When Tom from MySpace created his social media network back in the early noughties, I doubt his leading intention was to make women around the world feel unsuccessful and fat, yet just 10 years later here we are.
I use MySpace as an example, because for most of us it was the first pillar to our social media obsession that now boasts Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in its arsenal.
Last week I asked you pretty lot to help me out with a seven-question online survey and now i’ve got the results ready to share with you in all their charming glory.
What’s most apparent is that social media isn’t a happy place for connecting and chatting with pals. Or it is, but that’s not it’s predominant use. We use it more for spying on our peers, comparing ourselves to them and then wallowing in a big fat pile of self-pity.
‘Unsuccessful’ and ‘fat’ were the two things you guys admitted social media made you feel most, closely followed by ‘anxious’ and, get this ‘happy’.
So whilst our stalking habits are clearly bringing us down, is the original use of these apps and websites, to connect with friends and family, actually working on some part and bringing us happiness?
What a mish mash of emotions.
Two thirds of you said Facebook was your stalking poison on choice, just shy of another third of you admitted you preferred Instagram, and a measly 8% used Twitter to carry out your indulgent spying.
Facebook stalking was the original method. You’d spend hours on your bed at uni just getting lost on random profiles, spending hours pouring over people’s photos from a holiday in 2007. You’d get out of bed, make tea and get biscuits, and come back to bed to continue the exercise. Sometimes it’d be prettier, perkier girls a few years below you (ahem, guilty) and sometimes it’d be ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriends. or new boyfriend’s old girlfriends, or sometimes it’d be someone completely random just because you could.
These days i’m an Instagram girl.
It’s so much easier to scan for bikini pics, and my guilty pleasure is following bloggers who I aspire to be as popular as. Or bloggers who I perceive to be on a similar level to me now – I spy on them and feel racked with sadness that they’ve been invited to a glossy champagne-fuelled event that I haven’t, or that they’ve been gifted more than me, or that they’re eating pancakes for brunch and i’m in my pyjamas with a chocolate yogurt, or they look smoking hot in a co-ord set with a slither of toned ab poking out that I know I could never get away with.
My theory is, we like to stalk people who we think are slightly above where we are. Not celebrities who have lives far removed from our own, but normal girls who just look like their lives are a bit better than ours, or they have something we aspire to have but don’t.
Sometimes I stalk people my age who I deem pretty and cool and normal, but they have a baby.
Career-wise i’m probably further ahead than them, and my life probably looks more glittery on social media because of my job, but I stalk them because they have a baby and I don’t. And that’s my point exactly, we stalk people who have things we think we don’t.
‘Life looks glamorous’ was number one on your stalking criteria, with 70% of you saying your favourite stalking victim had that quality. ‘Good body’, ‘looks happy’ and ‘posts positive things’ came in just behind.
With ‘life looks tragic’ and ‘posts negative things’ both coming bottle of the pile.
Out of the top 4 things, only one couldn’t be heavily manipulated. A great body can be enhanced by great angles and a filter, but the other three could entirely be illusions. Entirely.
Most of the time a lot of us take social media on face value. We forget how many photographs and how much make-up may have gone into one selfie, how easy it is to only tweet about the exciting things that happen in our week, rather than tell the world we had to use our inhaler before bed because the level of SAD-induced anxiety had spiraled out of control, and we act naive about how staged the majority of Instagram photos are.
What I found really interesting is that just under half of you would be ‘weirded out’ if you found out you were someone’s favourite social media stalking victim. Which, when you think about how many profiles you’ve dug into every corner of, it’s very likely that you too have been scrutinised by people you don’t even know exist.
27 per cent of you said you would be ecstatic and 30 per cent said you would be neutral.
But my favourite part of my survey, was the words you used to describe social media.
The top two? Addictive and dangerous.
I saw ‘addictive’ and ‘dangerous’ repeated over and over again in the comments section along with ‘impacting sanity’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘depressing’, ‘unrealistic’, ‘acidic’ and ‘poisonous’.
It sounds like social media is destroying us, bringing incredible, wise, intelligent and beautiful girls right down to their worst.
Whilst a handful of you admitted that social media was ‘useful’ and ‘connected’, it was in the minority.
I also saw a lot of ‘fun’, ‘pleasurable’ and ‘love-hate relationship’ words in there. The same thing that is bringing us hours of joy (because let’s admit it, between the time we spend commuting on our phones, the time we spend on the websites whilst ‘working’ and the time we spend on our phones whilst watching TV in the evenings, we literally lose hours to FB, Twitter and Insta) is also bringing out the worst in us.
It’s like bullying, or a drug, or trying to be popular. It’s things that seems like a splendid idea at the time, but they don’t bring us true happiness.
I wonder how our mental states would fair if it wasn’t for social media. I for one would need a new career path (sob), but i’d also lose the sadness and anxiety that comes every time I see someone tweet something men about me.
I wonder if we stopped spending so long comparing ourselves to our peers and telling ourselves we’d be so much happier and richer and prettier if only we had what they had, I wonder then if we’d actually be able to find peace and contentment in ourselves.
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