Tag Archives: social comparison

Social Media Cold Turkey – photographic evidence (day 21 – 09/11/2014)

I was out with my family the other night and I got to thinking about something (dangerous, I know).

We were walking around the Sunderland Illuminations at Roker Park and I was taking photos on my phone, mostly of the kids who were all excited and happily posing in front of the displays. Well, 7-year-old Nicole was happily posing, 3-year-old Ethan took a little more convincing and Kenzie, who’s almost 2 – well you just have to catch him on the odd occasion that he stops and stands still.

Anyway, we were wandering around and I was snapping away on my phone, until I realised that I hadn’t really seen any of the displays for myself (as in, not through my camera). I hadn’t really been taking in and enjoying the displays, but instead was more focussed on taking photos so that I could remember (and show others) how much we had enjoyed them! This got me thinking about how much of our time we spend taking photographs when we’re doing something that we enjoy, whether it’s having days out with family or going on nights out with friends.

If something interesting or funny happens and nobody managed to get a picture of it, we’re genuinely disappointed. Or if we’ve taken a load of photos on a day/night out or on holiday and we somehow lose them (lost camera/corrupted memory card/swimming pool incident – I have previous of all of these) it feels like a big part of the experience is lost. It’s as if we don’t trust our memories to keep the information for us to enjoy in the future, we need photos to jog our memories and help us to reminisce.

Which is fine and we’ve always done this to an extent, with lots of embarrassing photos taken on birthdays, at Christmas, at school plays and sports days, and our first day at each school. And nothing was better than getting a disposable camera for your birthday and taking (28?) pointless but awesome photos of you and your friends which would later be blu-tacked to the back of your wardrobe door.

I guess it just feels like now, with good quality cameras on our phones and the ability to immediately share an unlimited amount of photos on social media, taking photos (and especially sharing them, to as many people as possible) has sort of become the focus of our social lives, rather than just a way to remember them. Instead of taking photos that we can look back at on our own or with the small group of people who are in them, we’re using them as a way to prove to others that we have active social lives and lots of friends; that we’re interesting and spend our time doing interesting things.

When we really think about it though, with photos becoming a bigger and bigger element of everything we do, we can’t be surprised that people are becoming more and more (and more) pre-occupied with how they look, at all times. Countless times I’ve heard friends (as well as myself) say that they need to make sure they’re looking their best tonight because such-and-such is coming out – and they always take loads of pictures. But photos aren’t confined to special occasions anymore and it can feel like they’re being taken (and shared) all of the time. Worryingly, a quite natural reaction to this is for us as a society to become more conscious in our day-to-day lives, of how we look.

What I find more worrying though, is that we’re starting to concentrate on this stuff at a much younger age. When I was 10 years old, I’d wake up in the morning and get washed, brush my teeth, pull a brush through my hair and get dressed. Then it was either out to school or off to knock on my friends, in which case we’d spend the day playing on our bikes or climbing trees (they would climb trees, I would usually sit on the bottom branch a few feet up, scared to go any higher); or playing computer games at someone’s house. I realise this sounds like a bit of a “things aren’t like they used to be” lecture, but the point is that 99% of the time, taking photos of us doing whatever we were doing, was the last thing on our minds.

Now, many young girls of the same age are getting up in the morning and whether they’re off to school or to knock on their friends, they have to consider how they look. They feel they have to apply make up to hide what they think is their horrible skin which doesn’t look good on the countless pictures that they and their friends take of each other every day. They have to put proper thought into what they are going to wear and how they’ll do their hair.

I can’t imagine having felt that way at 10 years old and I find it pretty scary – and such a shame – that kids have to now. There are so many other things they could be thinking about – and enjoying – but instead they’re spending most of their time convincing each other that they are in fact, beautiful. Or worse, battling their insecurities about their own looks by insulting each other. What scares me is that, at 9/10/11 years old, children aren’t emotionally developed enough to be dealing with such complex issues and feelings!

Social Media Cold Turkey – Feeling Left Out (Day 14 – 02/11/2014)

There have been a couple of things recently that have made me realise how much of our lives we live on Facebook.

Two of my good friends from Uni have recently gotten engaged (YAY Emily and Nathen!), and last night was their engagement party. Most of my housemates from my second year at Uni travelled to Sheffield to celebrate with them and it was amazing to all get together again. 5 of us drove down from Sunderland and the time flew by as we caught up about everyone’s goings on post-Uni. Everyone has exciting things going on – starting careers, buying cars and what-not. Basically doing a lot of scary grown-up things! Let’s just say the car journey down to Sheffield, free of any hangovers, was a lot more lively than the return journey today.

Anyway, the point is that we had a fantastic night with plenty of catching up, ill-advised shots, food, and general idiocy! The only sticking point is that a huge part of all of our nights out throughout Uni was the photos – looking at them the next day and mercilessly reminding each other, despite how much they begged, about the stupid things (and ridiculous dancing) that had happened the night before.

So I’m feeling a little left out as I know we took LOADS of photos (including who knows what when we took over Becca’s camera for 10 minutes while she was at the bar) and I’m betting they will all go up on Facebook over the next couple of days. Seeing as we don’t live in the same house (or even the same city) any more, I won’t get to see anyone else’s photos until I’m back on social media. I think this is the first time I’ve REALLY wanted to log on! I’m not going to, of course, but I do really want to!

The other thing that’s getting to me a bit is that I caught up with one of my best friends recently and we caught up on loads of stuff, one being the impending Motherhood of one of our mutual friends. Before I came off Facebook we had a group message where we talked about all sorts, which is still ongoing, and I think the topic has recently turned very much to the late stages of Danielle’s pregnancy. Not everyone’s idea of a great conversation topic but to me it definitely is! So I’m finding myself feeling a little left out (not intentionally of course) from the group conversation. I feel a bit guilty as well for choosing now to come off, as I’m not allowed back on until a while after she’s due to be born. Of course that’s silly because Danielle can still reach me on the phone or by text but our Facebook message has become pretty central to us keeping in touch so it’s definitely a miss, especially with such big and exciting things going on!

I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve missed social media or thought about wanting to log on until now, but I do feel like I’m missing out on some things. I can do without scrolling down my newsfeed when I’m sat on the bus or sitting hitting refresh because I can’t be bothered to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing on my laptop at the time – but the last few days have definitely highlighted how much easier and convenient social media can make it to keep in touch with people (especially in groups); as well as how much we rely on it to do so.

Social Media Cold Turkey – how ‘fake’ are we on social media? (day 4 – 23/10/14)

So I read this story about a student who fooled her family and all of her Facebook friends into thinking that she was travelling in Asia for 5 weeks, while actually spending the time hiding out in her apartment in Amsterdam.

What Zilla Van Den Born did was really pretty simple – she photo-shopped travel photos and posted them to social media, Skyped with her parents in front of a backdrop that made her apartment look like a hotel, and sent texts in the middle of the night to make out that she was in a different time zone.

The interesting part though (I thought), is why she did it.

The point she was making was about “how common and easy it is to distort reality” over the internet. She has commented that “everybody knows that pictures of models are manipulated. But we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives” (Zilla Van Den Born quoted in an article on the Huffington Post online).

It could of course be argued that this same deception could have been achieved with more traditional postcards and telephone calls, and that social media wasn’t what allowed this experiment to work. BUT I do think it highlights the way that people use social media day-to-day.

There are a lot of great uses for things like Facebook and Twitter – they allow people to stay in touch easily and regularly across long distances; allow consumers to quickly and effectively share feedback which, especially if it’s negative (and if the company concerned has any sense) will be responded to; more generally allows large groups of like-minded people to communicate far more easily.

BUT the main day-to-day use particularly for Facebook is (usually) to showcase the great things that you have achieved, cool things that you’ve done, particularly attractive selfies that you’ve taken. And I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, just that it in most cases it’s very highly controlled to show ourselves in the best (most attractive, most interesting, most fun) light.

Of course people do post about negative things too (in fact some people don’t seem to post about much else) but for the most part, our newsfeeds are full of all sorts of great things for us to compare our days to. Friendships and relationships are made to look idyllic; our faces are filtered to the point where they sometimes bare little resemblance to how we actually look; sometimes people seem to care more about how their night out/holiday/trip is portrayed in the obligatory Facebook album, rather than actually enjoying it at the time!

So are we finding ourselves in a situation where we’re seeing only the best parts of others’ lives all over social media, and comparing them to our own lives, which are never that perfect? I know I’ve felt like this before. Of course this depends on self-esteem and insecurity but I believe we all have insecurities to some extent, and when I’m not having a particularly good day or am feeling a bit rubbish about myself, I definitely don’t often find that scrolling down my newsfeed cheers me up!