Social Media in a Generation of Mental Illness
Imagine a world without social media
Social Media in a Generation of Mental Illness
By Greg Lepore / filmsforaction.org

Social media has hijacked my generation. However no one can dispute that it does come with some unique benefits for personal and social growth. Personally, we can access up to the second news of every kind, be enlightened by thought provoking memes and entertain ourselves with the most relevant jokes and videos. Socially, we can connect to the entire world. We’re kept up to date with what is going on in the lives of our friends, family, and colleagues, and we keep them all up to date with what is going on in ours.

These are the reasons for which social media was created, reasons crafted in good faith and with good intentions. Unfortunately, as with most of today’s technological innovations, social media has proven to come with a devastating unintended consequence. While hardly anyone notices, social media has begun to wreak havoc on a generation already overcome with mental illness.

We human beings have an unhealthy tendency to compare ourselves to one another. We compare our bodies, our outfits, our cars, our jobs and everything else unique about us to the unique aspects of other people. Before social media, these comparisons were conducted on the spot. A woman sees another woman and compares the woman’s outfit to her own. A man sees another man and compares the man’s physique to his own. Visiting a friend, I compare the state of my apartment to the state of his. Sitting in class, I compare the grade I received to the grade of my neighbor. These comparisons were, for the most part, harmless because they were immediate and disregarded not long after the event occurred.

The fatal flaw with social media is that it forces you into a constant state of comparison. Rather than making immediate comparisons about specific aspects of a person in real time, we now live in a society where we compare our entire lives to the entire lives of others at every second of the day, every day. As a result, we in this generation have become pitted in an eternal battle over who can put on the better front.

What gets lost in the midst of these comparisons is the fact that social media is nothing more than a highlight reel. Users do not publish anything about themselves they are not proud of. They post only their most attractive pictures and their most commendable accomplishments. And though we all do the same thing on our profiles, we seem to believe that everyone else’s highlight reel is in fact that person’s reality. We compare their filtered reality to our true reality, almost always leading to depression about where we are in our lives and anxiety over when our lives will become better.

Social media has bred a generation in which being comfortable with who you are is, for most, nearly impossible. Someone online will always seem to be better dressed, have a better relationship, go to a better school, have a better job and live a more exciting life. They’ll seem to just be better.

“Look at her travelling the world… as I sit here on my porch.”

“Look at them at that wild party… as I lay here watching Netflix.”

“Look at that perfect couple, so happy together in all of their photos… I’m still single.”

Constantly comparing yourself to others will drive you insane. As a result, people lose sight of who they are as they try to imitate those who put on a better front.

But realize, that girl travelling the world? One day she’ll be on her porch while you’re travelling the world. Those kids that look like they’re having a great time? Probably went back to doing nothing right after they took that photo. That couple that always looks so happy in all their photos? Argues all the time. That guy with the great job? Probably hates his boss.  That girl that looks like a supermodel? Took 100 pictures to get that perfect one.

Social media was created with the noble intention of connecting the world like never before. It has succeeded in its mission. However, the societal consequences for my generation have been enormous. The depression and anxiety caused by social media drives many to do things they would not normally do and be people they do not want to be, all in an effort to put on a good front.

In a world without social media, the only place you need to be is where you are right now. The only thing you need to be doing is what you’re doing right now. The only person you need to be is who you are. 

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Social Media in a Generation of Mental Illness