Facebook, Twitter and lots of other social media sites carry with them the risk of pushing people to cover up reality. Why? Because they encourage people to trumpet their happy experiences and to streamline their life stories into pithy, exciting posts and videos that are rated by how many “likes” they get. This encourages us to turn our real lives into mini-reality TV shows—and we should all know by now that reality TV is an oxymoron. Nothing could be more fake than reality TV like “The Kardashians.” At least fictional TV series admit that they are made up.
What’s the trouble with fashioning a fake version of yourself for Facebook or Twitter or SecondLife.com? The trouble is that your true SELF immediately registers the disparity between your real circumstances and feelings and opinions and those that you generate only for popularity or attention. And that space between what is truth and what is fiction is the breeding ground for anxiety and depression and SELF-doubt.
So, here’s the solution. If you’re using social media (and I am, by the way), then make triply sure that what you post is not fabricated for “mass consumption.” Only communicate your genuine opinions and feelings about your life and the world around you. This probably means you’ll end up skipping some selfies that you admit to yourself are actually exaggerated attempts to show how much fun you’re having or how many nice things you have. And it probably also means that you will be challenged to determine what you can post that is real and genuine.
What might such real, genuine posts include?
- Heartfelt opinions about the world
- Questions about life you find yourself facing and that you think others may struggle with, too
- Quotes you love
- Photos that truly move you
- Books you read and enjoy
- Poems you read and enjoy
The point is to ask yourself whether what you are posting is the equivalent of yelling, “Look at how great everything is, or whether what you are posting is the equivalent of saying, “It is what it is.” If that doesn’t sound appealing, then you should wonder how much you’re relying on social media as a drug to elevate you above reality. Using it that way can only hurt you, psychologically, in the long run.
One example of reality-based social networking is the President’s use of Twitter. Now, lots of people find fault with President Trump’s Tweets. I know that. I’m not arguing here whether or not it is best for a leader to Tweet or not to. But the President’s Tweets are shoot-from-the-hip missives. And few people can doubt that he means what he Tweets. He’s not looking to candy coat anything or make friends. He’s expressing himself.
SELF is sacred. The heart of my message is this: Don’t let social media make you fictionalize who you are. You are on a soulful journey through this life. Sharing that real journey is brave and beautiful.
Dr. Keith Ablow