Illustration By: Vishrut Sharma
Over the past two decades, social media has taken the world by storm. A term that used to be nigh non-existent in the 90s has now suddenly become an inseparable part of every teen in today’s time. Perhaps one of the pillars that human civilization rests on is language, a perennially evolving art form. It enables two individuals from any part of our world to fully and freely express themselves.
Necessity is the mother of invention. The growing need to communicate over larger distances, with a larger group at the same time has contributed to the extravagance surrounding social media. Today, before you meet someone in real life, you have several means to get to know them within a span of minutes.
What started as a necessity, has now shown its adverse side effects. With a screen to hide behind, the audience chooses the platforms that provide them with an opportunity to wait and think before replying instead of direct interaction. And with the advent of these media platforms, we already have access to a snapshot of their tastes, preferences, likes, and dislikes. They have discredited the benefits of being a conversationalist, and socialising is hence, no longer about getting acquainted with new people or getting to know them and is, more often than not, deemed redundant.
Or at least it may seem so, for the life one portrays on these digital platforms might not always match up bit by bit to the reality. In the world of social media, perception is everything. To reconcile the conflict between ideality and reality, everyone strives to achieve their image of perfection, and in the process of doing so, they get consumed by it. Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. But what does one do when perfection isn’t good enough?
Ideality is based on an idea; an idea that transmogrifies and moulds over time. But should our ideals be influenced by how we perceive others' lives to be, or should they be something embedded deep inside of us? On the road to self-actualisation, our destination changes as often as our journey forks, which often gets hurt on the juxtaposition of who we are and who we let others perceive us as.
From a societal point of view, we are driven by competition and achievements to move towards a more idealistic version of us. Since these online platforms let us perceive our profiles to be actual portrayals of ourselves, we tend to display the best parts of our life, while leaving out the more humane aspects. This creates a never-ending cycle, where everyone strives to create content for an audience online, with their esteem and respect relying on their audience’s inept judgments.
The joy that public appraisal and social acceptance brings, however, is short-lived. In the long run, we see other people having more fun, despite it being a facade. We grow to feel as if we are not adequate, as if we are falling behind, or soon to fade into oblivion. There is no point in chasing this false sense of self, comparing over perceptions of others. Rather than working on creating your ideal online self, invest that time into the greatest resource you have: yourself and work to accomplish your goals to be one step closer to the painting you wished to realise.
On the canvas of the Wide Web, you are free to paint yourself as you wish, but don’t let your art be influenced by the thousands near you. This world may feel like a race, but everyone has their own finish line. Be expansive, be proud of yourself, and paint your true self, not a facsimile thereof.