You liked my profile picture. You know I went on a holiday because you saw my Instagram picture from a beautiful beach. You assume I am rich because of the swanky surroundings in the pictures on my Snapchat stories. You gather that I live an enviable life because my super thoughtful tweets prove that I’ve gotten it together. You assume I have loads of money because insta, fb, twitter, snapchat shows that I spend a lot. Based on these social media updates, you’ve assumed that you know all about my mental, financial and physical condition.
Wrong. You know nothing. My profile picture is nothing but a pretence. That beautiful photo of a beach is the one I clicked 5 years ago, a vacation that I’m probably still paying off on my credit card. My tweets are not a testament to my togetherness, on the contrary, they’re my dialogue with myself which is a testament to the fact that I’m holding onto sanity as tightly as I can.
Now, don’t go jumping to conclusions. This is not a confession, this is not a rant. But just an observation. The above paragraphs apply to all of us. At least some parts of it do. Sometimes, we measure our achievements against the impossible benchmarks set by our peers on social media. We look at our timelines, and go through various emotions like excitement, happiness, envy, denial, jealousy and then self-loathing. I am guilty of it and you are too.
Then come folks who think that by the function of seeing your posts, they know everything. Well, they don’t. They only see what I want to show them. And most of us want to show a shiny happy life. However grimy and dark the surroundings, we compose a selfie to make sure that we look like we’re shining.
Out of the 1700 odd people I’m connected (not going to say friends) with, not even 17 know that some mornings, I cannot get out of bed. So basically, less than 1 percent of my ‘friends’ on social media know the real shit that goes on in what is the real life wall of my life. Now you’ll say you blame me for posting hunky dory things. Please don’t! Well, first, I don’t owe any honesty to all these 1700 people. Would you go to a party and start talking to everyone like they’re your therapists? Would you stand in a town square to talk about just how miserable work is or how a break up was really hard? No, right? Second, if you share the real, deep, dark stuff, it is very likely that these ‘friends’ will stop interacting with you. There was a blogger who tried out posting bland, depressing thoughts to his social media as a social experiment and noticed a huge drop in interactions on posts (I can’t find the post, please share the link if you know what I am talking about). Why? Well remember in college when you had a hard time and stopped being your usual cheery self and most of your friends (except for those who really cared) stopped hanging with you? Same reason. People want cheer around them. They would rather not know your dark stuff unless you’re romanticising this dark stuff (that is a whole different post). Social media magnifies this college canteen behaviour. It also desensitises us. When a Marathi filmmaker posted a suicide note to Facebook, people actually liked that post. His last post following that note was, ‘are people even reading this post before liking it?’.
That said, social media is not that bad! It’s a great way to connect with people. I have found some very close ad very dear friends on Twitter and reconnected with many old friends over Facebook. But that happened when we took our connections offline.
So, instead of poking friends on fb, call them. Instead of sharing stories on snapchat, go sit on the beach and create real stories. There are dark times in life and friends, the real ones, are the only way to light them up and come out of it. So get offline, and show each other you care. Invest in real relationships, not numbers. Because likes can never feel as warm as a hug. And as someone who is lucky to have an on-demand, never ending supply of hugs, I can vouch for their effectiveness.