In the end, does social media make you unhappy?

Before writing this article, let me check Snapchat to see what my friends are up to. Andrew’s on a double-decker bus riding through London. Nicole’s on the set of a movie, probably working as a PA. Natasha is at dinner on the Upper West Side. And I’m sitting at my desk in pajamas watching a tidbit of their past 24 hours.

Social media is a good thing, right? I just caught up on what my friends were doing, and now I’m back to my reality. Sharing experiences and keeping updated with friends is why people love social media. But maybe there’s an issue with only seeing the best parts of someone’s day. I have a lingering question in my brain… Was my day as good as theirs?

FOMO — Fear of Missing Out. Everyone has had it at one point or another. Enough for someone to create the acronym and add it to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. There’s a reason why people feel this way, especially in relation to social media. Scrolling through my Snapchat and Instagram feeds, everyone seems to be living such extravagant lives. I didn’t realize so many of my friends were models! But, people are only posting their best photos for good reason. Social media is the online representation of your life, and you should want your life to look like a Monet.

It’s natural for people to want to appear their best, but is this at the expense of others feeling less worthy? According to a survey by HTC, 75% of people wish their lives were as good as they’re portrayed on social media. Many studies indicate that the more time someone spends on social media, the worse they feel about themselves. How is it that people are more connected than ever while increasingly feeling depressed and lonely? Social media can be a great channel to express yourself or seek counsel, but it becomes a bigger problem when it’s used to seek validation and draw attention.

I’m sure you have friends or acquaintances whose social feeds are 99% selfies. I used to think these people were simply self-centered, but the reality is that a lot of these people seek attention to cover up insecurities. Social media provides a form of validation and social acceptance. This validation is of course fleeting, and not a solution to the issue at hand. The ‘Instagram Model’ whose photo you’re liking might be just as unhappy about their life as you are jealous of their body.

So, what’s the cure? Balance. At least it is for me. It’s less common in today’s world of excess, instant gratification, and social media addiction, but it’s necessary to maintain a sense of sanity. Enjoy the moment you’re in instead of recording the entire experience for your friends to see. Selectively capture events instead of filling your phone with a plethora of strikingly similar photos. It’s evident now more than ever that balancing your real life with your online life is essential to self-fulfillment. Happiness should come in the real-world first, and the online-world can follow suit.

Ok, now back to checking Snapchat.