Our society chose quite early on in the existence of social media that it was going to be a place to show off or highlight living your best life. Photos of sunsets, group pictures with sorority sisters, and even food edited with the right filter can make anyone look like they’re living like Paris Hilton (in her peak years—think Simple Life popularity era).
But for so long, social media has only shown the edited and positive moments in our lives.
That amazing coffee you had this morning? Insta story it for sure. Waiting two hours for AAA on the side of the road after popping a tire? Not cute—definitely not social media-worthy. The class you finally got a decent score in? Celebrate that on the grid. All the tests you failed before that? Sorry, probably not what people want to see on their feeds!
All of us are guilty of it. It’s human nature for us to want to show off, and to want a glimpse into our friends’ and families’ lives. Talking about the things going wrong in your life is admitting to the people who follow you, “Look, I’m feeling vulnerable.” We are constantly worried about other people’s judgment and perceptions of who we are that we might try to hide a good portion of ourselves, just hoping to appeal to others and get likes and comments.
I was a freshman in college the first time I posted something on my social media pages about struggling.
Although I don’t remember the specific post, I imagine it was on the vague side. Then I lost my dad the following year. When you lose a parent unexpectedly, nothing in your life feels positive anymore. Grief is such a deep and personal emotion that it can cloud your view of the world.
Around this time, I opened up much more on social media. I started to post quotes that spoke to me. I linked to songs that had lyrics I connected with. The more I posted these types of things, the more I felt like my social media pages were really me. Sure, I would show off when something made me happy, but I also shared with my followers that I was going through a rough time.
The number of messages and conversations started because of my posts went through the roof. People I had spoken to once, or never before at all, were reaching out to tell me they felt that way too, or that it was nice to know they weren’t the only one struggling. I got messages saying that because I was so honest and open about what I was going through, it had given them the courage to reach out to get help themselves, or talk to a loved one about what they were going through.
People were reaching out to tell me I wasn’t alone.
14 months ago, I was in a dark place. I was struggling, and I was eventually admitted into the ER for suicidal thoughts. Mentally, that was the worst time of my life. I felt useless, unwanted, and, overall, just horrible. Once an action plan was in place and I was safe, I took to my social media platforms. In the most real posts I’ve ever made, I talked about what had happened to me and said that anyone in a similar headspace could reach out. Even if they didn’t want to get help, they could reach out to me if they thought it would help.
After a flight from Alabama to Connecticut, an appointment with my therapist, and some much-needed time home, I checked in with my socials again. I had more messages than I ever had before—people reached out saying I can always talk to them, reminded me that I was loved, and many people thanked me for my honesty. I had more messages from people who were seriously struggling themselves and just needed to know they weren’t alone.
My vulnerability gave them that comfort, and I know that it helped me know I wasn’t alone.
Since then, I have continued to show both sides of my life through my socials, and they’re a realistic depiction of who I am. I go through a lot of hard, difficult times, but I also get to post pretty sunsets and reality TV memes that make me smile.
Forcing yourself to show only one side on social media is harder than admitting to your friends and family that you aren’t perfect.
Opening up your socials to have the harder conversations doesn’t mean you’re doing the whole social media thing wrong. It means you’re showing the world who you truly are. Being unapologetically yourself will bring more happiness to your world than any amount of likes ever could.