Image is an odd word in today’s world. Image is everything. It’s your existence, it’s your being, it’s your social status, it’s your identity and recognition.
The social media of today has catapulted this ginormous celebrity-like larger than life lifestyle, incorporating the ultimate YOLO (you only live once) mentality into everyone’s mind to create and sometimes construct an “image” of what you are. As much as there are entirely false and made up lifestyles and stories being sold to the public eye, there are also those moments which truly are genuine too. What really differs though, are the sob stories underneath, the intense suffering or emotional trauma and difficult lives people deal with on a daily basis behind those weekly celebrated Facebook/Insta-worthy pics.
There is a real sense of being accepted, appreciated, liked, loved and even understood behind these publically showcased personal photos. People need to feel alive, relevant and worthy. They require attention, and security. They need those likes in today’s world. The culprit is the culture formed. People do not discuss their issues with anyone. No one is interested in anyone’s failure. No one has time for your sob story or suffering. It’s all about selling the over-the-top success stories and those Ted talks all over YouTube. It’s always about how quickly, miraculously you achieved recognition, greatness and wealth. Whether business or science, it’s all about the success story. Similar to Instagram it always focuses on the next big story, either in a picture, or in a video. It’s the untold, unspoken competition of outdoing your peers, winning that award, and in my case in the academic circle winning that research grant, publishing that paper, patenting that experimental product.
And yet far beyond that mind boggling, buzzing bee hive of internet success, lies a person in his own life, the life disconnected from internet and social media, the tears, the struggles, the laughs, the embarrassments, the grief and the giggles: the real emotions of the person. It’s a world of self acceptance, self appreciation, self healing and self awareness.
I’m currently dealing with true pain, true grief and suffering, the way I never felt before. I feel that everyone on social media is happy, except for me. Each time I open Facebook or Instagram, every single person is having the time of their lives, except for me. Everyone has everything they want, except me. Everyone seems fulfilled, they are having adventures and sharing it with everyone, except me. No one seems sad, no one seems empty, no one seems afraid, except for me…
I ponder over this fact and think about the graveness of the situation. Am I in depression? Is a sob story exhibited on the open panels of the internet gallery going to give me the tender care, acceptance and empathy which I require? Or will I have to resort to faking it till I make it by pretending to be happy and successful until I actually find solace. Will this jungle of photos see the me behind the mask?
My heart tells me not to. It doesn’t want that, it wants real validation and it wants it from within, no matter how long it takes. It needs real genuine acceptance from myself. It needs to cope with the grief and turn it into a source of growth, improvement and future joy. It is a long road and a cobbly one too. It needs patience, time, understanding, reflection and self consciousness. I won’t be able to post pictures on social media, I won’t have that urge to conform to modern trends anymore and perhaps not need it either. The fact is that it is okay. It is okay for everyone looking for validation and acceptance on the internet because the truth is: no one is really happy. Everyone has their own struggles and griefs to cope with, be it financial, professional, or personal, each one of us is dealing with one or the other hardship of life, each one has lost a family member or dearly loved one. We are all coping, I am not the only one devastated. With the pandemic outbreak millions are suffering and losing precious relations. Everyone puts on a smile and shows up for the day with a broken heart.
I now realize that I am not the only sad person on social media, it horrified me to accept that the truth of the matter is that behind that social media image probably we all are.