One aspect of the internet, especially with regard to social media, that impacts self-esteem is the ability for each of us to control how we are perceived by others. We are now our own personal brands; and like any responsible business owner, we gear our actions toward protecting, promoting, and growing that brand.
When life happens to be less than glamorous, we brood and lament about the average, semi-successful life we have been able to achieve. We generally spend a significant amount of time on some variety of social media where we are presented with everyone we have ever met projecting the most idealistic portrait of their life onto the internet.
Instead of being rational and accepting that nobody has a perfect life, we tend to default to our core values which have guaranteed us boundless happiness, affluence, and fulfillment.
We the snowflakes, believe we are entitled to these things, to such a degree that we accept these idyllic projections as an accurate representation of the lives of others. We assume that we should be as happy as our friends’ carefully coordinated travel pictures, status updates, and check-ins would have you believe that they are. Not surprisingly, some people experience a decrease in feelings of self-worth because the core values of the Self-Esteem Movement discourage rational expectations.
Most of us are guilty of both of these things.
I scroll through my Facebook and Instagram feeds, and if I’m not feeling particularly good about my station in life that day, it’s easy to catch myself getting bitter about what other people have/achieve/are doing. Either that or I get ultra jaded about my own life.
It never really occurs to me that everyone else is picking the ripest of cherries from their lives to post online. And why would it, except that I do the same fucking thing, and so does everyone else.
My Instagram profile is full of pictures of my daughter smiling and being just about the most adorable thing on the planet. Interspersed with this nearly unbearable cuteness are pictures of the tasty ales I brew, new guitar equipment I’m fortunate enough to have, travel pictures, and trendy records I’ve been listening to. I grossly neglect my Twitter account, and have only recently started being active on Facebook, but my feed there is largely the same with the addition of humblebrags about my book. More or less, my online existence is a whole lot of this:
And so is yours.
I don’t post about the negative stuff. There aren’t pictures of my daughter screaming, or my house covered in dog/cat/child vomit. I don’t post about how elusive financial stability can be, or how challenging it is for my wife and I to juggle full time careers and a full time parenthood. I don’t do that primarily because I don’t want people on the internet to know the details of my personal life, but, just as importantly, I am subconsciously acting out of preservation for the Willis brand.
I am aware of how I use social media, and my reservations with posting anything that would be potentially hazardous to my image, self-esteem, and/or branding. Despite this, I operate as though no one else is doing this, and the perfectly manicured image projected onto the internet is a whole and accurate representation of their life.
This doesn’t make sense. I shouldn’t have this amnesic condition where I know what I post on social media are the choicest morsels of my life, but forget that other people are doing the same thing. But I do, and so do most of you.
Why it probably makes sense is that we were all told that we were special, unique, and going to be successful. Sometimes we don’t feel that way, but we can at least make it look that way online. So we endlessly tinker away at our brands, hoping that our life one day looks and feels like the one we create for ourselves online.