I came across these compelling images the other day and they immediately struck a chord with me. Thai photographer Chompoo Baritone posted them to his Facebook page. They demonstrate how Instagram photos often portray a selective view of reality–often a “perfected image” of life.
In my research, I have found that one of the effects of these social media distortions is that they can lead to dissatisfaction with life and even depression amongst college students. When one constantly consumes perfected images and content, one begins to compare one’s own life against these perfected images. When one does this comparison, one’s life will never seem to measure up. This comparison leads to competition. In this competition, one attempts to portray their life as more (or at least as) “exciting” and “beautiful” than others. In this competition, social media becomes less about sharing and connecting, and more about keeping up appearances.
Although comparison can be healthy, when one is consistently bombarded with perfected images it can quickly spiral out of control. It leads to feelings that one constantly needs to keep up or that one is being left behind. In this way, social media masks and suppresses the sharing of a healthy range of emotions. It is structured such that it privileges hyper-expressions of an idealized reality.
For college students, who are typically at a developmental crossroads, this trap can be particularly easy to fall prey to. Exiting their adolescent years, they are often more subject to external influences and definition. Until students develop a firm concept of self and began to use social media on their own terms for their own ends, they are more apt to exhibit this type of behavior. It can be a dangerous place to be in.
Social media is not reality. Baritone’s images are a good reminder of this.