Social media is the world of the Gen-Z-ers. We grew up with this; it’s second nature to us. Luckily for some of us older Gen-Z-ers, social media’s inception wasn’t until we hit our teen years, so we had a little bit of time to still spend most of our childhood playing outside, calling a friend on our house phone, and being sheltered from the traumas that social media would later inflict. But those growing up now are exposed to social sites at an extremely young age, thus shaping them immensely - and not always for the better.
When social media first began, it was mainly sites like MySpace and Facebook. There were no ads, and you only followed people you actually knew and, most likely, were friends with in real life. During this time, people posted pictures with their friends more-so as a way to connect and share their lives- no harm there, right? But then, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and now TikTok, came to life, which spurred a whole new era - what was meant to spur social connection, turned into social destruction.
With these apps, first came the obsessiveness. These apps are what spur all of us to be on our phones 24/7, because the content we can consume is endless. This takes away us living our real lives, and instead, we focus on other people’s “lives” (which isn’t actually their real lives either).
Let me back up. All of these apps started out with no ads - completely organic content. Then, companies started joining, these sites grew, and ads became ingrained in our feeds as organically as normal posts. We began seeing airbrushed models across our screens. And, then, came the celebrities. We all started following our favorite actors, models, singers. Then, the apps like Face-Tune, and those that shrink your body down to a size zero. Everything started becoming less and less organic - we edited our faces, our bodies, to look like these celebrities and models in the ads.
And, then, even though we knew all of these alteration apps existed, we believed these people truly looked like this, and then we started feeling badly about ourselves if we didn’t match this so-called perfect image. We may not have perfectly smooth skin, or brilliantly white teeth, or ab lines, or the perfect glowing tan - but that's what we try to portray on our Instagram feed.
And not only that, but sites like Instagram and Snapchat enable this fake portrayal of ourselves. They create skin smoothing, eye-popping, modelesque filters and entice users to use these filters to make themselves look “better”.
So, it’s no wonder social media has had a negative impact on so many of us. We are exposed to an endless reel of content day after day - and a lot of it, isn’t even real. We curate our profiles to show as “perfect” of a life as we possibly can. Many influencers have even come out and said, their Instagram may look perfect, but they’re actually depressed.
We get so caught up in this digital world, which in turn, affects our real world. While there is no clear answer on how to fix this, I do believe we are coming to a point where people are trying to bring back a more organic social media experience. There have been movements like the “#nofilter” movement, where celebrities have posted (supposedly) totally unedited, unfiltered, natural images of themselves to try to enforce the idea to love ourselves as we are - without the alterations, the makeup, etc.
While there is certainly no going back now, as social media is an integral part of our society today, the more movements like this may foster a more genuine representation of who we are and our lives, and hopefully, bring back the authentic connections it once cultivated.