First up I’ll have to say I just lied. This post isn’t bout your ex. It isn’t about how he/she is actually miserable without you and is ruing the day they broke your heart. NO. But you work with profit-making businesses using articles to sell products and see if YOU don’t get a little click-baity!
But I wasn’t completely lying. It IS about what social media doesn’t tell you about ANYONE. It could be the company you follow; the celebrity you’re NOT fan-girling over (or at least that’s your official stand); the friend you forgot existed from middle school and Alice from Accounting- because who doesn’t have Alice from Accounting on their friend/follow list? Sure, this also includes your ex. All your exes: ex Tinder fling, ex fiancee, ex bar buddy who bought you a drink but who’s name you can’t remember because you were so smashed, weeping about the previous two exes.
All of these people probably have a social media account that you are following. And all of them are consistently lying to you. Heck, this blog post started off lying to you – the difference between that and the other posts you see is that I just told you I lied to you. So now let me tell you something else…
Everyone Lies on Social Media
The lure of lying on the internet is great. It’s where you can create the log of the best moments of your life to show the world and all your friends what you (think you) are about. In fact, pick from any of these endearing social media personalities you definitely have lurking in your list:
- Sheila the Selfie Queen who despite having trademark endorsements from every cosmetic company imaginable; hasn’t quite figured out that people don’t wake up with green eyelids and insist she “woke up like this.” No, Sheila – if you did, please see a doctor because moss is growing out of your eyes.
- Or what about the so lovable character of Jack the Nice Guy Who’s Always in the Friendzone? Hear all about Jack’s insistence that nice guys can’t cut a break and then slag off Alice from Accounting because she’s putting on a bit of weight. She’s PREGNANT idiot – perhaps the reason you cannot get a date is because you don’t fucking know the meaning of NICE. Here’s a dictionary. Hit yourself over the head with it.
- But certainly we ALL, no matter what age we may be, have Ginny the Constantly Drunk in a Bar even if it’s Tuesday and an hour after her Gran’s funeral. “I am drowning my sorrows!” she will yell and you usually go “Ok, Ginny…” just in case she starts telling you how you are so jealous of her party life and then pukes on your profile.
- Of course, one day Ginny may grow up, get married and then become Patsy the My-Child-is-so-beautiful-so-you-need-a-snapshot-of him/her-everyday-til-you-die-type. Because if she thought puke on her hair was a beautiful moment for social in her 20s; she probably thinks the same now (well, at least it prepared her for projectile child vomit).
- And we end this list with George and Annie the perfectly in love; we were made for each other but we need everyone to know it or it won’t be real type. Nevermind, that they fought just 5 minutes before every shot about who gets to have that perfect 45° angle this time but what matters is.that.you.know.they’re.in.a.relationship. And you’re a sad, lonely bastard. Thank you, George and Annie!
Okay, so I may sound a little disgruntled but that’s because I KNOW the entire list are one dimensional, cherry-picked facts that the account user thinks will make them look better to you.
For some people, their party lifestyle; their children; their travels; their partners; their religion or even their sadness (at being dumped, broke or cheated) is social media worthy bragging. They assume it one-ups them in the eyes of their peers. But that isn’t all there is to their lives. It’s just what they want you to know.
Most of the time, such behaviour is nothing more than being annoying and can easily be fixed with the help of an unfollow button but sometimes, it becomes much more serious.
Why It’s Important to Separate the Lies
Having people lie on social media are often harmless and simply deleting them or unfollowing; you could solve the problem. But some of the more vulnerable in our lives can’t. They are our children, our parents who aren’t social media savvy, our friends with depression or even ourselves – when the pressure to measure up sends us down a dark path.
In an article by Forbes, social media use was linked to an increase in depression symptoms. The most illuminating quote in the entire article is this:
“our study is the first of its kind to determine that the underlying mechanism between this association is social comparison. In other words, heavy Facebook users might be comparing themselves to their friends, which in turn, can make them feel more depressed.”
Exactly. They are comparing themselves to friends who are probably not telling the whole truth anyway.
Telling yourself you suck after looking through Facebook is one thing. But the brazen lie-inducing, fabricated existence created by internet anonymity has fueled much more sinister things.
Cyber-bullying is real for young people and can have devastating effects on a teenager’s psychology. A child who cannot tell the difference between their social media persona and their real lives can translate virtual internet bullying into real effects. The Herald reported that social media can cause damage to a young person’s mental health but if that wasn’t enough – it has taken lives.
In fact, this is so big that there is a Buzzfeed article dedicated to suicides that are linked to cyber-bullying on really disgusting site Ask.fm. You know it’s real when it’s on Buzzfeed.
The point is that people shouldn’t be killing themselves over social media comments – from a dimension so fake and pretentious it makes the Human Barbie look au naturale.
The internet isn’t real. You can be anyone you want on it. The true danger of allowing this form of virtual role-playing was seen in the heartbreaking case I will talk about next.
The ‘Entrepreneur’ Who Was a Murderer
The story of Breck Bednar made me tear. And if you know me, you know that’s a big deal. I have often no emotion beyond anger and my tear ducts are usually sealed shut by craft glue and eye gunk.
Breck was 14 when he was murdered by another teen, Lewis Daynes who was posing as a successful entrepreneur with a very exciting life (sound familiar?). In a report by the Guardian, this chilling quote summed up how a lie could manipulate a naive mind. Breck’s mother describes the online predator, Lewis:
He claimed to be a 17-year-old computer engineer running a multimillion pound company. Sometimes he was in New York, working for the US government. Other times, he was in Dubai, or off to Syria. “To Breck, who still had his baby teeth and saw no evil in the world, Daynes seemed very cool, very exciting,” says Lorin.
In truth, Lewis was 19, unemployed and living alone in a flat where he rented server space to set up a gaming site for little boys like Breck. The lie he told about his life earned the trust and respect of young, impressionable boys. Not a big deal if you do nothing but bask in your glory at successfully making yourself more than you really are but much more dangerous when you are a child predator.
This may be a stretch and you’re thinking that the liars on your list aren’t psychopathic murderers but kudos to you if you can tell the difference – what about those who can’t?
What Can You Do?
You might be confused at this point. What do little white lies on the internet have to do with a tragic murder of a young boy?
In my opinion, plenty. It’s the way we interact with social media and what we teach our kids about it. For healthy, mature and well-informed individuals, spotting a predator, a scam or a lie on the internet may be easier to brush off.
But even the most intelligent have fallen victim to love scams and money laundering syndicates. No one is really safe from the internet’s net of lies. It is much worse for those among us who aren’t so easily able to spot trouble before it occurs.
So what can we do? Change, clichédly starts with each of us.
1. Begin at the Premise that Everyone You Meet or Interact with on Social Media is Lying to Some Degree
From the lesser harm of feeling a little inadequate by looking at seemingly more successful friends to avoiding scam artists and predators; always reminding yourself that social media is nothing more than farces of varying degrees would help you distance what’s happening on your feed from what’s happening in your life.
2. Engage Your Children on the Topic of Social Media Instead of Outright Banning Them From It
Just as the cry for abstinence has questionable records of effectiveness; often telling your child specifically not to do something is a surefire way to ensure he/she does exactly what is being objected to.
By sharing rationale, calm but fact-driven thoughts with your children on the lies and danger of virtual reality may at least to some extent help you get through to them.
Hey, you could even give them the example of how perfect you look online versus the crazy you are at home. If that doesn’t drive the message home; well I don’t know what else will.
3. Unfollow Toxic People or Take Breaks From Social Media
No doubt, social media can be an excellent source of news and exchanging viewpoints but if it is beginning to harm you in some way – it’s best to take a few steps back. Are some people’s posts particularly more disturbing than others? If so, try unfollowing or outright removing them if the option is available (you know, if it isn’t some particular close relative who will throw a hissy-fit).
4. Keep in Touch with What’s Real
Call your friend out for drinks. Get to really know the colleague you just added as a friend. Stop following personalities if they constantly make you feel bad about your life. Keep in touch with what’s real and you’ll be able to take social media as the joke it often is.
Now Stop Reading This Blog and Go Socialise for Real!
Unless of course, you’re using it to scam ISIS militants. In which case, KUDOS.
Photo credits: 1) http://socialmediamom.com/february-roundu/, 2) http://iuhealth.org/blog/riley-detail/tech-talk-impacts-of-social-media-on-children/#.VwWyK_l97IU, 3)http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/tech/8-dangers-social-media-were-not-willing-admit.