With the whirl wind of hashtags trending on my Twitter time line, one that caught my eye was #visabae inspired by a young Zimbabwean woman living in the UK named Rutendo. Online, she appeared to be living a lavish and comfortable life but when a harsh reality struck, she was forced to beg her followers for roughly £2000 as she faced immigration problems and the possibility of being deported, admitting that her online lifestyle was fake and she was barely making ends meet. As meme worthy as her story has been, she is just another casualty of the pressures we as a generation are under to keep up with the ever heightening expectations of social media.
we are all guilty of creating a “more appealing” version of ourselves and our lives on social media
Whether it’s face-tuning your skin to perfection or posting a “candid” photo that took 30 minutes to get the balance of ‘off-guard’ and ‘on point’ just right, to some extent, we are all guilty of creating a “more appealing” version of ourselves and our lives on social media. With 91% of 16-24 year olds opting to use their internet access to join one of these platforms, it is obviously becoming an integral part of our lives but when it begins to effect how we view ourselves, our mental health and our general perspective on life, we need to take a step back and reevaluate our relationship with these social platforms.
When you see influencers and celebrities posting a continuous stream of beautiful, glossy images, it is easy to take them at face value (happy post = happy life) but what we forget is that the image is just a carefully selected snapshot of that person, a split second of their existence captured and curated to paint whatever image that person wants you to consume. We don’t think about what they edited the image with or if they are just borrowing the outfit or being paid to smile and “love” a particular product, especially when we are scrolling through hundred of pictures everyday so it’s no surprise that it has began to create an impossible standard of lifestyle expectations for our generation.
I know girls as young as 14 emulating their favourite celebrity online for likes, feeling the need to buy expensive makeup products, scribble out their faces if they don’t feel it’s good enough for the gram and feeling insecure about their bodies because of what they are ingesting on social media. Like Rutendo, people are going out of pocket to keep up with the expectations that have been normalised through these platforms that are still relatively new concepts that are yet to be studied and dissected properly for it’s lasting effects with the average user spending at least 50 minutes of their day scrolling. However, when used correctly, social media can be a tool used in so many positive ways.
It can be used to bring together marginalised communities, mobilise political movements such as Black Lives Matter (which they do btw. A lot.) and be used as a tool to educate and connect people all around the world. You have the WOC Youtube scene booming as we share our experiences and expertise on everything from styling 4c hair to sharing personal experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community; it is up to us to decide what our relationship with social media will be.
It’s about balance and understanding that it would be impossible for someone to show you their entire life, no matter how much we think we know about them from their online profiles- and they are not obligated to show us everything anyway. We all need to establish within ourselves how to use social media in a positive way. If there is content online that makes you feel bad about yourself or makes you feel pressured or anxious, you need to remove it from your feed and replace it with content that you enjoy and that uplifts and inspires you as there is plenty of that out there. Upload content that is true to who you are and you’ll never have to explain yourself to anyone and remember that social media is not as real as it may first appear.
Written by Leomie Anderson