Let’s face it: pretty much all of us who own a smartphone or have an internet connection are guilty of scrolling through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, sighing over others’ seemingly perfect lives and wishing that our own was as good. A vast number of obsessives- and I will openly count myself as one of these people- check their news feeds every day to keep updated on the lives of people they might not even know. In fact, I have paused from writing this article no less than three times to stalk to wedding of an Australian entrepreneur on Instagram, to look at photos taken by an old work colleague of her Saturday night out, and to rile myself over a girl’s constant stream of pessimistic tweets. Why is it that we have become so fascinated with other people’s lives? And why do we let this affect our own?
I see so many people handing out likes to ‘thinspiration’ accounts on Instagram, or reposting photos to share their motivation for their perfect bodies. Forget being happy in your own skin: nowadays you’re a social reject if you don’t strive for a thigh gap, 20-inch waist and a bubble butt (which is actually physically impossible to achieve without the help of Photoshop), or for males, a gym-honed six pack with thighs and biceps to match. On social networking sites, the more attractive a person is, the happier they are. We have become motivated by likes, favourites and retweets; my sister often rings me to tell me that my nephew has received 70 likes on a photo she has uploaded on to Facebook- that makes him cute, apparently. For us students, we post as many snaps of nights out as we can to show all our acquaintances- and most importantly, our enemies- what a fabulously crazy life we are living at university. I don’t want to see photos of people’s large piles of textbooks or 32-page essays, I want to see what they were wearing on their last night out, or the Jimmy Choos they’ve blown their loans on. If you look happy over the internet, you’re happy in real life. It’s as simple as that.
But what we never stop to consider are the parts of everybody’s lives that we tend to miss out when creating personalities for ourselves on social networking. Of course, people will write about their stories of success, but how many people actually openly talk about the hardships they have suffered? We feed off happiness, whether we regard it with sheer appreciation or envy. I mean, who wants to see a photo of someone crying or a status moaning about how crap their lives are? Unlike the fake smiling shots, that is some serious attention seeking. What we fail to remember is that Instagram is not real life; if it was, we’d probably all grow pretty bored of it after a while. For when you take away the edited pictures and the perfectly posed shots, you’re actually just left with reality. But will we ever snap out of this illusion that our lives should revolve around what will be appreciated by our followers? That remains to be seen.