then they can unfollow me. Maybe I wouldn’t even follow myself? Now this is really getting morally confusing. You can tell I don’t know where my mind is at on this subject. But I thought I’d put my confused thoughts out on to the internet anyway because I think there is an interesting conversation to be had about this topic and I’d like to contribute to it, even if I’m doing so unhelpfully.
I’d absolutely love to hear your views on the topic of sharing online. Do you feel a responsibility to make sure your Instagram page is a completely honest version of you? How do you go about avoiding the bits of social media that you find negative? Let me know in the comments or send me a message over on Instagram or Twitter.